The Bengals went to Atlanta and picked up their third win of the season. Here are a few observations:
This Team Is Resilient – Most teams would've wilted during Sunday's game, but the Bengals did the exact opposite. This team started the third quarter with a four-point lead and the ball. Tyler Eifert got injured two plays later. The Falcons sacked Andy Dalton on the next play and then blocked Kevin Huber's punt. The defense stood tall and held the Falcons to a field goal. Every time the Falcons punched, the Bengals were able to take it and land a haymaker of their own. Marvin Lewis has his team playing hard and they've maintained their poise in critical moments this season. That's a big reason why they're off to a 3-1 start.
'Blandy' No More – Andy Dalton is playing the best ball of his career. I've never seen him play like this. He's comfortable in Bill Lazor's new system and it's showing. Dalton completed a pass to eight different receivers on Sunday. He doesn't have to lock in on A.J. Green like he has in the past. Dalton is leaning on Tyler Boyd in critical moments. Their rapport continues to get better and better. Dalton was 14-16 in the first half on Sunday and had a perfect quarterback rating at halftime. He topped that by leading the Bengals downfield for the game winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. He didn't have Eifert, John Ross or Giovani Bernard on the final drive. Dalton didn't flinch. That was the best drive I've ever seen from him considering the circumstances, injuries and atmosphere.
'Charmin Ultra' Defense – The Bengals' defense was shredded on Sunday. Atlanta was going to score points, but allowing them to go 11-for-15 on third down is unacceptable. They bent, but they didn't break on two important possessions. They held Atlanta to a field goal attempt after the blocked punt and in the fourth quarter. The Falcons took a 36-31 lead in the fourth, which set the table for Dalton and company to get the win. The Bengals' defense hasn't forced a turnover in its' last two games. That needs to change. They'll get a boost on Monday with veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict returning from his four game suspension. Joe Mixon is excited for his return:
Burfict might not be the only one who returns to the lineup in Week 5 against Miami. Mixon went through an extensive pregame workout and looked pretty good when he tackled Green in the end zone. You can watch Mixon's perfect tackle below:
John Ross is tougher than you thought. He rebounded from last week with two receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown. Ross pulled his groin and came back to play some in the second half. Marvin Lewis said he couldn't play through it and that's why he wasn't on the field in the fourth quarter. Ross answered the call, after most of us spent last week wondering about his future. Will he be healthy enough to play in Week 5? Green would've probably missed this game if he had actually pulled his groin like we thought last Sunday. Here's Ross' touchdown, the injury and his meeting with Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson:
Trey Hopkins is good at center. Maybe he doesn't have the ceiling that Billy Price has, but have you noticed him? Hopkins has filled in admirably, which means the Bengals can take their time and let Price heal.
Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium is amazing. I went to Sunday's game and enjoyed every second. Lance McAlister and I were on an Ultimate Air Shuttle flight. We flew down on Sunday morning and were back in Cincinnati at 7pm. I highly recommend Ultimate Air Shuttle. Check out pictures from the trip below:
For more on the Bengals, listen to a postgame edition of the Locked on Bengals podcast: