It seems early to already be down to just one undefeated team in the AFC, but the Bengals are playing like they could maintain that storyline well into November.
They’re led by a defense who is hungry for more. Aside from the Ravens making a game of it late during the fourth quarter, the Bengals have been almost untouchable. That defense is suffocating opposing quarterbacks and running attacks; while the offense continues to play simple, efficient football.
Giovanni Bernard may only be averaging 3.4 yards per carry, but he is making a major impact in the passing game. With 11 receptions for 148 yards plus three rushing touchdowns, Bernard is quietly having the type of season a top five-running back would have. AJ Green may have missed most of the second game with a foot injury, but he came back to eclipse 100 receiving yards to combine with his week one 131 yard performance that included an acrobatic game-winning 77 yard touchdown reception.
Oh, and Mohamed Sanu has thrown two touchdown passes off of trick plays, his most recent going to his usual quarterback, Andy Dalton.
For as great as the defense has been, it’s the Bengals offense that is finally making this team a legitimate contender. Many predicted the Bengals to compete for a Super Bowl before the 2013 season, and they were on their way before Dalton’s interception bug plagued the teams’ playoff run. When he signed a six-year deal worth 115 million dollars, everybody joked about his playoff woes. It’s easy to forget how well Dalton carried his offense during 2013, even with 20 regular season interceptions.
Now, Dalton is three games into his 2014 campaign and is interception free while his offense just keeps scoring. Dalton has also entered an elite status while playing at home with 11 consecutive regular season wins at Paul Brown Stadium. Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan know a little something about that.
Backed by a defense allowing just 11 points per game, Dalton’s improved demeanor and awareness with the ball makes the Bengals as complete of a team as anyone in the entire league.
The offense’s playoff struggles last year put this team back under the radar, but the 2014 Bengals have quickly proved to possibly be the Seattle Seahawks biggest threat to repeating as Super Bowl Champions.
Editor’s Note: I also made the same case as Ryan last year, I guess I was one year ahead of my time, as that didn’t work out. Published this on September 1st, 2013