Bengals running back Giovani Bernard needs some Pro Bowl votes. The man is fourth in the AFC in yards from scrimmage and of late has been their most explosive offensive player.
When they went into their bye week, the Bengals had seven passes of at least 40 yards. It took them four games to get another, a 42-yard pass to wide receiver A.J. Green Sunday night. Then Bernard ripped off a 41-yard screen pass and had a huge 30-yard catch-and-run against linebacker Kevin Minter. He's also got their longest run of the year with a 28-yarder.
On his 24th birthday he set the team record for most receiving yards by a running back with 128. The last time a back reached 100 yards, was 17 years ago when Brandon Bennett set the record with 119 against the Steelers. Bennett broke James Brooks' record of 109 set in 1990, one of three times Brooks went over 100.
Yes, the Bengals had allowed just 30 points in the previous three games before giving up 34 Sunday night to the NFL's No. 1 offense, the most they had allowed on the road in more than a year since the washed-up Tom Brady put up 43 in Foxboro Oct. 5, 2014.
But in the four games since WILL backer Vontaze Burfict's return, look at their rush numbers. They are allowing 4.1 yards per attempt and 87 per game, compared to the first six games of 4.9 and 109, respectively.
The Cards' first and last third-and-ones of the game summed up what Burfict and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga mean to this run defense. On the first one on the Cards' second series of the game, Burfict blew up backup right guard Ted Larsen to stuff running back David Johnson. Then on the three-and-out that gave the Bengals the chance to tie it, safety Reggie Nelson blitzed and Maualuga cleaned up on Chris Johnson.
And that was against the league's No. 4 rush offense.
They're keeping Burfict in that 35-40 snap range. He took 37 snaps against the Cards for 63 percent of the plays.
After two TD catches Sunday night, Tyler Eifert has 11 on the season, most by any NFL receiver and the most by a tight end in Bengals history, passing the nine of Rodney Holman (1989) and Bob Trumpy (1969). He bounced back from his three-drop game nicely, although quarterback Andy Dalton targeted him just three times, his fewest targets since had three in Baltimore in the third game of the season.
Cards quarterback Carson Palmer's 111.2 passer rating Sunday night is pretty impressive,**considering his nine of 11 passing for three TDs and 171 yards in the third quarter and his three slings for 57 yards in 38 seconds to win it. But Dalton's 99.8 was impressive in its own right, since Palmer had better protection.
According to profootballfocus.com, the Cards blitzed him 10 more times than they didn't (29-19), and he had a 98.3 passer rating against the blitz and had more yards per (8.4 to 7.6) against it than not against it.
The pressure clearly made a difference. According to PFF, he faced pressure 40 percent of the time and completed only 18 percent of his passes against it. Meanwhile, Palmer was blitzed 21 percent of the time and his pressure numbers were better. According to PFF, Palmer saw it 48 percent of the time with a 64.3 completion percentage and 106 rating.
Green was asked about the Cardinals' strategy of playing him one-on-one with Patrick Peterson and he said, "They rely on their pressure." Asked if he could have had more than four catches for 79 yards if Dalton had more time he said, "I think so, I think so."
The injuries are starting to creep up on the Bengals with the possibility they won't have two of their top cornerbacks for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) with Adam Jones (foot) dealing with it and Darqueze Dennard (shoulder) out for the year, according to profootballtalk.com. Safety Shawn Williams (ankle) is a questionable, too after not coming back into Sunday's game.
After being upgraded from doubtful to questionable, right end Michael Johnson (back) gutted out 85 percent of the snaps. Will Clark got the most action he's seen in a while with 11 snaps to help take the burden off.
There's a shot rookie tackle Cedric Ogbuehi takes Dennard's spot on the roster with the last two first-rounders exchanging places.
The Bengals offensive line has struggled keeping people off Dalton lately. In the first four games they allowed two sacks. In the last four, it's 12 after the Cards dumped him four times Sunday.
And they need a good game Sunday or the Rams will beat you up. According to PFF, St. Louis boasts three of the top 25 defensive tackles in the league, anchored by No. 1 Aaron Donald. Also, Nick Fairley is No. 7 and Michael Brockers No. 25. They also have three of PFF's top 24 defensive ends in No. 5 Williams Hayes, No. 7 Robert Quinn, and No. 24 Chris Long.
It's the first time the second-year Donald has been on the same field with Bengals Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins. His similar build to Atkins (6-1, 303) is seen as a reason the 6-1, 285-pound Donald was taken in the first round because Atkins showed you don't have to be huge to dominate inside.
Of course, they are tied for the sack lead among NFL defensive tackles with seven each.
Cincinnati Bengals travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals in week 11 of the regular season