In determining the Bengals Week 15 position grades, I had to think about things a little differently than I’ve thought about them the rest of the season. Why? Because the Bengals beat the Denver Broncos 15-10 in a manner we really haven’t seen them do much this year.
They won a defensive game against an opposing team that was also playing really great defense. So, we can choose to focus on how ugly the win was. Or, we can choose to focus on the fact that they won at all. For now, I’m going to choose the later.
Cincinnati Bengals Week 15 Position Grades: Offense
Quarterback Grade: A
The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t ask a whole lot of Joe Burrow this week. They ran the ball more times than he passed, and the Broncos took significantly more offensive snaps than the Bengals in the first place. But, he was efficient in both passing and rushing situations. 15 of the 22 passes he attempted connected with his target.
Burrow hit Tyler Boyd for a game-swinging touchdown pass and he didn’t turn the ball over. Considering how the Bengals have been losing games lately, that’s huge.
Running Back Grade: B-
Neither of the running backs were much of a factor today in the passing game. But, you have to give them credit in the Week 15 position grades because they both performed well on the ground. It wasn’t always perfect. But, both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine averaged enough yards per carry to average a first down every three runs.
At the end of the day, that’s all you really need. If your running game can accomplish that over the course of a whole game, you have a really good chance of controlling the tempo.
Perine, in particular, did a solid job of filling in for Mixon while Mixon dealt with injury issues. With the Bengals holding a slim lead late in the game, they needed him to be on point when he touched the ball. For the most part, he was.
On the Bengals’ final meaningful drive, he couldn’t break a run for more than three yards. But, considering the defense was playing well and the Broncos were out of timeouts, it was basically enough to get the job done.
Wide Receiver Grade: B-
Ja’Marr Chase got shut down pretty convincingly this week. Hence, this unit’s less-than-inspiring result in the Week 15 position grades. Luckily, Tyler Boyd was playing like a man possessed this week. This is exactly what the Bengals had in mind with their elite wide receiver trio.
Chase is clearly the most explosive of the bunch. But, he can’t show that off all season without drawing attention. So, if he’s shut down, throw the ball to Tee Higgins. He’s highly explosive in his own right. If he’s covered? Throw it to the best slot receiver in the NFL, Tyler Boyd.
The game broke for Boyd this week, finally allowing the Bengals to showcase the versatility of their receiver corps. His 44-yard touchdown catch erased all the momentum the Broncos had built with their lone touchdown and turned a game that was turning into a snooze-fest into a nail-biter.
Tight End Grade: B-
The Bengals’ offense continues to not make much of an effort to feature tight ends. But, CJ Uzomah remains Joe Burrow’s reliable safety blanket as he always has. The man who caught Burrow’s first professional touchdown caught three of his four targets this week. Only one of those catches went for a first down, but he bailed Burrow out a couple of times and that matters for the game script.
Drew Sample, once again, wasn’t much of a factor in the passing game. But, he was probably the most consistently “pretty good” blocker in both the running and passing game across 16 blocking snaps.
Offensive Line Grade: B+
Joe Burrow was sacked three times against the Broncos. But, only one of those sacks was attributed to an offensive lineman. That lineman was Fred Johnson, who otherwise had a really good game in relief of the injured Riley Reiff. Had he not allowed that sack, this unit’s Week 15 position grades probably would have been in the ‘A’ range.
Also, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Jackson Carman isn’t playing more. He took a couple of games to adjust to the NFL speed. But, I feel he’s generally held his own pretty well this year. He took 33 snaps at tackle this week and was the team’s best pass blocker of the day per PFF (85.2). He also held his own as a run blocker (64.5).
I don’t understand why the Bengals drafted this guy only to bench him despite playing fairly well.
Cincinnati Bengals Week 15 Position Grades: Defense
Defensive Line Grade: A+
You could probably make the argument that the Bengals won this week because of their stellar defensive line play. I can’t think of any reason to not give them an ‘A+’ in the Week 15 position grades because Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi both recorded sacks.
DJ Reader was a monster against the run. Even Khalid Kareem, who only recorded 13 total snaps, made a MASSIVE impact this week with a QB hit, two run stops, and a game-changing fumble/yoink on Drew Lock. He was injured during the fumble return. But, hopefully he’s okay. If so, he deserves more playing time.
Linebacker Grade: B
The reason this unit doesn’t rank higher in the Bengals Week 15 position grades is because of Germaine Pratt’s inconsistency. He was a disaster in pass coverage. But, he was also a force in the backfield and recorded 15 tackles on the day. That’s nine more tackles than the second-place player on the Bengals’ defense (Vonn Bell and Joe Bachie).
Unfortunately, Bachie and Markus Bailey both sustained injuries during the game. Unfortunately, Bachie’s injury was a torn ACL. Now, you have to start wondering about this unit’s depth with Logan Wilson still waiting to come back from his injury and Akeem Davis-Gaither still waiting on IR.
It doesn’t make you feel great about this unit’s long term prospects, much like the Bengals’ CB room last year. But, for this week, they put up a performance generally worth being proud of.
Cornerback Grade: B-
The Bengals’ cornerbacks showed a wide variety of prowess and ineptitude throughout this game. Without a doubt, they were the most difficult unit to accurately represent in the Week 15 Position Grades. That’s because you had guys like Mike Hilton allow an opposing passer rating of 39.6 and generally lock their guy down all game.
Then, you had Eli Apple who had, like he seemingly has every week, some questionable plays early on and some really great, clutch plays at other points in the game. Like his end zone pass breakup that prevented a touchdown.
Then, there was Trae Waynes. My god, he was terrible. He allowed a 112.5 passer rating as a result of the three passes he allowed for 42 yards and the Broncos’ only touchdown of the game. Oh, and an infuriating missed tackle that would have been for a loss, but ended up allowing a first down.
Even after finally getting on the field, he’s struggling to actually earn a bit of the $15 million he was guaranteed on his contract.
Safety Grade: C
Another week, another example of why the Bengals were hesitant to pay Jessie Bates a huge contract. It’s not that he’s playing badly, but he definitely isn’t playing up to his standards. It seems like just about every week he has at least one mind-boggling missed tackle in the running game.
Not to mention, he isn’t shutting down the passing game in his direction like he did last year. I’m not saying the Bengals shouldn’t re-sign him. But, I am saying that the longer he plays like this the more likely the two sides are going to be unable to agree on a proper contract.
Special Teams Grades: A
After two weeks in a row of the Special Teams unit arguably being the biggest reason the Bengals lost, they finally got their crap together. Their results in the Week 15 Position Grades are heaving influenced by Trent Taylor stabilizing the punt and kick returning position. But, the specialists did a great job too.
Kevin Huber’s punts consistently set the Broncos up in tough field position. Also, the absolute legend Evan McPherson BROKE the Bengals’ all-time record for longest field goal with a 58-yarder at the end of the first half. You can’t ask for much better production out of this unit.
Coaching grade: B+
I can’t figure out why some Bengals fans are criticizing Zac Taylor for running the ball on the final set of downs in the game. Like what else should they do? The defense was playing incredibly well all game, Drew Lock wasn’t playing particularly well, and the Broncos were out of timeouts. Not to mention, it’s not like Joe Burrow was having a great day passing the ball. He was efficient, yes. But, he wasn’t lighting things up.
So, what’s wrong with draining the clock and putting the Broncos’ offense in a situation you know they won’t be able to handle? I thought it was a great decision by him and I commend him for not over-correcting after making the same decision in a completely different situation where it didn’t make any sense last week.
I hope, when the situation actually calls for it, Zac choses to trust Joe Burrow to go win the game. But, this week did not present that situation.