After moving over from left tackle to left guard during the Week 13 game at San Diego, the eight-year veteran's physical and athletic play at the new position has been among the key reasons the Bengals' offense is coming off two of its best offensive performances of the season. The call to switch Whitworth was indeed a good one, and it should stick.
But that change isn't the only one that deserves credit. Equally important to Cincinnati's offensive line changes has been the move that took Anthony Collins off the bench, and inserted him into Whitworth's old starting left tackle spot. Without a player the caliber of Collins on their sideline, the Bengals might not be enjoying the run- and pass-block protection that has factored heavily in their last two wins.
From the moment the line changes were made, the Bengals have rushed for 316 yards and passed for 456. Quarterback Andy Dalton has only thrown one interception, and he hasn't been brought down for a sack. The Bengals also were just nine yards away from having respective 100-yard rushing performances in the two games for running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. Yes, since the changes were made, Cincinnati has been rolling offensively.
The changes that moved Whitworth over one spot and inserted Collins into a more active role came on the sixth play of the game at San Diego. On the play before, previously starting left guard Clint Boling tore his ACL. His season was effectively over.
Last week, while debating whether to make the changes stick, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden praised his deep pool of tackles. The group was even so strong to him and head coach Marvin Lewis before the Chargers game that both felt comfortable starting Collins at right tackle in place of Andre Smith, who was benched that day for an unspecified reason. When Boling went down, Smith came in, Whitworth shifted over and Collins moved across the line to Whitworth's previous spot.
"Obviously great tackles are hard to find, but luckily we have three tackles in here that can play NFL football with Collins, Smith and Whit," Gruden said. "And with Whit's versatility and unselfishness, we can play him anywhere and be pretty good."
As a team leader, Whitworth very easily could have declined the opportunity to stay at left guard ahead of last Sunday's game against the Colts, but in deference to his team, he decided to remain on the line's interior. In his eyes, the Bengals are better off with him there than if he stayed on the outside.
"Jay Gruden all week was like, 'I love you in there, but I feel bad if you're going to miss out for going to the Pro Bowl or having an opportunity to be all these things by moving,'" Whitworth said. "I told him, 'To be honest, that's why I wear a 'C' on my chest. Whatever it is that's going to help us win football games, that's what I want to do."
Although his opportunities have been limited, Collins has helped the Bengals win in his own right for much of the year, too.
Sunday's game against Indianapolis marked the fourth time this season that Collins played more than 30 snaps in a game. The extensive playing time came after he also started at left tackle in place of an injured Whitworth during the season opener at Chicago and in the 22-20 overtime loss at Miami on Halloween. He has played in 12 games total. Aside from the four starts he has made, Collins also played 26 snaps in the Monday night win over the Steelers and 25 more in relief of Whitworth during the 49-9 blowout over the Jets in October.
Of those six games he has enjoyed such action in, four have resulted in wins. The loss at Miami came on an overtime sack for a safety that was the result of a protection breakdown on the opposite side of the line. The loss at Chicago came after a 15-yard Bengals defensive penalty negated a punt that could have returned to set up a possible Bengals comeback drive.
In the six games Collins has played the most in, Dalton has been sacked seven times total. Five of those came against a Dolphins defense that was intent on pressuring the third-year quarterback the whole night. In three of the six games, Dalton was kept upright and didn't get sacked once. As for the ground game, the Bengals rushed for more than 150 yards in three of the six, specifically hitting 164 yards and 155 yards in the last two. They also have eight rushing scores in the six games.
"We all knew he had it in him," center Kyle Cook said of Collins. "He's a very athletic guy. He's had the ability to practice with the 1s at both [tackle] positions, right and left. So it wasn't like he's been around here all these years but he's never played. When Chicago came around, we knew he was going to be able to do it. It was like, 'If Whit can't go, no sweat. A.C.'s got it.'"
As long as the Bengals maintain that confidence in Collins across the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs, expect his addition to continue having a big impact on their offense.
If the speedy multi-use North Carolina Tar Heels star was given even the tiniest crack of space, he could make something happen that could lead to a big, team-galvanizing moment, they felt. After all, that's exactly what his college game tape showed. Even though he only played two seasons at the level due to in part to injury, he already had moves upon moves. As they tried to take their offense to the next level, the Bengals believed he could be the key ingredient they had been missing for several seasons.
So far, the rookie is making geniuses out of Cincinnati's entire scouting office.
Even though he was a second-round selection, Bernard this season has been playing like a first-round talent. And now that it appears the Bengals are comfortable settling with a new offensive line setup that features Andrew Whitworth at left guard and backup Anthony Collins at left tackle, the first-year running back may end up being an even bigger component to the Bengals' balanced offensive attack.
Why is that? Because the holes the Bengals' offensive line has formed the past two weeks since the lineup shift have been downright massive. On sweeps and tosses left, with the athletic Collins and Whitworth pulling and blocking downfield, Bernard has had space to pick up large chunks of yards. On screen passes to the same side, he's shown he can pick up even bigger gains.
Just consider these stats, which we'll get into a little more detail about on the ESPN NFL Nation Bengals blog later this week: Against Indianapolis on Sunday, Bernard averaged 8.3 yards per rush on his 12 total carries for 99 yards. That's a very high average for a ball carrier who ran the ball more than 10 times. Along with that figure, he gained 148 yards of total offense. That number includes the 49 yards receiving Bernard had. Bernard's total yards combined for more than 34 percent of the Bengals' offensive production in the 42-28 win. That's the type of impact he can have on this team. And remember, he's still only a rookie.
As we get to a few quick Tuesday Morning Stripes, we begin with another look at Bernard:
- Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson considers Bernard a "throwback to the future." The player upon whom the Bengals are pinning their playmaking hopes the next few seasons runs with a style like a few other running backs who are older than him.
- In one of his blog posts for the Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday, Joe Reedy praised the Bengals' offensive line. For the last three games, the unit has kept quarterback Andy Dalton well protected. He hasn't been sacked in any of those games. Why? It's in part on Dalton and his ability to get rid of the football, and another part is on the line in just forming a better pocket than it has in other games this year.
- Going back to Bengals.com, Hobson has this look at the stretch run Cincinnati currently is on as it tries to not only reach the playoffs, but grab a first-round bye or home-field postseason advantage. It appears poise and the calming influence of not having to play catch-up are what is defining this year's late-season push, Hobson writes. That's a little different than the way it has been in other recent seasons.
- Head referee Jeff Triplette only reviewed the crossing of the goal line portion of a booth replay in Sunday's game that ended up controversially awarding Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis a touchdown. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told USA Today and the Associated Press the entire play was a judgment call, and Triplette could have gone back to the beginning see whether or not Green-Ellis had been touched by a defensive player, causing him to stumble just short of the goal line. After the game, Triplette indicated he never saw Green-Ellis get touched. The defender in question, Colts lineman Josh Chapman, said he did hit Green-Ellis' foot.
Playoff berths are on the line and other postseason prizes are at stake, too. If the Bengals win all of their final games games and end the regular season on a 6-0 winning streak, they have a strong chance at claiming the AFC's No. 2 playoff seeding -- along with the first-round bye and home-field advantage that would come along with it.
Of course, they also need a little help from the current No. 2-seed New England Patriots. Even one Patriots loss in the next three weeks could end up being all the help the Bengals need in order to clinch that coveted spot.
But the Bengals are more focused on other things: namely winning their game Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Beyond that, their focus remains on doing whatever will allow them to clinch a postseason berth. As much as their play recently may have made it seem like they had already wrapped up a playoff spot, the Bengals have not.
In order to receive a playoff berth this weekend, the Bengals need the following to happen:
- To beat or tie the Steelers on Sunday.
- A Dolphins loss to the Patriots on Sunday.
- To beat or tie the Steelers on Sunday.
- A Baltimore Ravens loss to Detroit next Monday night.
- To beat the Steelers on Sunday.
- A Patriots loss to the Dolphins on Sunday.
As you can see, much remains in flux when it comes to the playoff picture. That's why some players like center Kyle Cook are taking a patient approach to letting the various scenarios play out.
"It's tough. I don't look at it," Cook said. "When somebody says, 'You're in no matter what,' then great. But until that happens, it's too hard with people walking around and saying, 'If this wins and this team loses, then you do this.'
"Hopefully we just keep winning and go from there."
Don't tell Cook, but if you want to play around with some of the scenarios and tiebreaks yourself, be sure to check out ESPN's Playoff Machine. This can be a useful tool for those who do feel like playing the "what if," "if then" game.
Here's a roadmap outlining what the next three weeks look like for the teams the Bengals need to keep the closest tabs on as they look toward what appears to be an immediate postseason future:
Cincinnati Bengals (9-4 overall, 6-0 home, 3-4 road)
Baltimore Ravens (7-6 overall, 6-1 home, 1-5 road)
Miami Dolphins (6-6 overall, 3-3 home, 3-3 road)
New England Patriots (10-3 overall, 7-0 home, 3-3 road)
Indianapolis Colts (8-5 overall, 4-2 home, 4-3 road)
Dre Kirkpatrick, the Cincinnati Bengals' second-year backup cornerback, is in that very position this week.
With Monday's report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen that two-time Pro Bowler Terence Newman will miss this week's game against the Steelers and possibly the two after it with an MCL sprain, Kirkpatrick's opportunity to shine has come. While the young defensive back certainly doesn't wish injury on any of his teammates, he does want them to know he can fill their shoes more than adequately.
On the horizon for Kirkpatrick is an chance to prove his slowly shrinking line of naysayers and doubters wrong. It's a line that rightfully swelled following Cincinnati's preseason loss at Dallas back in August. That night, he was flagged twice for pass interference, was burned in coverage, and generally looked lost on the field. Some fans were calling for him to be cut, others were questioning whether the Bengals were smart to select the University of Alabama product with the 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Already they had concerns about his health, after he was forced to the injured reserve with a knee injury at the end of last season. Those concerns were exacerbated this season when a hamstring injury kept him out of the Week 3 and 4 games against Green Bay and Cleveland, respectively.
Since returning in Week 5, Kirkpatrick has gradually been given more playing time, and he has done well with it.
"We’ve got a lot of good guys on this team. We don’t have any guys that are not top-notch guys," veteran cornerback Adam Jones said. "These guys work hard in practice. Even on scout team. They make it hard for the offense. When you see those guys working hard and making interceptions [in practice] against a top-10 offense, that kind of puts it in your mind that these guys are ready to go."
Cincinnati's offense ranked 10th in the league entering Monday night's Dallas-Chicago game.
Over the past nine games, Kirkpatrick has played 100 of the 102 snaps he has totaled this season. All but one of his 12 tackles have come in that stretch, as did his first career interception. He picked off a Philip Rivers pass last week against San Diego.
Back in late October when Kirkpatrick first got on the field as veteran corner Leon Hall's replacement, defensive backs coach Mark Carrier said he was detecting positive changes in Kirkpatrick's practice habits and demeanor.
"It's amazing, and he'll be the first one to tell you that when he's healthy, he can go out there and play," Carrier said. "Everyone's time comes, and he knew his time was coming soon."
That time is here again. With the Bengals in the middle of a playoff push and missing two of their best cornerbacks, they are looking to the young player to step up and play like he's been starting the whole time. If he does, he could end up playing a vital role in assisting the Bengals' efforts in securing a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage.
Newman will miss at least one game and could be sidelined for Cincinnati's remaining three regular-season games, according to sources.
During his news conference earlier Monday, coach Marvin Lewis was vague in discussing Newman's injury. He told attending reporters only, "he's a little sore."
It certainly appeared Newman had a more significant injury than minor soreness.
Immediately after Sunday's 42-28 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Newman was given a leg brace and crutches. During Monday's open locker room period, the veteran cornerback was still sporting the stiff leg-length brace and crutches.
The AFC North-leading Bengals (9-4) have been depleted by injuries on defense. Star tackle Geno Atkins and top cornerback Leon Hall headline a list of key defensive players Cincinnati has placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Newman, 35, has started all 13 games this season, his second with the Bengals. The two-time Pro Bowler has 52 tackles and two interceptions.
Newman left Sunday's game in the middle of the fourth quarter. Slowly walking on his own power, he left for evaluation for what was classified as a left knee injury.
Whit's move should stick: Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth proved Sunday afternoon that his move from left tackle to left guard should stick. Naturally, when you ask him about the switch, Whitworth just grins and says he's out to do what's best for the team. If offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants to leave him on the line's interior, then so be it. If Gruden watched the same left-side blocking display that the rest of America witnessed, he'd be smart to keep his Pro Bowl left tackle at the new spot. Since sliding into the line's interior last week after left guard Clint Boling was lost for the season with an ACL tear, Whitworth has been part of two of the Bengals' best rushing performances of the year. Against the Chargers last week, they rushed for 164 yards. Against the Colts, they hit 155, paced by rookie running back Giovani Bernard's 99.
Second-year defensive stars: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict once again led the Bengals in tackles. He has done that in all but one game this season. This time around, though, the tackle totals were relatively down. According to postgame stats given to media, he recorded eight. That's a little below his double-digit average of 10.7 tackles per game. Still, it's a sign that the second-year, former undrafted free agent was around the ball. Another class of 2012 signee who contributed greatly in the win was cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. The onetime backup continues making strides in the secondary as he gets awarded more playing opportunities. With another second-year player, safety George Iloka, as well as veteran corner Terence Newman going down with injuries, Kirkpatrick's role could increase if either is lost for any time.
Tate's returns: It can be easy for a return specialist's statistics to get lost in the shuffle in a two-possession game in which his team scored 40 points. (Quick side note: This is the first time in franchise history the Bengals have scored 40 or more points in three straight home games. They had done that in back-to-back home games four previous times.) Still, Brandon Tate was quite effective on the punt return team. His 18.3 yards per return average was his highest this season for games in which he has had multiple punt returns. His four returns also generated an average starting goal-to-go position of 63 yards, meaning the Bengals, on average, started at their own 37 after his returns. His previous season-best in a multi-return game was 61 yards -- the Bengals' 39.
New England's No. 2 playoff seeding was safe, for at least another week.
Still, with their own victory, the Bengals remained right in the mix for that seeding and jumped from the No. 4 postseason position to the third. Indianapolis had previously held onto to that third seeding, but despite clinching the AFC South crown late in the day thanks to a Tennessee loss, the Colts still dropped down to fourth because of their own defeat. The Bengals now have a tiebreaker over them in the event one becomes necessary across the final three weeks of the season.
All of that simply means that Cincinnati remains in the postseason hunt. And, as long as the Bengals keep winning, their odds at least earning home-field advantage remain favorable.
After already starting the month of December with two wins, the Bengals are unwavering in their belief that they can take the next three, too (they visit the Steelers on Sunday night, then host the Vikings and Ravens to close out the regular season).
"That's why our goal is to win out," linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. "That's why when we say we control our own destiny and if we win out, we'll be great. Just control what you've got to control and control what your teammates can control."
How exactly did the Bengals remain in the postseason hunt Sunday? What led to the complete dismantling of the Colts? A perfectly balanced offense (they ran 35 times and passed 35 times), an accurate passing quarterback, clean offensive line protection, a running back's near-100-yard rushing performance, positive field position sparked by special-teams play and once again another stout defensive effort, even when two key players went down with injuries.
As we get the Monday Morning Stripes going, we start with the aforementioned running back:
- The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty made rookie Giovani Bernard the subject of his postgame column, writing about the magician-like flair and finesse the ball carrier possesses on his runs. Apparently a couple of Colts defenders were surprised when they saw it all first hand, informing Bernard after one play that he was "a shifty dude." That shiftiness was showcased in a 99-yard rushing performance, and came on his four catches for 49 yards in the passing game. Daugherty calls Bernard the X factor to the Bengals' offense. If Cincinnati can keep getting him to make plays, it can be unbeatable in January, he says.
- Here's a little more on the Bengals' run game from the Columbus Dispatch's Todd Jones. He writes about the overall balance the running game had with BenJarvus Green-Ellis' short touchdown runs and power pickups, and Bernard's yard-eating chances in wide-open space. Changes on the offensive line appear to have helped a lot of that in recent weeks, starting with left tackle Andrew Whitworth's move inside to guard.
- Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson has this broader look at Cincinnati's offense and how well it seemed to operate Sunday. The pass and run seemed to be working well off one another, and quarterback Andy Dalton was a big reason why. Along with Bernard's strong day, Dalton had one of his best outings of the season.
CINCINNATI -- At 25 years of age, Andy Dalton might be young, but he is far from naive.
The Cincinnati Bengals' third-year quarterback has heard the talk that has swirled around him his entire career. He's quite familiar with the love-hate relationship fans and media alike have for his constantly shifting play.
To the uninitiated, it's the type of play that would do Forrest Gump's box of chocolates proud -- you never know what you're going to get.
Actually, maybe we do. When it comes to this season, all it appears the Bengals need to do is convince Dalton that every game from here forward is taking place in the month of October. On a chilly December Sunday that featured below freezing temperatures and started with Paul Brown Stadium blanketed by snow and ice, Dalton was as hot as he was during so many Sunday afternoons two months ago.
With a 275-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 42-28 win against the Indianapolis Colts, he had arguably his best outing in seven weeks. The 275 yards were the most he had thrown for in a game since his 338 yards in a 22-20 overtime loss at Miami on Halloween. His sack-less, turnover-less day also was his first since the Bengals beat Pittsburgh in Cincinnati the second week of the season.
"I felt like I did some good things," Dalton said. "I was consistent getting completions, I was finding the open guy and guys were making plays.
"I have to keep playing like I did [Sunday], and good things will happen for us."
Yep, do that.
For most of the past seven weeks, we've been lamenting the fact that October Andy seemed to be the good version of the Bengals' star quarterback. The player who has taken the field since being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month of October has looked anything but an elite quarterback. Until Sunday, he had been downright miserable, posting QBR ratings that never made it above 44.4, and interception numbers that had opposing defensive backs salivating at the chance to face him.
In the five games entering Sunday's, Dalton had been picked off 10 times.
Something that appeared to help Dalton against the Colts was the fact that he wasn't pressured much. He only took pressures on four passing plays. That's a vastly different story than what occurred in the games against the Dolphins and Ravens near the start of his recent decline. At Miami, he was pressured on 13 drop backs. Against the Ravens, he felt the pressure 14 times. The past three games, he's been pressured a combined 10 times.
When Dalton wasn't pressured Sunday, he was as effective as he's been all season. On non-pressure plays, he had a 95.8 QBR and a 132.9 passer rating. All but two of his passing yards came on those plays, as well.
What led to the lack of pressures? It was a sturdy pocket that seldom burst. When it did, he was able to avoid getting sacked and throw passes away if needed.
"Every quarterback needs [that], unless you're going to run around and make things happen," coach Marvin Lewis said.
One reason Dalton believes he and his receivers, running backs and line have been in sync has to do with the momentum that has built, particularly since the bye.
"We have a lot of confidence," Dalton said. "We know what we're capable of doing. It's about going out and performing each week. We have to keep this going. We have a lot of momentum. We have to keep it going through these last couple of games."
Ask most Bengals about why the offensive confidence has been heightened, and they'll say veteran Andrew Whitworth's move from left tackle to left guard has had something to do with it. If you ask Whitworth, though, he'll say the credit goes to Dalton for remaining the same, regardless how negative the perception of his play has been.
While answering questions about Cincinnati's offense, Whitworth barely broke his speaking stride as Dalton came over and reached a fist between the crush of cameras and reporters. As he continued to make his point, Whitworth reached out and gave Dalton a fist-pump and a head nod before the quarterback left for home.
"The funny part with Andy is that he doesn't change, and he doesn't adjust for anybody," Whitworth said. "That's a really neat thing about him. He just stays who he is and tries to improve himself, and that's an awesome characteristic to have. I'm just happy for him to have a day like [Sunday], and for us as an offense to have this kind of day. Because if we can continue to turn this thing north, then we've got a chance to really do what we want."
What do the Bengals want? To finish the season on a 6-0 run and with a seeding that will earn them a first-round bye and home-field advantage. While their defense will play a key role in allowing that to happen, the play of their quarterback from here on will be equally important.
CINCINNATI -- Mere minutes after jogging off Paul Brown Stadium's frigid field and back into the warm comforts of their locker room late Sunday afternoon, several Cincinnati Bengals crammed into a small space near an equipment room. Huddled close together in a corner, they watched the other early games, specifically those featuring a pair of division rivals and their unsuccessful attempts at holding on to late leads.
Compared with what many of the Bengals had to say after their 42-28 win over the playoff-bound, division-winning Indianapolis Colts, it was a bit of an awkward sight to see them pulling for another team for the sake of boosting their own postseason seeding and the probability of a first-round bye.
Seeing as how virtually every Bengal who was asked argued for "controlling what we can control," and ignoring all others in order to focus on themselves, it was a strange scene to digest.
"The key to that, though, still is just to handle our business," said defensive tackle Domata Peko, admittedly one of those who tiptoed from his nearby locker to watch the two tight finishes. "If we win out, we're in a good situation. If we just take it one game at a time like we have been, we should be fine."
So after witnessing the Pittsburgh Steelers, next Sunday night's opponent, lose a fourth-quarter lead at home against the Miami Dolphins, and even after watching the Cleveland Browns blow their own late-game lead against the New England Patriots, the Bengals remained confident in themselves.
Asked whether his team had what it took to go on a long postseason run, Bengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth quickly replied: "We have the potential to."
Peko isn't so sure that many outside Paul Brown Stadium believe that. Much of what he's watched or read from pundits in recent days goes against what he witnesses every day.
"A lot people haven't given us much respect," the defender said.
As hard as it may be to believe, these Bengals are different from the majority of those who share their ancestral football bloodline. The Bengals of old, for now, at least, are no more. The team that calls southwest Ohio home this year really is a good one. Defense has been its calling card, but solid special-teams play of late and a newfound offensive identity that hinges on true run-pass balance have the Bengals suddenly looking like an even more formidable bunch.
So why, then, were the Bengals doing a little postgame scoreboard-watching?
It was mainly so that they still have an idea of where some of the other teams around them in the AFC standings are, center Kyle Cook said. He knows that a team like the Patriots -- who retained their No. 2 seeding thanks to a narrow win over the Browns -- controls its fate, but a misstep here or there can help Cincinnati reach its goals.
"That No. 2 is going to to be big, and we know it," Cook said. "But you just got to put your mind to the grindstone. These last three weeks, this is what you've been preparing all offseason for, all camp. We want to be in this situation."
Two weeks ago, coming off their bye, the Bengals were adamant about going 5-0 in December to set up an end-of-season roll into the playoffs. So far, they're 2-0 in the month.
"That's why when we say we control our own destiny and if we win out, we'll be great," linebacker Vontaze Burfict said.
Yes, it may be difficult to digest, but the Bengals really are in this position. Unlike their last two playoff runs, though, a much greater postseason fate could be on the horizon. Does that fate include multiple postseason wins? A Super Bowl berth?
Stay glued to your TVs to find out.
CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 42-28 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
What it means: The Bengals are finally showing the football world that they are who many of us in the preseason thought they would be. Now that the end of regular season is almost here, the Bengals are preparing for a postseason run by flexing their muscles against teams they have to beat. Following last week's seven-point win on the road at San Diego, this weekend's dismantling of a division leader proves that they ought to be taken seriously during the postseason. One good thing Cincinnati has going for it in January is that it won't have to travel to Houston. The Texans, who own first-round wins over the Bengals the past two years, have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
Stock watch: Andy Dalton -- rising. The Bengals quarterback turned in his best performance since Halloween, when he threw for 338 yards in an overtime loss at Miami. While he didn't break the 300-yard mark Sunday, Dalton's 275 still were the most he has thrown since the Dolphins game. He also didn't throw an interception, marking the first time in six games that he hasn't been picked off. This was only the third game all season that he had without throwing an interception. Dalton also looked sharp. Often during the game, he put passes precisely where they needed to be. He zipped the ball into soft zones in coverage that were caught and led receivers just far enough on others. Marvin Jones' diving first-half touchdown reception was the product of being led to just right spot by Dalton.
Balanced attack: The Bengals picked up where they left off against the Chargers and showcased another balanced offensive attack. For the second straight game and fourth time this year, they had more than 150 yards rushing as a team. They totaled 155 thanks to rookie Giovani Bernard's 99 yards -- averaging 8.2 per carry. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 48. Coupled with the passing game, the ground attack made for a wide-open offensive scheme. The Bengals are now 9-1 in games when their running backs have hit the 150-yard rushing plateau.
What's next? Cincinnati heads to Pittsburgh on Sunday night for a key AFC North contest against the Steelers. It is the second of the two annual meetings between the division foes. The Bengals won the first contest 20-10 in a "Monday Night Football" game at Paul Brown Stadium. With a win over the Steelers, Cincinnati could clinch the division title outright.
The second-year player left the game when he took a hard hit during a play that resulted in one of two third-quarter Colts touchdowns.
Indianapolis scored for a second time in the quarter with 6:30 remaining when quarterback Andrew Luck completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver LaVon Brazill. It was Brazill who did most of the heavy lifting on the play, catching the short pass and dodging six attempted Bengals tacklers in order to score. While swept into attempting his own tackle, Iloka suffered an apparent head injury.
Iloka's return was immediately deemed questionable by the Bengals' training staff. Eventually, he was ruled out and didn't return.
Following the scoring play, several Bengals, including Iloka, remained on the field for a few moments as they collected themselves. They looked like orange and black bowling pins that had just been felled by the power-running bowling ball that was Brazill.
When Iloka left, he was replaced on the next Bengals' defensive series by defensive back Chris Crocker. Crocker was among those who missed a tackle on the touchdown reception.
Late in the fourth quarter, fellow Bengals defensive back, Terence Newman, left the game with a knee injury. Like Iloka, he was deemed out. It's unclear exactly how serious either injury currently is.
One week after a gaffe involving the chain gang at the New York Giants-Washington Redskins game, Triplette overturned a reviewed play Sunday that appeared to be wrong. It resulted in a touchdown for the Bengals, giving Cincinnati a two-score halftime lead.
When asked about the ruling after the game, Triplette remained convinced the right determination was ultimately made.
With 1:14 remaining in the second quarter, the Bengals had the ball on the Colts' 1-yard line on fourth down.