For the first time in a long while, the defense wasn’t the most glaring problem for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The offense got in its own way with penalties and turnovers, and the Denver Broncos took advantage for a 24-10 win at Paul Brown Stadium, marking the Bengals’ sixth loss in seven games and fourth in a row.
Cincinnati (5-7) trailed just 7-3 at halftime, and although stopping the run still proved to be a struggle, it was the best first half the defense has played all season in terms of points allowed, and the Bengals gave up less than 400 yards of offense for a second straight game. That doesn’t sound all that great, but almost anything has to be better than the stretch where they had three straight games surrendering 500 yards or more, allowed 436 yards to a bad Baltimore offense and lost 35-20 to the Browns.
Here is a look at how we graded the performance in our Week 13 report card:
The Good: Joe Mixon rushed for 82 yards on 12 carries for an average of 6.8 yards per carry, and the running game helped take come of pressure off the edge at times early on. Cincinnati rushed for 111 yards total.
The Bad: Jeff Driskel wasn’t able to get to the perimeter as he likes because of the way the defense was coming at him with linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in particular. He finished with three carries for three yards. Fifteen carries combined between Driskel and Mixon wasn’t enough.
»ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from loss to the Broncos
Key Play: On the first drive of the second half, Trey Hopkins was called for a hold on a Mixon carry, and then Mixon ran for just three yards on second-and-20 play. The Bengals ended up going three-and-out to waste what could have been a game-changing drive with just a 7-3 deficit.
The Good: Tyler Boyd had some phenomenal catches as his stellar third season continues. Cody Core scored his first touchdown on a 30-yard grab in the third quarter, as Driskel finished with 236 yards passing.
The Bad: Driskel threw an interception and fumbled on a strip sack in the second half. He finished with a quarterback rating of 80.6. He was sacked four times.
Key Play: On first-and-10 from the Denver 30-yard line, Driskel forced a pass intended for Jordan Franks and overshot him. Justin Simmons intercepted it with ease at the 7, and Denver pushed its lead to 21-3 the ensuing drive.
The Good: The Bengals had five tackles for loss. There were just three third-and-short situations where the Broncos ran the ball, and Cincinnati got stops on two of them.
The Bad: Denver ran for 218 yards, including 157 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries by rookie Phillip Lindsay and 48 yards on 12 carries by rookie Royce Freeman.
Key Play: Lindsay broke loose on a run around the left end for a 65-yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 21-3 lead in the third quarter.
The Good: Case Keenum threw for just 151 yards and one touchdown and was sacked twice on third down, once by Sam Hubbard and once by Jordan Willis.
The Bad: Denver didn’t need Keenum to have a big day passing, but he had some long throws that hurt Cincinnati, including a third-and-7 play for 27 yards in the fourth quarter and two 30-yard passes.
Key Play: After Erickson’s muffed punt, the Broncos took advantage of the turnover two plays later when Keenum connected with Courtland Sutton for a 30-yard touchdown against coverage from Darius Phillips, who was in for injured cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. That gave Denver a 14-3 lead early in the third quarter.
The Good: Kevin Huber had a long punt of 69 yards that the Bengals nearly downed at the 1 but it slipped through to the end zone for a touchback. Denver didn’t have a return longer than three yards.
The Bad: Alex Erickson has been among the most consistent players for Cincinnati with his returns on special teams, but he muffed a punt and only averaged 2.0 yards per punt return. A couple penalties on team also impacted the game.
Key Play: Erickson muffed a punt that he said shifted in the wind and just slid right through his hands. He was unable to recover, and Denver got the ball at the Bengals’ 33. That proved to be a pivotal point in the game, as Denver went up 14-3 two plays later.
The Good: The defense had its best first half of the season and showed improvement in Marvin Lewis’ third game as defensive coordinator.
The Bad: Cincinnati racked up a surprising number of penalties (12 for 100 yards, including eight in the first half) for a second straight game, and Lewis said players just aren’t doing what they are coached to do. Some of the play calls in the first half seemed too conservative.
Key Play: On a third-and-29 from the Cincinnati 21 in the second quarter, the Bengals ran the ball. A hold pushed them back even further, and again, they ran. After the punt, Denver needed just 55 yards for the first score of the game with 1:56 left before halftime.