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Week 4 Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals 37, Atlanta Falcons 36

What you need to know

Cincinnati Bengals

-Andy Dalton was fantastic and continues to put up QB1 numbers, with at least two touchdowns in every game and back-to-back games with 337 or more passing yards

-Tyler Eifert suffered a season-ending ankle injury, which is a big blow to a Ben-gals passing offense that was relying on him more by the week. -Eifert’s loss will thrust the backup tight ends, especially C.J. Uzomah, into a bigger role going forward.

-Tyler Boyd had another big week and should continue to see a huge share of the targets going forward, especially with Eifert out.

-John Ross caught a long touchdown and was having a nice bounce-back game but pulled his groin on his long touchdown catch and had to leave the game.

Atlanta Falcons

Lacking both starting safeties and its starting middle linebacker, Atlanta watched Cincinnati drive early and score by exploiting those missing pieces with key offensive players motioned to the slot and attacking this weakness. The Bengals did this all day, especially with Tyler Boyd on crossing routes. Atlanta went for it on fourth down during its second drive – a telling indication that the coaching staff was worried about its defense matching up with Cincinnati’s offense. Atlanta put Cincinnati in run-pass binds with successful runs from three-receiver sets. This drew the safety to one side of the field for enviable matchups on the other side to Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley. Atlanta is using Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith like it uses Devonta Freeman and Coleman, which means that Smith is now in that red zone role that Coleman sees when Freeman is healthy. Calvin Ridley scored twice in this game both plays in or near the red zone on the single side of the Falcons’ formations. Atlanta riddled the Bengals over the middle with catches between linebackers and safeties with its big receivers for first downs but the Bengals did the same with Tyler Boyd and use of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert in the slot.

Cincinnati Bengals

QB Andy Dalton, 73 offensive snaps, Pass: 29 - 41 - 337 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 13 - 0
Dalton was excellent on Sunday, getting the ball out quickly and accurately. His big passing day could have been even bigger, with a couple more touchdowns. Giovani Bernard was tackled at the 1-yard line on a screen pass before running it in the next play. Dalton also had a 9-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green brought back on a questionable hands to the face call on an offensive lineman. Dalton’s interception shouldn’t have counted. The Falcons defender clearly held tight end Tyler Kroft coming out of his break but the referees somehow missed it. The ball bounced off of Kroft’s hands and into the arms of a Falcons defender. Dalton’s first two touchdowns came on plays where a player lined up in the slot ran open down the center of the field on a simple 9-route. The first was a 15-yard touchdown to Tyler Eifert and the second was a 39-yard touchdown to John Ross. Dalton was masterful on a 16-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to win the game. He scrambled for 11 yards to pick up a first down early in the drive and escaped a sack a couple plays later to scramble for a short gain. He was able to succeed despite serious pass rush pressure off of the edges. He completed three clutch passes to Tyler Boyd, two of which came on fourth-down and kept hopes alive. Dalton finished off the drive with a magnificent throw over the cornerback and outside of the safety to a sliding A.J. Green for a 13-yard, game-winning touchdown.

RB Giovani Bernard, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 69 - 2, Rec: 4 - 27 - 0 (4 targets)
Bernard got off to a fast start. He caught a 17-yard screen on the second drive of the game. He later finished the drive, bouncing it outside for a 10-yard touchdown. In the final minute before halftime, Bernard caught a screen pass for a 14-yard gain. It was set up and blocked perfectly and Bernard nearly got into the end zone. He was able to pound it in for a 1-yard score on the very next play, however. Bernard followed defensive end Sam Hubbard who lined up at fullback on the play and punished the defender to open the hole. It looked like Bernard was playing through an injury down the stretch and he wasn’t in the game for most of the final drive. He was grimacing and looked like he took himself out after a 4th-quarter run. It was unclear what the injury was and whether it is anything that will affect him going forward.

RB Mark Walton, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 9 - 0, Rec: 2 - 28 - 0 (4 targets)
With only two running backs active and Giovani Bernard banged up, Walton saw his first extended action and proved reliable. He got off to a shaky start, as he looked uncomfortable on a screen pass and seemed to cut upfield too early. He wasn’t able to catch the pass, which was big because it was set up well and may have gone for a 40-yard touchdown. But he quickly found his footing. He caught a swing pass for a 24-yard gain a couple drives later. He was also on the field for most of the final drive of the game and did well in his pass blocking assignments. It was a major step forward for a rookie who had struggled in camp and through the early part of the season.

WR Tyler Boyd, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 11 - 100 - 0 (15 targets)
Boyd was the go-to receiver for the Bengals in Week 4. He made an incredible number of key third and fourth-down catches to keep drives going. He was especially key on the game-winning drive. He caught a 3rd-and-long pass early on the drive and came up with a pair of 4th-down catches with the game on the line. Boyd has clearly earned the trust of both Dalton and the Bengals offensive coaching staff. He knows where to be, runs precise routes, and has extremely reliable hands. For the most part, there wasn’t anything fancy about Boyd’s routes on Sunday. A.J. Green was often seeing double-coverage on the outside, which left Boyd one-on-one and he was consistently able to take advantage. Boyd noted after the game that when he was single-covered in the slot on third or fourth down, he knew the ball was probably coming his way. He won his individual matchups and was especially effective operating in the middle of the field against a Falcons defense that is incredibly soft over the middle with all of their injuries on that side of the ball. Boyd saw many of his targets after Tyler Eifert. The two both operate primarily in the middle of the field, so it makes sense Boyd would pick up some targets that would have gone to Eifert. On the other hand, the imminent return of Joe Mixon may negatively impact Boyd. Without much of an inside run game, the Bengals have been forced to spread the field and use short passes to Boyd almost as an extension of the running game. The offense could look more traditional with less spread and less shotgun next week.

WR A.J. Green, 71 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 78 - 1 (8 targets)
Green just missed a 43-yard touchdown on a nine-route down the left sideline in the first quarter. He had a step but wasn’t able to come up with the catch on a ball which was thrown a bit too low. Green was robbed of a 9-yard touchdown on a fade route when Cincinnati was called for a questionable hands to the face call on an offensive lineman. The Bengals went back to Green on the same play a couple snaps later, but it was defended well and they eventually had to settle for a field goal. Green was bracketed most of the day. He was able to get away with a small push off and bring in a contested catch against double coverage for a 16-yard gain along the sideline. Green finished the game off with an outstanding sliding catch for a 13-yard, game-winning touchdown. He was able to find the opening in zone coverage behind the corner who cheated up to cover the running back and in front of the safety who couldn’t get over in time. Green had to go low and cradle the ball just above the turf, which made it a relatively difficult grab.

WR John Ross, 17 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 52 - 1 (2 targets)
Ross lined up in the slot and sprinted straight down the seam, easily getting behind the defender in zone coverage for a 39-yard touchdown late in the first half. Unfortunately, he pulled his groin on the play and limped off. He was able to return to action early in the second half and made a spectacular 13-yard, diving catch with a double toe-tap along the sideline. The Bengals took a deep shot to Ross down the right sideline midway through the third quarter and he came up limping again after the play and went to the bench for the remainder of the game. The injury doesn’t appear overly serious and Ross should be available next week but a nagging muscle strain can be a real problem for a player whose game is built upon speed. Despite the injury, it was a great sign Ross was able to bounce back with a good game after an ex-tremely rough outing last week.

TE Tyler Eifert, 19 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 38 - 1 (4 targets)
Eifert was off to a hot start to the game and scored an early touchdown on a 9-route from the slot. Coverage was poor and Eifert didn’t have a defender close to him but still made a nice leaping catch and toe tap along the back of the end zone on a high throw. Unfortunately, Eifert suffered yet another season-ending injury on the opening drive of the second half. He dislocated his ankle and was extremely emotional heading off of the field. It was an especially tough blow for Eifert because he will be a free agent next offseason.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 70 offensive snaps, Pass: 29 - 39 - 419 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 5 - 0
Atlanta went empty on its second third down of the initial drive and Ryan found Julio Jones in the middle of the field while throwing on the move, squeezing the ball between the linebacker and safety to get the offense to the Bengals’ 11. Ryan beat the blitz during the second drive with a quick slant to Julio Jones and followed with a crossing route check-down to Tevin Coleman that he made on the move to get Atlanta to midfield. Ryan overshot Mohamed Sanu on a crossing route in Bengals territory. Two plays later, Ryan climbed the pocket and found the receiver across the middle for a first down. Ryan later found Sanu on the same deep crossing route where they misconnected earlier, gaining 36 yards late in the half. Atlanta had a first and goal at the Cincinnati eight after a blocked punt to begin the second half but a false start, an Atkins tackle for a loss, and a third-down sack of Matt Ryan led to Atlanta settling for a 28-yard field goal. Ryan was lucky on a late hitch that should have been a pick-six if not for the cornerback dropping the ball with Atlanta up by two points in the middle of the fourth quarter. Ryan took three untimely sacks in this game, including two in the red zone in the second half of the game. Ryan also was too cautious on a wide-open post route and overshot a wide-open Austin Hooper in the red zone.

RB Tevin Coleman, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 51 - 0, Rec: 3 - 26 - 0 (3 targets)
He began the game with a three-yard gain off right guard and then turned a third-and-one run for a first down across midfield, doing a good job picking through a big crease. He followed up that up with a six-yard gain with a backside cutback on the outside zone play. Coleman dragged across the defense on a crossing route for a first-down catch and run to reach midfield during the second drive. Coleman earned a first down on a check-down to the flat to begin the second quarter. Coleman played well but didn’t earn consistent volume.

RB Ito Smith, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 35 - 1, Rec: 3 - 13 - 0 (3 targets)
He scored on second and six from the seven on a power run to the left side. Smith bounced outside the designated crease that the Bengals closed and ran through a wrap inside the five to reach the end zone standing up. Smith took Atlanta to the Bengals 18 with a cutback on an outside zone for 11 yards in a three-receiver set. Smith earned red zone touches in multiple drives, which shows he’s earning the role Coleman has when Devonta Freeman is healthy.

WR Julio Jones, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 173 - 0 (12 targets)
Atlanta went empty on its second third down of the initial drive and Ryan found Jones in the middle of the field while throwing on the move, squeezing the ball between the linebacker and safety to get the offense to the Bengals’ 11. Jones converted a third down on the second drive on a quick slant against the blitz and beat the tight trail coverage and turned up field for more to reach the Atlanta 36. Jones earned a pair of key receptions with less than a minute left in the half to get Atlanta across midfield with time outs remaining. Jones failed to corral a sideline route 30 yards downfield and stay in bounds. Jones split a pair of defenders up the middle on a crossing route for a first down to reach the Bengals red zone late in the game. He added a huge gain in the waning seconds on a desperation throw that padded his production.

WR Mohamed Sanu, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 111 - 0 (9 targets)
Ryan overshot Sanu on a crossing route in Bengals territory early in the second quarter. Two plays later, Ryan climbed the pocket and found the receiver across the middle for a first down. Ryan found Sanu against the blitz in the left flat late in the half to earn a first down near midfield. On the next play, Ryan found Sanu on that crossing route where they misconnected earlier for a 36-yard gain across midfield. Sanu earned 111 yards by the fourth quarter, going over the century mark with a crossing route to begin a drive in the middle of the fourth quarter. Sanu came up limping on a rute up the right flat targeted in the end zone and had to leave the field. He returned a play later.

WR Calvin Ridley, 38 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 4 - 54 - 2 (6 targets)
He began the game with a six-yard gain working across the middle as the check-down option on a second-down pass play during the initial drive. He earned a deep target to begin the second drive but Ryan overshot the receiver. Ridley had a one-on-one with a Bengals defense on an end-around but slipped on a cut and lost yardage on the play. He then dropped a wide-open slant that when through his hands on high but catchable target. Ridley scored on a red zone slant for the Falcons’ third touchdown of the half. Ridley scored again on an out-and-up just outside the red zone for an easy touchdown early in the fourth quarter for the Atlanta lead.

WR Marvin Hall, 16 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (1 targets)
The receiver earned a 49-yard kick return up the right flat, breaking a tackle about 25 yards into the run back. Hall earned a catch on a screen pass in the third quarter but the safety stuffed the play immediately.

TE Austin Hooper, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 19 - 0 (2 targets)
Hooper earned a 3rd and 13 check-down up the seam and broke a pair of tackles while splitting multiple defenders for a first down. Ryan overshot Hooper on a wide open post in the end zone late in the game.

TE Logan Paulsen, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 17 - 1 (1 targets)
Atlanta motioned Coleman to the right side and baited Cincinnati to slide to the left with Junes and Sanu to the left side. This opened the seam for Paulsen for an easy score to tie the game.