The Bengals signed fellow journeyman Randy Bullock to replace Nugent; Bullock was released by the Steelers on Monday as Pittsburgh’s starting kicker Chris Boswell returns from injury.
Nugent earned the ire of Bengals fans for his inconsistency on extra points. The 34-year-old kicker was second-worst among kickers with 10 attempted extra points (79 percent), just behind embattled former Vikings kickers Blair Walsh. Against the Browns on Sunday, Nugent missed an extra point in the first quarter and missed a 36-yard field goal to end the first half.
McCarron posted a 63.8 completion percentage at 6.7 yards per attempt for a 89.7 passer rating in four starts as Andy Dalton’s stand-in late in the 2015 season. Although he showed initial promise under then-play caller Hue Jackson, he failed to convert a single third down in the regular-season finale and was shut out for three quarters in the rain as the Bengals lost a memorable playoff bout with the Steelers.
If McCarron is indeed shopped around the league, a reunion with Jackson would seem to be the most likely scenario. Cleveland’s coach maintains a close relationship with Lewis and other members of Cincinnati’s front office. The Browns have stockpiled 11 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, providing plenty of ammo in trade talks.
Cincinnati’s defense keyed on C.J. Anderson and the ground game, forcing Siemian to make tough intermediate and downfield throws for the first time this season. After watching Siemian attempt fewer passes of 20 or more yards than any quarterback through two games, the Broncos made a concerted effort to get the ball to Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas with a chance to make plays. Siemian obliged, dialing up chain-moving throws to Sanders to go with touchdown bombs of 41 and 55 yards for Sanders and wholesale jerseys and Thomas, respectively.
Jeremy Hill gashed the heart of Denver’s defense for more rushing yards on the opening drive (65) than the Bengals had managed in either of the first two games. With the exception of a series of contested catches by A.J. Green, the offense went to sleep thereafter. A third-down drop by Green came back to haunt Cincinnati when Siemian responded to Andy Dalton’s 15-play field-goal drive with consecutive touchdown drives to pull away late in the fourth quarter.
That brings us to Jeremy Hill, who operates as Cincy’s unquestioned workhorse on the ground. His 37 carries are more than twice the totes of Giovani Bernard, who continues to play a bigger role through the air. Hill, though, is averaging just 50 yards per game at 4.1 yards per carry, numbers helped by his 50-yard blast against the Broncos in Week 3. After giving up 161 rushing yards to the Patriots and 169 more to the Browns, the Dolphins are an inviting opponent for Hill, who boasts a league-leading 23 rushing scores since 2014. As for Bernard, his 20 targets through the air rank second on the team, so expect a large role in space against Kiko Alonso and the ‘Fins.
Miami’s ground game is sort of a mess. With Arian Foster (groin) not expected to play, look for the Dolphins to lean again on an uber-committee approach led by rookie Kenyan Drake. Behind him, Isaiah Pead, Damien Williams and the enigmatic Jay Ajayi should all see work against Geno Atkins and the Cincy front seven. The Bengals rank in the bottom half of the league against the run, but notably held Denver’s C.J. Anderson to just 37 yards off 14 carries on Sunday. Help also arrives in the form of Vontaze Burfict, back from his three-game suspension. The hard-hitting linebacker was pivotal to stopping the run last season for a Bengals club that historically allows 15 fewer rushing yards per game with Burfict in the lineup.
Controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Bengals had the Patriots on the ropes until a pair of penalties instigated an onslaught for New England. A frustrated Tom Brady was pressured and forced to flee the pocket until Dre Kirkpatrick’s illegal contact call on third-and-18 gave him new life late in the second quarter. Brady hit James White for a 15-yard touchdown six plays later. After Andy Dalton led an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the second half, the Bengals defense forced a punt and Cincinnati appeared to be in the driver’s seat. A holding penalty on right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi not only negated a 15-yard pass to A.J. Green, but also led to a crucial safety on a delayed blitz by Dont’a Hightower — his second in as many weeks. The Patriots scored 24 points on their next four possessions, pulling away from a Bengals team that simply lacked the offensive firepower to keep up.
Gronkowski and James White exposed the coverage woes of the Bengals linebackers, combining for 209 yards and three scores on 15 receptions. The All Pro tight end was a big-play machine, generating four plays of 25 or more yards in addition to his 4-yard touchdown. Gronkowski was also whistled for taunting after yelling at the Bengals sideline during a two-play sequence that involved an extended back-and-forth with Vontaze Burfict. Cincinnati’s incendiary linebacker and cornerback Adam Jones had gone at the knees of Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on separate plays, perhaps raising the ire of Gronk.
“Marvin Lewis raised the Titanic,” former Bengals safety Solomon Wilcots once told NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus. “This team was at the bottom of the ocean when he came in. They are (now) a perennial playoff team.”
Lewis has one year left on his contract. Given the integral role Lewis plays throughout the building, in both player evaluation and coaching, it’s likely that owner Mike Brown will allow him to decide when it’s time to walk away.