In terms of entertainment value, the Bengals' first game in London didn't disappoint, as a crazy ending resulted in a 27-27 tie on Sunday against the Washington Redskins just one week after the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals played to a 6-6 draw.
This game had it all, including a missed overtime field goal by Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins followed by an Andy Dalton fumble. The Redskins heaved a desperate Hail Mary to end the extra period, but it fell incomplete as time expired to leave the game in a draw.
What does the outcome say about the Bengals (3-4-1) as they hit the midpoint of the season? That's unclear. But if it wasn’t clear just how much the Bengals missed Eifert while he was out with an injury to start the season, it’s clear now.
While A.J. Green was battling Redskins cornerback Josh Norman for most of the day -- and winning several of those battles -- Eifert was making plays of his own, converting several third downs and making a leaping 15-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter. Eifert finished with nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Green drew one of his toughest assignments of the season against Norman, who shadowed him on the outside all day. Norman made several athletic pass breakups when the Bengals attempted to force the ball to Green, but that didn’t stop Dalton from targeting Green over and over (18 times on the day). Green, who drew several penalties on Norman and made an important 40-yard catch in the fourth quarter to set up a Jeremy Hill touchdown, finished the game with nine catches for 121 yards.
It was Green's fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he is the only player in franchise history to have four 100-yard receiving games in the first eight games of the season. Now he's done it twice (the other time being in 2013).
But what the stats don't say is how Eifert's presence helped that outcome. Whether he was drawing a pass-interference penalty or simply drawing coverage away from Green, Eifert's return showed he's been at least one missing piece for the Bengals as they try to regain their 2015 form.
Now that Eifert is back, Green doesn't have to carry such a heavy load.
It's been essentially all or nothing for the Bengals without Eifert. If Green had a big day, so did the Bengals. If defenses utilized all of their resources to effectively stop him, the Bengals couldn't find a way to win.
Against the Redskins, it was much easier for Green to win his battles against an elite cornerback because he didn't receive as much double coverage from the defense as he might without Eifert on the field. Going forward, that's only going to help the Bengals' offense.
No, Eifert is not the magic fix to the Bengals’ season. He doesn't play defense, and he couldn't fix several problems that occurred throughout Sunday's game.
He couldn’t fix a blown assignment that led to a touchdown by a wide-open Jamison Crowder. Nor could he control some of the head-scratching penalties -- one on safety Shawn Williams for unnecessary roughness in the first quarter and another one for the same offense by Domata Peko in the third quarter (the Redskins scored just three plays later). Eifert is not going to help 34-year-old linebacker Karlos Dansby's troubles in coverage, which were highlighted when Dansby trailed 32-year-old tight end Vernon Davis by several steps as Davis hauled in a 44-yard gain in the first quarter.
The Bengals' defensive play has certainly had its troubling spots the past few games, and at the midpoint of the season, they clearly have some issues to work out. That's not to mention the continuing woes on special teams (a missed field goal and missed extra point) and on the offensive line, which allowed three sacks Sunday.
But with a bye week up next and a second-half schedule that at first glance seems to ease up for Cincinnati, the Bengals have the luxury of figuring that out.