Well, the Cincinnati Bengals have done it to us again. After laying a giant egg last week in Cleveland, the orange and black came today to knock off their second straight pre-season Super Bowl favorite at home, holding the vaunted New England. Patriots without a touchdown in a 13-6 victory.
I was in the press box for last Sunday’s game with the Patriots, a game that may have caused all of the fans who jumped off the Bengal bandwagon the previous week to buy a ticket to get back on and a win that could be season-defining if this Sunday doesn’t bring on another letdown. But that is the story of life in the world of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The story of the New England game was the Bengals defense. On the second play of the game, defensive lineman Geno Atkins blasted through to introduce New England quarterback Tom Brady to the turf of Paul Brown Stadium. That play seemed to set the tone for the day as Brady was on his heels and under pressure the rest of the game, something he is not at all comfortable with.
The Bengal defense also got some great contributions from two players who had to step up to replace starters down with injury. Wallace Gilberry, subbing for the injured. Michael Johnson on the defensive line , had two sacks and was a disruptive force all afternoon.
Chris Crocker, subbing for injured cornerback Leon Hall, was in on seven tackles and made perhaps the biggest heads-up play of the game when he alertly touched down Patriots receiver Danny Amendola on the one yard lone, keeping New England out of the end zone.
In fact, the Patriots were kept out of the end zone for the first time in 74 games and Brady had his consecutive games with a touchdown steak halted at 52. The defense also got some big plays from Adam Jones, including the game-clinching interception late in the fourth quarter, and rookie lineman Margus Hunt whose 6’8″ frame visited Brady in the backfield a few times.
After the game, Gilberry told reporters in the locker room that it was one of the best defensive efforts he had ever been a part of.
Head coach Marvin Lewis was so impressed with his team’s defense that he awarded defensive coordinator Mike Zimmerman a game ball.
“I thought the group up front really got after it today,” said Lewis after the game. “We were able to get pressure on their play-pass game and that was the difference. It was just a great job by our defense.”
“Guys were all over the place today and it was fun,” said the lineman. “Playing a guy like Tom Brady, I’m not sure I believe it until I see it on paper or TV.”
With the defense dominating , the offense just had to do enough to get by and they did exactly that with quarterback Andy Dalton actually outplaying Brady. Dalton was 20-27 for 212 yards and other than a poor decision on a first half interception throw, was sharp and made some big throws.
The lone Cincinnati touchdown drive covered 97 yards in 14 plays and included a huge 28 yard completion to Marvin Jones on a third down inside the Bengal 5-yard line.
Dalton was asked in the locker room after the game about now having wins this season over Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
“Those guys have played a long time and to come out with a win against them really means a lot. It means a lot for our team but we just have to keep it going.”
The Bengals, now 3-2 and still in a first place tie in the AFC North, now turn their attention to a stretch of four of five games on the road, beginning with a trip to Buffalo to face a 2-3 Bills team that lost starting quarterback E.J. Manuel to injury.
Will we see the Bengal team that let down in Cleveland or the Bengal team that stepped up against the Patriots?
As offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth so aptly put it after the game, “If we go to Buffalo next week and lay an egg, today won’t mean a thing.”
I will be tuned in on Sunday to find out the answers. The Who-Dey nation has their fingers crossed.