Before the season started, there was talk of 0-16, being part of the ‘Suck for Luck Sweepstakes’, and how this was the worst franchise in all of professional sports. After today’s win vs. lowly Indianapolis, nobody is talking about any of that. You hear the word Bengals and you think of AJ Green, Andy Dalton, and breaking streaks that are decades old.
The Bengals used a heavy dose of the running game, near expert play by rookies Dalton and Green, and a smothering defense that scored again with the game in the final minutes to completely dismantle the Colts. Sure, Peyton Manning was holding a clipboard. Sure, the game was in doubt when the Colts took possession of the ball with 2:36 left in the game after Mike Nugent pushed a 43 yard field goal wide right. Manning in that situation comes through with a game winner more often than not, but former Purdue star Curtis Painter is not Manning and this is not the same ole’ Bengals defense.
The next play from scrimmage was a back breaker, as Pierre Garcon took a short pass and turned upfield only to be met byBrandon Johnson, who wrapped him up and twisted him down in such a way that Garcon sat on Johnson with his arm outstretched freely with the ball. Somehow Garcon lost the ball, which spun wildly on the turf for a moment, then Carlos Dunlap scooped it up and weaved through traffic for the game winning touchdown. At first glance it appeared that Garcon was trying to lateral to a teammate, but after exhaustive reviews from the replay booth it was determined that he let it drop just before his elbow hit the ground.
On the ensuing drive with 2:18 left in the game, Painter tried to thread the needle to Austin Collie but Leon Hall jumped the route and came down with the first interception of the season for the Bengals secondary. Hall had spoken earlier in the week about wanting to get one before the bye week next week, and his play iced the game with style. The Bengals had opportunities to score from the six but they opted to take a knee and force Manning to watch helplessly from the sidelines.
Dalton was in rare form today, going 25 for 32 passing with 264 yards and a touchdown while not turning the ball over. He spread the ball all over the field, throwing several beautiful passes to Jerome Simpson in helping him to a 100 yard performance. His pass to AJ Green wasn’t perfect, but Green has the catch radius of a Buick and he erases mistakes. The catch of the day was the 11 yard touchdown in which Green jumped high over the defender, adjusted to the pass in mid air, and came down with the ball for the first score of the game.
Cedric Benson put in a solid effort with 57 yards and a touchdown, but 3rd down back Brian Leonard made several big plays to keep drives alive. Leonard got six tough yards on a third and two in a clock killing drive in the second quarter, he converted 3rd and nine as a receiver during a scoring drive in the 3rd quarter that gave the Bengals a 13 point lead, and he got loose for a catch and run of 25 yards on 3rd and 8 during the fourth quarter as the Bengals were nursing a three point lead.
In the end it was the Bengals #1 ranked defense that saved the day. Michael Johnson registered a sack to go along with Leon Hall’s interception and Dunlap’s score on a fumble recovery. The Bengals held the Colts to 94 yards rushing and 188 passing and should remain #1 in total defense going into their bye week. The Bengals finally beat the Colts for the first time since 1997, when Boomer Esiason lead the Bengals to a come from behind win. There was no need for a comeback this week. The Bengals improve to 4-2 and challenging for the playoffs in the AFC. Who Dey? Nobody!