Bengals’ defense holds on, wins a wild game
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals’ defense has a motto: Don’t flinch.
On the worst day, it didn’t. And as a result, Cincinnati is looking mighty good at the moment.
The Bengals made NFL history — admittedly, weird NFL history — with their 34-30 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The offense turned the ball over four times to one of the league’s best offenses, but that unflinching defense minimized the damage.
Then, it scored the winning touchdown on Terence Newman’s 58-yard fumble return with 3:47 left, and finished the day by batting down Aaron Rodgers’ fourth-down pass at the Cincinnati 20-yard line.
“Yeah man, that was tough,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. “There were a lot of turnovers in a row and them getting the ball at the 40, at the 20, in the red zone. It just shows our character.
“We’ve been building here for a lot of years, and guys just stepped up their game. Every time we take the field, we take it like we own it. We stood firm as a defense. As long as we do that all season, we should have a chance to win a lot of games.”
The Bengals (2-1) recovered from a mistake-filled 24-21 loss in Chicago by winning two games in six days at Paul Brown Stadium, with the defense leading the way. It handled Pittsburgh’s mess of an offense for a 20-10 win on Monday night, then held up under the toughest type of challenge on Sunday.
Cincinnati’s offense turned the ball over four times in the first half. Andy Dalton’s interception gave Green Bay the ball at Cincinnati’s 26, but the defense held for three plays and forced a field goal.
A fumble turned the ball over at the Cincinnati 37-yard line. This time, the defense forced a punt.
The defense couldn’t do anything after BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ fumble — M.D. Jennings returned it for a touchdown.
Perhaps the saving series came after another fumble turned it over at the Cincinnati 21-yard line midway through the second quarter. The Packers got to a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line, but Rodgers was stopped at the 1-yard line on a third-down scramble, forcing another field goal.
Four turnovers, only 13 points allowed. That made a difference.
“A lot of times, when things aren’t going well, guys are on the sidelines bickering with one another,” Newman said. “There was none of that (on Sunday). I think that was the key to us playing the way we did.”
The defensive line gave Rodgers a rough time, sacking him four times and giving him little time to throw the ball. The Bengals’ tall ends — 6-foot-7 Michael Johnson and 6-foot-6 Carlos Dunlap — batted down three passes, with Johnson swatting away Rodgers’ fourth-down throw in the closing minutes to clinch it.
“We didn’t flinch,” safety Reggie Nelson said. “That’s what you call a good game, man. We’re going against the No. 1 offense. Our defense just plays together and when things happen, we move on to the next play.
“I think we did a good job of that, sticking together and not deteriorating.”
The Bengals play at Cleveland (1-2) on Sunday with a chance to improve to 2-0 in the AFC North. They’re trying to reach the playoffs for the third season in a row, something the franchise has never accomplished. They made it the last two years as a wild card.
Cincinnati spent a lot of time and money keeping its defense intact from last season, when it finished sixth overall in the NFL. The early returns are encouraging.
“Oh man, big-time confidence,” Peko said. “We already have a lot of confidence here. To win against a great quarterback and a great team like this, that really helps us out a lot, just to measure ourselves.
“It wasn’t the perfect game by far. We had a lot of mistakes out there and a lot of good plays as well. A great win for us.”
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