“Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?” said former NFL coach Jim Mora.
Most of the football world would have reacted the same way (including myself) as Coach Mora when the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals were mentioned in the same breath as potential playoff teams before this season.
As cliche as it is, games are certainly not played on paper.
The Bengals escaped Tennessee with a 24-17 win en route to their fourth, fourth-quarter come-from-behind win. The victory also marks the fifth consecutive and sixth overall win for a team that was predicted to win less than five games in many circles.
A steady performance from quarterback (I refuse to call him a rookie anymore) Andy Dalton led the Cincinnati offense with his first career three touchdown game. The final touchdown pass went to wide receiver Andre Caldwell to help put them up 21-17 with ten minutes left. Then, a late field goal from Mike Nugent tacked on three more points for the final count.
Dalton finished 22-39 for 217 yards and 97.9 passer rating.
“He can play pretty well. He has missed some throws that we would like for him to make but, all and all, you know, he played well. We didn’t turn the ball over and that’s huge. We knew that would be the key to this football game,” said Head Coach Marvin Lewis.
Fellow first year player A.J. Green got knocked out of the game in the first half, but stormed back in the second half to make some great catches along with Caldwell and Jerome Simpson. Simpson also added a touchdown reception.
The biggest play from Green came on the final drive.
With the offense facing a third and forever following a red zone holding penalty, Green showed why he was a top-five draft pick. As two Titan defenders barreled down on him, he was able to haul in a 20 yard reception for a first down that eventually led to Caldwell’s touchdown.
Dalton and Green have made an instant connection since joining the Bengals this season. Green has accounted for nearly 40 percent of Dalton’s 1,396 yards and five of his 12 touchdown passes.
“Everybody automatically grouped us together because we came in together. It has been great,” Dalton said, “We have a good relationship, a good friendship and it goes outside of football.”
Cincinnati’s defense struggled early as veteran Matt Hasselbeck torched the blitz for two touchdown passes in the first half. They regrouped eventually and proved why they are the second ranked defense in the league by shutting out the Titans the rest of the way.
The Bengals have now outscored their opponents 87-43 in the fourth quarter and 126-59 in the second half this season.
This was the third game this season the Bengals haven’t allowed a touchdown in the second half.
Now at 5-1 in the conference, the Bengals have a game edge on the 4-2 Patriots, Ravens and Steelers in AFC play, a game and a half lead on the 4-3 Jets, and a two-game lead on the 3-3 Chargers and Chiefs.
The Bengals seek to continue their winning ways next week as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a sold-out Paul Brown Stadium at 1 p.m.
“Nothing is satisfying until you win the big one. That is when you are satisfied,” Green said, “I feel this team is young and we are going to get better each week so we are never satisfied.”
About the Author
Written by Derrick Blyberg
Heading into my senior year of college at Taylor University located in rural Upland, Indiana. Sport Management major, Public Relations minor. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Former high school athlete. Writing experience in baseball game recaps, press releases, feature stories, and player interviews. Other work experience includes sports information and managing intramural sports. Aspiring a career in sports public and/or media relations. Follow me on twitter @DBLY4 or email me DBlyberg@gmail.com.