Perhaps this really is the beginning of a new era.
Cincinnati overcame costly turnovers, a stout Pittsburgh run defense, and two inconceivable decisions by Marvin Lewis to defeat the Steelers 13-10 Sunday at Heinz Field. This is the exact type of game that the Bengals usually lose, as the Cincinnati made mistake after mistake yet somehow clinched its first back-to-back playoff appearances since 1981-1982.
Josh Brown kicked a 43 yard field goal with four seconds remaining to provide the winning margin. The game appeared to be headed for overtime in the final minute until Ben Roethlisberger’s overthrown pass was picked off by Reggie Nelson and returned to the Steelers’ 45-yard line with 14 seconds left. Andy Dalton then hit AJ Green for 21 yards to set up the winning kick.
The real star of the game for the Bengals was the defensive unit as a whole, and Geno Atkins in particular. Cincinnati harassed Roethlisberger all game long in sacking him four times, with 2.5 of those coming from Atkins. The third year defensive tackle consistently blew up the Steeler offensive line all game long.
Dalton was sacked six times for the second straight game, though several of those were due to coverage as much as defensive line pressure. Cincinnati was utterly unable to move the ball on the ground against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense, and largely abandoned it in the second half. BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished with just 14 yards on 15 carries, as he was met immediately in the backfield by Steeler defenders nearly every time he touched the ball.
Given the lack of a running game, Dalton really played pretty well, completing 24 of 41 passes for 278 yards and two interceptions. Green had been limited to one catch for eight yards in the previous matchup with Pittsburgh, but on Sunday was able to shake loose for ten catches for 122 yards despite consistent double coverage.