The Bengals tried hard to hand today’s game to the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, coughing up 16 points in the final 15:00 after holding the Jags to just a single field goal in the first three quarters, but Jacksonville just wouldn’t take the win, leaving the hopes of a perfect 0-16 season dashed for yet another year.

What happened? Well, for starters, the offensive line finally showed up, after G/T Andrew Whitworth and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh called out their teammates before the game. Coming into the game, the line was allowing an average of 3.5 sacks per game; the Jaguars got “just” 2. The line also rediscovered that thing known as “run blocking,” opening holes for Cedric Benson, who went (barely) over 100 yards on the ground. With better protection and a running game to back him up, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was a workman-like 21 for 31 for 162 yards and a pair of TDs, versus 1 pick. He also ran for 52 yards on a trio of rushes.

Defensively, the team firmed up after last week’s lackluster effort, adding a pick and 3 sacks to their totals for the year. Notably, one of those sacks was by rookie DT Pat Sims, who is really starting to defy my prediction for biggest defensive disappointment. Keep it up, big guy. CB Johnathan Joseph also rebounded strongly from last week’s “flag football failure” debacle, recording 15 tackles (11 solo) in the game.

On the downside, WR Glenn Holt’s fumbling problems from 2007 reappeared today, contributing to that fourth quarter almost-comeback by Jacksonville, and punter Kyle Larson, who was re-signed earlier this year, continues to be inconsistent. He averaged just 33.4 yards on 7 punts today, with a long of 42. Sideshow Bob’s playcalling still leaves much to be desired as well.

But…they won. All joking about 0-16 aside, they’re off the schnide and, for one week at least, looking a lot more like the team I though we’d be seeing at the start of the season. So congratulations to the Bengals on win No. 1 this November 2nd. Lord knows you deserve it.