Bengals didn't follow Steelers' script this time

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.



We all know the script. The Steelers get the football while tied or trailing late in the game. Ben Roethlisberger marches Pittsburgh down the field. Steelers score. Game over. But on this Sunday, it wasn't the same old story. That's because these aren't the same old Cincinnati Bengals.
This time, it was the Bengals who outmuscled the Men of Steel and toppled Big Ben in the process. Head coach Marvin Lewis described Cincinnati's 18-12 road victory as "probably the most physical, grinding game I've ever been on the sidelines to experience." In other words, the kind of game that previous Bengals teams would have lost. "We have to give them credit," Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark said afterward inside a deflated Steelers locker room. "They are the best team in the division right now." Cincinnati (7-2) swept Pittsburgh (6-3) for the first time since 1998 and now has a relatively comfortable AFC North lead, thanks to their 5-0 division record. Such achievements wouldn't be possible without a magnificent defensive stand to secure Sunday's win. Following a field goal that stretched Cincinnati's lead to six points, the Steelers took possession at their own 33-yard line with 1:56 remaining. Roethlisberger — the architect of 18 career come-from-behind victories, including last year's dramatic 27-23 win over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII — was chomping to do his thing once again. "I knew we were going down to win it," he said. Not quite. Roethlisberger threw four consecutive incompletions, the result of strong Bengals pressure and smothering pass coverage. Once he tossed a fourth-down duck while being dragged down by rookie defensive end Michael Johnson, Bengals players flooded the field with their arms raised in celebration.


    Cincy notes today:
  • First 5-game road win streak ever
  • First sweep of Steelers since 1998
  • Latest point in first place since 2005

Cincinnati Bengals Looking for more dirt on the Bengals? Get the inside slant, stats, scores, schedules and more scoops right here.
Bengals safeties Chinedum Ndukwe and Chris Crocker then went one step further. In a mockery of Pittsburgh's famed Terrible Towel, they turned toward the remaining Steelers fans behind the Bengals bench and began waving white towels above their heads while the offense ran out the clock. "That felt so good just to wave my white towel saying, 'They surrendered!' " Crocker said. "You could hear a pin drop. [Roethlisberger] didn't complete one pass on that last drive. We were just ready — so ready — for whatever he had today." Roethlisberger finished with his lowest quarterback rating (51.5) in a complete game since Week 8 of last season. He completed 50 percent of his passes — 20 points less than his season average — for 174 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also was sacked four times. Defensive end Jonathan Fanene led the pass rush with two sacks. That was double the total Fanene had notched in his first four NFL seasons. Fanene is starting because Bengals sack leader Antwan Odom is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. "It's been kind of how our year has been," Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "You lose a guy like Antwan and people think our season is over. Jonathan Fanene steps in and has played [great] ever since he's been in there. There's something about our team — the way we work together — that when a guy gets injured, another guy goes in and pulls the load." The same happened on offense Sunday when running back Cedric Benson's hip injury limited him to just one carry in the final three quarters. Even without their punishing rushing leader against Pittsburgh's stout run defense, Cincinnati didn't scrap its game plan. Rookie Bernard Scott, who scored the game's only touchdown with a 96-yard first-quarter kickoff return, provided enough punch with a 13-carry, 33-yard effort that the Bengals never become one-dimensional. With four second-half field goals, Cincinnati wore down a Steelers defense that was also missing a key player when strong safety Troy Polamalu (knee) was knocked out after the first series. "We out-schemed them with the run game and in play-action," said Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who was efficient (18-of-30 for 178 yards) in a turnover-free passing performance. "If there's one word you're going to define us with, it's physical." Confident, too. Fourth-year cornerback Jonathan Joseph admitted some of Cincinnati's previous teams probably wouldn't have come through in the clutch like the 2009 Bengals have in both wins over Pittsburgh.
"We have to give them credit. They are the best team in the division right now"
Steelers safety Ryan Clark
"It comes with guys maturing, [new] guys coming in and guys wanting to win," Joseph said. "Right now, we're in the place where we can control our own destiny." Not to mention change the negative perception of a franchise likely heading to only its second playoff berth since 1990. "People are still doubting us," Bengals defensive tackle Domato Peko said. "That really motivates us. We're still trying to gain the respect of everybody. The only way to do that is to win games. We keep this up, people will start to respect us." Begrudgingly, the Steelers already do. "It's a big loss," Roethlisberger said. "It hurts." The Bengals know that pain all too well. Only this time, Cincinnati is the one inflicting it.
Tagged: Bengals, Giants, Steelers, Ryan Clark, Chris Crocker, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Ben Roethlisberger, Antwan Odom, Cedric Benson, Jonathan Fanene, Andrew Whitworth, Michael Johnson, Chinedum Ndukwe, Bernard Scott

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