One red flag, one fourth down, one win for Bengals

BY foxsports • September 22, 2013

CINCINNATI – The challenge flag was in Marvin Lewis’ hand, ready to be tossed. Lewis was just waiting for some confirmation from his eyes upstairs. He got that confirmation and away went the red hankie.

One red flag. One challenge of a disputed spot of the ball. These kinds of situations haven’t been too kind to Lewis in the past, but twice in the past six days he’s chosen wisely and the Bengals have taken advantage of both opportunities to turn around games and get wins.

Last Monday against Pittsburgh it was Adam Jones being awarded a forced fumble and recovery on a play that was initially ruled dead, turning the ball over to the offense and helping the Bengals beat the Steelers. Sunday, the red challenge flag gave them the chance to make a play.

Instead of Green Bay’s Randall Cobb picking up a first down on a third-and-13 play, the TV replay showed Leon Hall’s tackle left Cobb half a yard or so short of moving the chains and enabling the Packers, who led 30-27 with less than five minutes to play, to continue playing keep away. Fourth-and-1 was a much better option.

In one snap of the ball, the Bengals went from desperate to euphoric. First the defensive line stood up and pushed back the Green Bay offensive line. When rookie running back Johnathan Franklin tried to find the room he needed by going over the top of the pile, he got pushed back and lost the football. Michael Johnson’s helmet dislodged the ball. Reggie Nelson picked it up, ran six yards, lost it himself but the ball bounced perfectly into the hands of Terence Newman who carried it the final 58 yards into the end zone with 3:47 for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown in a 34-30 victory for the Bengals.

Say what? Honestly, I’m still not sure what happened. There weren’t a lot of other people who were sure as well.

“Everybody just penetrated and hit their gaps and we were able to force the fumble,” said defensive tackle Geno Atkins. “I was in the pile. Until I looked up and saw, I didn’t know… That’s what we’ve been preaching since camp started; keep fighting every down. It doesn’t matter if it’s fourth-and-one, fourth-and-five, just keep going.”

The Bengals went from up 14-0 six minutes into the game to giving up 30 straight points and trailing by 16 with 20 minutes left to play to winning their second game in a row. After self-destructing in Chicago in Week 1, the Bengals overcame themselves Sunday against the Packers. Teams don’t win by committing four turnovers, let alone four turnovers in the span of nine plays, but that’s what the Bengals did thanks to a defense that forced four takeaways itself and harassed Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers into his worst passing day in three years.

Lesson learned?

“That was a testament to Chicago,” said defensive end Carlos Dunlap. “We just kept fighting and fighting. We kept our composure and just kept doing our job. The end result came in our favor.”

Without the challenge flag, things could’ve been much different.

“They (assistants in coaches’ box) said we were good,” said Lewis, “and when I saw it on the screen, I felt better about it. I thought they gave (Cobb) further than what he got.”

The Packers came into the game averaging 482.5 yards in their first two games against San Francisco and Washington. They had scored 66 points in the two games. By all rights, they should have had more than the 30 points they got, but despite the four Bengal cough-ups in the first half Green Bay led just 16-14. They only touchdown they got off a turnover was a 24-yard fumble return by cornerback M.D. Jennings that made it a 14-10 game.

The Bengals scored 21 points off of the four turnovers they forced, including the fourth-and-one fumble.

 “I thought I was going to the house,” said Nelson. “Then somebody hit my hand. It turned out good. I just saw an orange jersey pick it up like I had given it to those guys. As long as an orange jersey picked it up, I was fine with it.”

Newman, 35, scored his first touchdown as a Bengal. He had one of two interceptions of Rodgers, who hadn’t thrown more than one interception in a game since Oct. 24, 2010, against Minnesota.

"I was thinking quarterback sneak, and the way our D-line was playing I knew it was going to be up to those guys to push the O-line back and stop Rodgers," said Newman. "The next thing I know, I saw somebody get hit, I saw the ball pop out and I saw Reggie pick it up. I was trying to get a block and someone was trying to tackle him so I was screaming 'pitch it, pitch it'. Nobody on defense ever yells that. I saw the ball pop loose and it took a nice little bounce where I could grab it on the run."

Newman got blocks along the way from Hall and was escorted into the end zone by Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones. 
Rodgers still had plenty of time to reverse what the Bengals had done. He drove the Packers down to the Bengals’ 20-yard line, but Johnson sealed the win by batting down Rodgers’ fourth-down pass with 1:21 left before it came near a receiver.

“The Packers have a great team. We were able to persevere,” said Johnson. “It just goes back to what happened with Chicago, when we kind of hurt ourselves. We did that today, but it feels like we kind of learned from the mistakes early on. We bounced back from it. It’s good that we showed a lot of toughness and mental focus to go out there and fight and push to the end.”

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