Here’s the key stat from Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Buffalo Bills: Brian Moorman punted eight times. That’s one more time than San Francisco’s Andy Lee punted last week.
It’s proof that there was nothing flukish about the Bengals victory. No Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception”…no Herm Edwards “Miracle at the Meadowlands”…no Tom Brady “Tuck Rule”…just the Bengals defense forcing the NFL’s highest-scoring offense to punt 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 times.
“They’re playing really well and it was an awesome effort,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “We told them, ‘You can’t give up big plays against this offense. Just make them drive the field and keep playing.’ They just kept playing series after series.”
“We made them check it down a lot and throw a lot of short passes,” said safety Chris Crocker. “They’re going to make catches – just tackle ‘em and get off the field.”
Oddly enough, the luckiest bounces went to Buffalo: A Ryan Fitzpatrick pass into double-coverage that was deflected to Naaman Roosevelt for a 28 yard gain, and an Andy Dalton pass that bounced off the leg of Andre Caldwell right into the hands of Bryan Scott for a Pick 6.
“This game never comes out as it’s scripted,” said Crocker. “On offense, you can throw a great ball and it gets tipped and they pick it off and run it in. Anything can happen in this game and you just keep playing. You don’t worry about what they are doing on the other side of the ball. You just worry about doing your job and kicking your man’s butt across from you on every single play.”
But largely due to those two fortuitous bounces, Buffalo led 17-3 at the half. Cincinnati’s defense had done its job while the offense had done next-to-nothing.
“We just needed to go back and do the things that we practiced diligently all week,” said Coach Lewis. “We had a great week of practice. We get ahead of ourselves too much. We just have to relax and do the things that we’re coached to do.”
“We were killing ourselves in the first half,” said quarterback Andy Dalton. “There was some miscommunication on some things and everybody took a turn.”
“We huddled up at half and said, ‘We have to stick together. No more individual talk and stuff like that. We just have to stick together,’” said receiver A.J. Green. “That’s what we did.”
The Bengals scored on four of their five second-half drives and outgained the high-octane Bills 458-to-273 overall. After posting a QB rating of 15.8 in the first half, Dalton went 11-16 for 182 yards in the second half for a QB rating of 127.6.
“He’s not easily rattled,” said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. “Good or bad, he continues to play and hang in there. For a young guy that’s awesome. You can give him all the crap that you want and he can take it. He’s going to get better and we have to get better around him and we can be a special offense.”
“The fight in his eyes in the second half was unbelievable,” said Green. “He’s from TCU so he knows how to win. We’re blessed to have him as our quarterback.”
“I’m not worried about him,” said Crocker. “He’s coached well and he knows where to go with the ball. I think he learns a different lesson each week.”
Marvin Lewis hopes that everyone in the locker room learned a lesson against Buffalo.
“They don’t understand how talented that we are,” said Lewis. “But we have to work really diligently and you can’t beat yourself. We had a couple of penalties in the first half – beats yourself. We dropped a ball – beats yourself. We missed an assignment – beats yourself. We hurried a throw – beats yourself. We just have to keep coaching that and correcting it and we’ll be fine.”
“The defense keeps playing their tails off and keeps getting better and better,” said Whitworth. “Offensively, we have got to continue to try to keep up. The talent is there – these guys show it week in and week out. We just have to get them to realize that when it comes to game time, it’s no different. Just go out there and show your ability.”
“We have a lot of young talent here,” said Dalton. “A lot of guys that are fighting and competing. It’s going to be a lot of fun here.”
It doesn’t get much better than knocking off the undefeated Bills.
Who knew that watching a guy punt could be so enjoyable?
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