DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 20: Wide receiver Marvin Jones #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown pass while under pressure  during the first half at Ford Field on October 20, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Hide Caption

Cincinnati Bengals: Maturing young team has learned how to win the close ones

a a a a
Share this story

CINCINNATI -- Everything is going the Bengals' way approaching the midpoint of the season.

A pair of last-second victories has left them 5-2 with a two-game lead in the AFC North, where no other team has so much as a winning record. Victories at Buffalo and at Detroit the last two weeks show they've learned how to win the tough ones on the road.

They're on a course for their first division title since 2009.

 "These last couple have come down to the end and we're finding ways to win the game," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "For us, it's big. We're 5-2 now and it sets us up nice for where we want to go."

The only major concern this week is replacing top cornerback Leon Hall, who hurt his right Achilles tendon during the 27-24 win in Detroit on Sunday. He was getting tests on Monday to confirm that the initial diagnosis that it's a season-ending injury.

 The Bengals have gotten by without him so far this season. They lost at Cleveland and beat New England with Hall sidelined by a hamstring injury. Adam "Pacman" Jones and second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will get more responsibilities the rest of the way.

Hall tore his other Achilles tendon during the 2011 season but returned last year and went back to performing as the Bengals' top cornerback. Hall knew he'd severely hurt the other one on Sunday when he fell while defending a pass in the end zone.

"I feel bad for him," Kirkpatrick said on Monday. "It's the second time it's happened to him and it's the opposite leg. I asked him if it's normal to happen to the other leg and he said it's somewhat  normal. I just feel bad for him."

 The Bengals host the New York Jets (4-3) on Sunday, their only home game in a five-game stretch that they knew would be the pivotal part of the season. They're 2-0 in the stretch, with both wins coming on field goals by Mike Nugent.

The Bengals pinned the Bills in overtime, forced a punt and got Nugent's 43-yard kick for a 27-24 win. They followed the same script with the score tied in the fourth quarter in Detroit, pinning the Lions with a punt, forcing a punt and then getting Nugent's 54-yard field goal as time ran out for another 27-24 win.

In the past, those are the kinds of games the Bengals would lose by making a big mistake. They've learned to keep their cool and let their opponent make the game-turning gaffe, a sign of growth for a young team.

"It's very contagious seeing the coaches under control and thinking, `Let's figure it out, let's win this game,"' Nugent said on Monday. "Not only do we see it in the coaches, but we see it in the captains, the leaders of the team. Those guys -- especially Andy -- they've done a great job stepping up and commanding a lot out of everyone. I think everyone kind of falls into that role."

Dalton has been the biggest factor in the surge to the top. In the wins at Buffalo and Detroit, Dalton completed 68 percent of his passes for 709 yards with six touchdowns, one interception and a superb 119.7 passer rating.

"He did a good job yesterday distributing the football in the one-on-one (matchups) and what we perceived to be the weakness in their coverage," coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday. "He got the ball in the right spots and was accurate with it."

Four different players have caught touchdown passes in the last two games, an indication Dalton is finding the open receiver. Marvin Jones has caught two of the touchdown passes, and rookies Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard have caught one each, giving the Bengals options other than All-Pro receiver A.J. Green.

That emerging balance has played a big role in putting the Bengals in control of their division.

"To rack up these wins on the road is very important, and it does a lot to our team and the confidence and pushing us higher with the potential that we have," Jones said.

NOTES: The Bengals have more than 2,000 tickets left for the Jets game. They've sold out their first three home games. ... Lewis said the Bengals won't try to bring in a cornerback to replace Hall, figuring they have enough depth at the spot to carry on without him. "We're not going to get anybody off the street that's going to outplay anyone here in the building," Lewis said.

 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More Bengals News
Chad Johnson hopes to make comeback in Canada
Chad Johnson hopes to make comeback in Canada

Former Bengals star Chad Johnson will make his return to the gridiron with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

Bengals, Ham. Co. make deal in effort to lure GE
Bengals, Ham. Co. make deal in effort to lure GE

Bengals officials and Hamilton County administrators have come together on an agreement that paves the way for General Electric Co. and as…

Bengals sign 2013 3rd-rounder to bolster D-line
Bengals sign 2013 3rd-rounder to bolster D-line

Marvin Lewis hopes a change of scenery is all Sam Montgomery needs to maximize the potential that made him a third-round draft pick in 2013.

Judge finds Artrell Hawkins not guilty
Judge finds Artrell Hawkins not guilty

A Hamilton County Municipal Court judge has found former Bengals defensive back and NFL commentator  Artrell Hawkins  not guilty…

Marvin Lewis adds son to Bengals coaching staff
Marvin Lewis adds son to Bengals coaching staff

Marcus Lewis is the team's defensive assistant and quality control coach.

Bengals sign former Texans S Danieal Manning
Bengals sign former Texans S Danieal Manning

The Bengals signed former Houston Texans safety Danieal Manning, a ninth-year NFL player for 2014, the club announced Thursday.

Bengals fullback Charles arrested in Kentucky
Bengals fullback Charles arrested in Kentucky

Police in central Kentucky have charged Cincinnati Bengals fullback Orson Charles with wanton endangerment after a road rage incident Monday.

Bengals extend Peko's contract by 2 years
Bengals extend Peko's contract by 2 years

During a spring of change, the Bengals decided to lock in one of its defensive stalwarts for another two years.

NFL may expand playoffs, curtail taunting
NFL may expand playoffs, curtail taunting

The NFL discussed expanding the playoffs, expressed a determination to curtail taunting and set up an experiment to lengthen extra-point…

Bengals sign Jason Campbell to push Andy Dalton
Bengals sign Jason Campbell to push Andy Dalton

The organization announced Thursday that they had signed a one-year deal with QB Jason Campbell, a former first-round draft pick out of…