CINCINNATI -- The Bengals did what did what they had to do.
When you’re 8-2 playing a 4-6 team at home, you’ve got to win and win convincingly — especially after a pair of losses. The Bengals did that, beating the St. Louis Rams 31-7 at Paul Brown Stadium.
It wasn’t a perfect effort by any means. The Rams hung around into the second half. But two touchdowns in about 2-minute, 19-second span put the game away.
It was also puts away the notion that the Bengal season was about to go sideways. They came in having lost two straight. The loss at Arizona the final play of the game was nothing to be ashamed of, but losing to St. Louis would have had everyone in Bengal-land worried.
Andy Dalton was sharp. A.J. Green caught a couple of touchdown passes. Gio Bernard made a big run on the key drive in the third quarter.
But the defense won this one with some help from St. Louis quarterback Nick Foles.
Reggie Nelson, Leon Hall and George Iloka each had an interception. Hall returned his for a touchdown basically, clinching the game.
Here’s some takeaways from the win No. 9:
FAST START: It looked like the Bengals were on the way to a blowout early. They forced a three-and-out to start the game, and they went on a seven-play, 63-yard scoring drive that ended with a 10-yard Dalton pass to wide-open Green.
But mistakes and breakdowns kept the Bengals from scoring another touchdown until 3:27 was left in the half.
GOOD HANDS: Tyler Eifert’s recovery of Bernard’s fumble at the end of a 45-yard run was probably the biggest play in the third quarter. If the Bengals lost that fumble, you start to wonder if they’re ever going to be able to put St. Louis away.
Dalton hit Green for 18 yards and a score on the next play. That got the lead of 24-7. Suddenly the Bengals had things under reasonable control.
Three plays later, Hall’s intercept and runback put things completely under control.
COSTLY MISTAKE: The Bengals were in a position to take complete control of the game before half. Carlos Dunlap sacked Foles on third down at the Ram 12. But a defensive holding penalty on Dre Kirkpatrick extended the drive.
Reggie Nelson bailed Kirkpatrick out with an interception at the Bengal 10. It was Nelson’s career-high sixth interception. And it was likely the difference between going into to up 17-14 or 17-10 rather than up 17-7.
GETTING CUTE: The Bengals threw to Jake Fisher on third-and-goal at 3. With Green and Eifert on your roster do you really need to go with the tackle-eligible play?
MEANO GENO: Geno Atkins was one disruptive dude in the first half. He had two tackles for loss in the first three St. Louis’ series. He was in the backfield before the runner ever got going on both.
Atkins sacked Foles in the third quarter to stifled a Ram drive. It was Atkins’ eighth sack of year.
LEAPING LEON: Hall’s interception and 19-yard return for a touchdown pretty much iced the game. It was the 26th of Hall’s career. It moved him past Lemar Parris and into fourth place alone on the team’s list.