Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) makes a catch while being pushed out of bounds by Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (27) during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Now these look like the Cincinnati Bengals we’ve been waiting to see, the ones who stormed through the first three weeks of the season and had everyone talking Super Bowl. That exciting team. slightly modified, made its return on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos and walked away with a 37-28 win that has then in the playoffs and on the tongues of NFL fans everywhere.
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In the process of moving their record to 10-4-1, the Bengals also lashed out at the notion that they can’t win big games on the national stage. And they showed resiliency that fans have been seeking all season.
When Aqib Talib took an interception off Bengals’ quarterback Andy Dalton 33 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, Cincinnati rookie running back Jeremy Hill ran 85 yards on the next play from scrimmage for an answering TD.
The Bengals build leads of 20-7 and 24-14 before Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning led one of his big comebacks, staking Denver to a 28-27 advantage with 1:29 to play in the third quarter.
The Bengals answered again, this time with a Mike Nugent field goal, and their two-point lead held up until 2:31 left in the game.
That’s when Cincy cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted Manning and ran 30 yards for the score. Game over.
That was Kirkpatrick’s second INT of the night, and the fourth thrown by Manning.
On offense, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw one interception, but he also tossed touchdown passes to Jermaine Gresham and Giovani Bernard, two guys who have battle injuries for much of the season and may be getting healthy just at the right time.
The star on offense, as has become customary, was Hill. He ran the ball 22 times for 147 yards ( 6.7 ypa), again banging right up against that 150-yard mark. Most importantly, he sucked the Bengals back from the lost season that threatened to swallow them when Talib took Dalton to the house.
The Bengals travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday to close out the season, and either Cincinnati or the Steelers will win the AFC North, depending on the outcome of that game. A Bengals’ win and a Broncos’ loss would also give Cincy the Number 2 seed heading into the playoffs.
No matter what happens on Sunday, though, the 2014 Bengals have secured their post-season slot, and they’ve slain some person dragons along the way.