It all came down to the coin toss and the elements. Specifically, the wind. Punters appeared like world-class kickers with the wind against their backs, making chip shots appear like 500-foot homeruns. Against the wind and a horse like Cincinnati's Mike Nugent pounds the right upright on a chip-shot extra point attempt late in the first half that prevents Cincinnati from sustaining a one-point lead late in the first half. It was the kind of wind that forces genius newscasters to fight against their rain coats while reporting that there's a lot of wind.
Yet Cincinnati's best result of the day could be winning the coin toss because the game's biggest factor was the wind in the fourth quarter.
Like any movie where the protagonist faces suddenly terrible odds just after a major character is killed, the Cincinnati Bengals defense allowed a 74-yard touchdown to Jason Hill with around eight minutes remaining giving the Jaguars a 20-16 lead. It was Tuesdays Gone epic depression, just as the beer tap runs dry and the muscle cars depart from the woods. Compounding the overall pyramid of depression is Cincinnati's ineffectual ensuing possession going three-and-out. It was rough at this point in the game.
But then an unexpected ally appeared out of nowhere; the northeast wind that at times approached gusts of 25 miles per hour. With 7:05 remaining in the game, Kevin Huber crushed a 58-yard punt that rolled inside Jacksonville's two-yard line. Cincinnati's rushing defense held running back Maurice Jones-Drew to four yards on consecutive runs setting up a third-and-six from their own six-yard line. Blaine Gabbert unwisely squeezed a pass for tight end Marcedes Lewis, where Manny Lawson and Rey Maualuga converged forcing an incomplete pass.
Matt Turk punts the football, against the wind, only 22 yards to the Jaguars' 28-yard line; compounded by a five-yard player-out-of-bounds infraction giving Cincinnati the football at Jacksonville's 23-yard line. After consecutive Cedric Benson runs pick up four yards, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton goes under center, fakes to Benson, scrambles to the right under pressure and overthrows A.J. Green in the end zone. Cincinnati decides to go for it on fourth down for the second time in the game. The first they converted, eventually leading to first half points. This time Andy Dalton takes the shotgun snap and targets tight end Jermaine Gresham, who climbs the ladder for a nine-yard gain and the first down.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Cedric Benson's limited gain puts the clock under three minutes. Second and goal from the 10-yard line, Dalton takes the shotgun snap and hits Andre Caldwell on a pivot route for an eight-yard gain setting up a third-and-goal from the Jaguars' two-yard line. Soon after the two minute warning, Andy Dalton takes the shotgun snap and... hands off to Bernard Scott, who scampers into the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Bengals a 23-20 lead with 1:56 remaining in the game.
Several plays into Jacksonville's ensuing possession, third and one from the Jaguars 42-yard line and 1:19 remaining in the game, Blaine Gabbert is shouting instructions when he watches a snapped football unexpectedly float past him. Sprinting towards the fumbled football, Gabbert dives but fails to recover, just as Nate Clements dives and cradles the football for the recovery. Cincinnati killed over a minute off the clock with four straight Cedric Benson runs for five yards rushing, forcing the Jaguars to extinguish their remaining time outs. The result left seven seconds in the game, a three-point deficit and 86 yards needed for a touchdown.
Gabbert connected with Jason Hill on a 13-yard completion and the Jaguars lateraled the football back-and-forth to each other until it suddenly reached Gabbert again -- for a moment at least. Gabbert dropped the ball and Geno Atkins recovered the fumble and scored a defensive touchdown with no time remaining in the game to give Cincinnati an eventual 30-20 win.
Cincinnati once against pulled a win from the jaws of defeat, thanks to a little help from a beautiful woman that we'll name Windy.
FIRST HALF STRUGGLES REVERSED INTO FOURTH QUARTER TRENDS... There's something to be said about Cincinnati's first half struggles though. After posting 13 first half points against the Cleveland Browns, the Bengals haven't scored more than a field goal in each of their previous three games against the Broncos, 49ers and Bills. Yet the dynamics of balance equalizes into successful second-half efforts. Cincinnati beat the Cleveland Browns overcoming a one-point deficit at half time with 14 fourth-quarter points. Andy Dalton and the offense produced 19 second-half points against the Broncos, falling two points shy from a come-from-behind win. During their 13-8 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, five of Cincinnati's eight points were posted in the fourth quarter. Buffalo's 14-point half time lead turned into a Bengals three-point victory after Cincinnati's offense scored 20 points in the second half.
Needless to say Cincinnati's first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars took on a very different tone, especially considering the offense posted the most first half points since scoring 13 against the Cleveland Browns during the season opener. Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton completed 11 of 16 passes for 112 yards passing, including two touchdown passes, one to A.J. Green and one to Jermaine Gresham.
And much like the unusual trends of the first half, Cincinnati resumed their impressive fourth quarter runs that's helped them win three games this year. Bernard Scott scored a two-yard touchdown with 1:56 remaining in the game, Mike Nugent converted a 47-yard field goal with over eight minutes left and Geno Atkins recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown as time expired. Of Cincinnati's three wins this year, 42 points have been scored in the fourth quarter.
YET MISTAKES CONTINUE PERMIATING... With 8:53 remaining in the second quarter, running back Maurice Jones-Drew picked up 25 yards behind the right side of the line. Safety Reggie Nelson hit Jones-Drew five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, where the running back briefly lost his balance and picked up another 20 yards. Had the coaching staff challenged the play, the replay would have shown that the running back's knee touched the ground. On the following play Blaine Gabbert scrambled out of the pocket down the left sidelines, diving for the end zone and releasing the football which knocked over the front left pylon, never falling out of bounds. If the coaching staff had challenged the play, it's possible (though not entirely) that since Gabbert never went out of bounds by the time he released the football, replay could have resulted in a Bengals fumble recovery. Instead the defense held on the ensuing plays from their own three-yard line, forcing a 20-yard Josh Scobee field goal.
With 8:37 left in the game, a minute after Cincinnati took a 16-13 lead on a Mike Nugent 47-yard field goal, Blaine Gabbert faked the handoff to Jones-Drew with great protection. Wide receiver Jason Hill ran a vertical down the left sidelines with Leon Hall covering the short zone underneath and safety Reggie Nelson keeping an eye on tight end Marcedes Lewis' crossing pattern. The blown coverage allowed Hill to break free for a completed 74-yard touchdown reception to give the Jaguars a four-point lead with over eight minutes remaining.
Though it appeared Brandon Tate struggled much of the afternoon, catching a punt with 14:38 remaining in the second quarter from the Bengals seven-yard line, he did average 14.3 yards per punt return, including a 22-yard return in the second quarter that setup Andy Dalton's three-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham.
Cincinnati hosts the 0-5 Indianapolis Colts this Sunday in a game we're certain won't be sold out.