Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has won 79 games with the team since being hired in 2003. Through the year Lewis has more winning seasons (4) than losing (3) during his ten seasons and among the 164 games coached, there have been some great wins. We take a look at the top-five symbolic wins during the Marvin Lewis era in a series of posts. We continue with No. 4.
The comeback wins of 2009.
During his duration as the starting franchise quarterback, Carson Palmer wasn't necessarily known as a take-charge leader to transform a losing effort into an inspiring win. Questions emerged during the offseason whether Palmer was on the throes of a significant decline after suffering an elbow injury, years after a knee tear in 2005 remained planted as a mental block.
We didn't expect much. Coming off a four-win season the previous year, 2009 wasn't believed to be more than a mediocre season with limited roster additions during the offseason. There was some momentum coming into the season after the Bengals strung together a three-game winning streak to close the season. Yet Cincinnati was playing in a division in which the Steelers and Ravens played the AFC Championship game. No chance that Cincinnati would conquer such Goliath's.
They did. And it started early.
The Bengals in 2009 shifted from an offensive-first philosophy to something more defensive in nature with a hard-charging Cedric Benson pooling together his best season. If not for a 2,000-yard milestone by Chris Johnson, Benson may have been recognized as the best running back that season; even missing three games. It was the belief that success would emerge from defense and a power rushing offense.
Early during the season, coming off an impressive 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers, who would go 11-5 that year, the 1-1 Bengals played host to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week three.
With :18 seconds remaining in the game, the Steelers built a 20-15 lead but the Bengals were driving, needing a touchdown to win. It took fifteen plays and over four minutes for the Bengals to reach Pittsburgh's four-yard line. Palmer takes the snap and fires a missile over the middle to Caldwell, stationary in the endzone, largely uncovered and hauling in the touchdown.
Cincinnati's 23-20 win over the Steelers on Week 10 was huge for the Bengals but it was also largely the end of their magical 2009 season to some degree. For instance Cincinnati would 3-5 for the rest of the year, including their 24-14 loss to the New York Jets on January 9, 2010.
Two weeks later the 3-1 Bengals traveled east for an October 11 meeting against the Baltimore Ravens, who had lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship game in 2008. The game proved a defensive battle from the start.
Down 14-10 with 27 seconds remaining in the game from the Ravens 20-yard line, Carson Palmer takes the shotgun snap and finds slot receiver Andre Caldwell over the middle, exposing a gap over the seams. Palmer showed his arm strength with a rocket pass that Caldwell caught, giving the Bengals take a 17-14 lead and the win.
Bengals running back Cedric Benson posted 120 yards rushing (and a touchdown) while the Bengals defense held Baltimore's offense in check. Ray Rice only generated 69 yard rushing (though he did have 74 yards receiving) and Joe Flacco posted only 186 yards passing, throwing an interception to Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall.
The comeback wins against the Ravens and Steelers early during the season set a significant tone where the Bengals swept the division and winning the AFC North, returning to the postseason for the first time since 2005.