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Bengals defense ignites comeback against Seahawks

Cincinnati's offense is getting significant publicity for their 27-24 overtime victory against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. However, the defense should get credit for igniting the comeback.

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati's offense may have emerged as the heroes during the Bengals' 27-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks. And why not? They're sexy. Andy Dalton is redefining his own narrative, as we're affectionately calling him "Andy Dalton 2.0". Everything Tyler Eifert does is amazing -- except for postgame interviews; he needs some work on those. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are identifying themselves as a unique trio who are making quality contributions when needed.


Yet, it's Cincinnati's rugged swagger on defense that initiated one of the more amazing fourth quarter comebacks in recent history. While we're not willing to promote one group as primarily responsible for the comeback -- without one, there isn't the other -- the defense should receive significant credit (if not 50/50).

You know the story by now: Cincinnati faced a 24-7 deficit midway through the third quarter, which included a 69-yard touchdown run with running back Thomas Rawls surrounded by three Bengals defenders:

Rawls TD Seahawks

Awful. AWFUL.

Rex Burkhead fumbled on Cincinnati's ensuing possession with 6:47 remaining in the third; Bobby Wagner returned the fumble 23 yards for the touchdown. "Very bad call on my part," Jackson said Sunday night via MMQB. "I should never have called it. You could see how they were rushing and getting some penetration. They were ferocious."


This game was lost. Twitter began overreacting/underreacting and even the players appeared lifeless. What really enabled Cincinnati recover on Sunday was their defense, uplifted by Adam Jones taking the reigns on the sidelines and on special teams. You could argue that Jones was the emotional architect of Cincinnati's comeback (because we're featuring quotes from Jones, we're headed into PG-13 territory... you've been warned). "I could see it in their eyes, motherfuckers looking at each other," Jones said via the Cincinnati Enquirer, who censored the bad word. "We ain't got time to be looking at each other. We need to be lookin' at what the hell we need to do."

The mainstream storyline is that Cincinnati's offense scored four times on five possessions in the fourth quarter and overtime combined. Andy Dalton completed 13 out of 15 passes, including a rushing touchdown against a defense missing linebackers over the middle. Blah, blah, blah. While everyone is serenading Cincinnati's offense with insufferable praise (ignore the fact I've gone heavy-handed with the offense too), the defense prevented Seattle from instigating any counterpunches as the Bengals were orchestrating their comeback.

"We got into the fourth quarter and we were still in it and that gave us some confidence," veteran defensive tackle Domata Peko said via "When our defense is playing at that high level like we did in the fourth quarter getting those three and outs, nobody beats us. We just started playing."

Case in point: After Seattle took a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter, the Seahawks only secured three first downs on their ensuing six possessions through the end of the game. During those final six possessions, Seattle generated only 68 yards on 25 plays -- 2.72 yard/plays average.

"I just think guys became more focused," said safety George Iloka. "It helps that we've got a bunch of veteran guys. We know we're not going to get 17 points on one play. I think we took it a play at a time, a series at a time. We were doing, ‘OK, that plays over. Here's second down, that's over. Let's get them off the field on third.'"

The effort was there. Whereas Cincinnati intensified their pass rush, the secondary forced Wilson to palm the football. Linebackers and roaming defensive linemen held Wilson in the pocket; when he looked to scramble, Wilson appeared to be in a state of panic and stopped looking downfield.

You could argue Cincinnati's comeback began with 2:53 remaining in the third, when Seattle was forced to punt after Carlos Dunlap's quarterback sack and his impressive use of natural quickness and hand placement beat right tackle Garry Gilliam.

Dunlap sack Seahawks

On Seattle's ensuing possession, they faced third and four from their own 22-yard line. Dunlap sprinted around Gilliam, forcing Russell Wilson to overthrow Jermaine Kearse toward Cincinnati's sidelines. Seattle punted again.

Cincinnati's defense was generating momentum while the offense was calm, poised and collected. Unlike fans (aka, me), there wasn't panic on Cincinnati's sidelines... only pride requiring an outlet.

After Adam Jones' 35-yard punt return and Tyler Eifert's second touchdown reception, Seattle stared at another manageable third and two situation. Unable to find an immediate receiver, Wilson, feeling Dunlap in his peripheral, scrambled like a gazelle being chased by a lion in the Serengeti. Initially he looked to escape through the middle, but Domata Peko quickly closed the lane, with help from Michael Johnson. Now it was only a matter of time. We imagine the Indominusly Wild Peko maliciously whispering "Here kitty, kitty."

Wilson scramble

Andy Dalton added another touchdown, reducing Seattle's lead to a field goal with 3:41 remaining in regulation. Cincinnati only had two timeouts remaining, so the defense needed to win. A first down would make it extraordinarily difficult for Cincinnati to complete their once-improbable comeback.

It was first and 10 on the Seattle 20-yard line, Rawls gained one yard after the Bengals' defense piled up at the point of attack with a tackle credited to Rey Maualuga. Now, 2nd-and-9 at the Seattle 21, Rawls gained five with Dunlap shedding off his block to help Vincent Rey complete the tackle.

It was at this point Cincinnati used their second timeout.

Seattle's offense has third and four from their own 26-yard line with 2:50 remaining in the game.

Geno Atkins says, "f*** it."

Wilson initially saw an opening over the middle after completing a short drop, but Atkins wasn't in full pass-rush mode. He gave a few shoves while spotting Wilson in the pocket (NOTE: This play should have never happened because Seattle's offense wasn't set).

Geno Atkins sack

Cincinnati used their final timeout. Brilliant coaching, time management and productivity placed Cincinnati into position for Mike Nugent to send the game into overtime. Brilliant coaching in that Cincinnati successfully conducted a field goal fire-drill; time management in that Cincinnati had enough time with proper use of their timeouts; productivity in that it actually worked.

Cincinnati's defensive effort continued.

Despite generating a first down during Seattle's initial possession in overtime, the Seahawks self-destructed. Brandon Thompson's penetration not only stuffed Fred Jackson for a no-gain, Russell Okung was flagged for an offensive hold.

Brandon Thompson stuff

Seattle was unable to recover and forced to punt two plays later. Once Cincinnati's offense stalled at midfield, Kevin Huber, tried landing a sand wedge deep in Seattle's territory like he had done twice before. Unfortunately, the football trickled into the endzone.

The Seahawks didn't have a chance on their second, and last, overtime possession due to clipping. Eventually, Seattle faced a third-and-eight from their own 22-yard line with 7:56 remaining in overtime. Beautiful coverage forced Wilson to palm the football as the pocket began collapsing. Dunlap and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur were credited with the shared sack.

Dunlap Lamur sack

Seattle punted, Cincinnati moved the football and Mike Nugent secured a game-winning field goal.

Credit the offense. They deserve it. But this defense shined in the fourth quarter, a precious labels that's defined them since Mike Zimmer molded this team's personality. Without the defense, there was no comeback.