The Bengals found themselves in a familiar situation Sunday that many who've faced Philip Rivers and the Chargers have been in.
That's holding a lead late in a game but needing to stop Rivers one more time to seal the win. Other teams in the same situation have failed many times as Rivers and the Chargers have been one of the NFL's best when it comes to come-from-behind wins. According to Pro Football Focus, Rivers has eight games since 2013 in which he's led San Diego to a come-from-behind win, including their Week 1 win over Detroit after trailing 21-20 as the final frame began.
That didn't happen on this day after Vinny Rey stepped in and made the game-sealing interception with under a minute to play to preserve Cincinnati's 24-19 win. Rey had to go up and out-jump the 6'5" Malcom Floyd to make the spectacular grab.
It's clear that Rey loses the ball for a split second, but is able to corral it to prevent it from being simply an incomplete pass and keep the Chargers alive.
"Going against this offense with a minute or less than a minute left — it’s a high-powered offense — you’re looking to see what the running back and receivers are going to do," Rey said after the win. "I was just doing my job on the defense because I know everyone’s counting on me to do my job — go out, (jump high), catch the ball and hold on to it."
Head coach Marvin Lewis praised Rey during his Monday press conference for simply being a sponge for knowledge and always looking for ways to improve his game. "Vinny’s been a sponge," Lewis said. "He’s continued to work mentally and physically on everything. When he gets opportunities, he makes good on them. He’s just been a sponge of every coaching point and thing you give him. He understands it and it has enabled him to progress as a football player."
Rey's role in the Bengals defense has reached an all-time high since last year when Vontaze Burfict went down with a knee injury, which is still keeping him on PUP and out for the first six games of this year. Burfict may not be playing, but as Lewis said Monday, Burfict is playing the game through his teammates on the field while also serving as another coach on the sideline.
"Vontaze has had a lot of coaching. He’s been coached a lot so he has a lot to offer. He’s not shy about it," Lewis said on Monday. "He’s a smart guy and he has a lot to offer these guys. He’s not out there on Sundays right now, so he’s playing the game vicariously through them. He makes good points. I enjoy listening to the things he tells them."
With Rey starting in each of Cincinnati's first two games, he's helped lead defensive efforts that saw Oakland and San Diego have a combined 13 points through three quarters. While the Bengals will face better offenses going forward, seeing how well this unit is playing without Burfict brings excitement for what the defense will become once he returns.