It was a back-and-forth game — the most exciting game at Wembley Stadium this season — but the Bengals fell just short of a victory in a tie with the Redskins in overtime. Cincinnati is now 3-4-1 on the season, and while the circumstances aren’t ideal, they could certainly be worse. The Bengals hold claim to two ties in the last three seasons.
One key battle which defined Sunday’s game — and kept Cincinnati in the mix throughout — was a matchup between the Bengals’ top receiver and the Redskins’ top corner. And to put it nicely, Josh Norman was no match for A.J. Green. The Redskins’ corner gave his best effort, traveling with the receiver all along the field, but the receiver had his way with Washington’s $75 million-dollar man, catching 9 passes for 121 yards, along with several penalties on the corner. And if not for a few errant throws by Andy Dalton, the receiver could’ve looked even better in the box score.
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins orchestrated a 15 play, 80-yard drive to open the game, converting three of three third down opportunities en route to a quick 7-0 lead. Cousins stood tall in the pocket, despite several effective blitzes by Paul Guenther’s defense — he was hit twice on the first drive alone.
But the Bengals came to play, as well. Cincinnati finally got what it needed in a huge kickoff return by Alex Erickson as the return man’s 65 yards on the play were more than half of his previous season yardage from his first seven kickoff returns. A couple of nice plays later — Tyler Boyd converted a crucial third down and Jeremy Hill made a couple of nice runs — Giovani Bernard punched in an eight-yard touchdown run to even the score.
In typical London fashion, the teams combined for three points for the remainder of the first half. Dustin Hopkins converted a field goal before both he and Mike Nugent missed field goals toward the end of the half, as Washington entered the locker room with a 10-7 lead. Among the Bengals’ best plays throughout the half were a Dre Kirkpatrick run stop on fourth down and a George Iloka interception, but Cincinnati was outplayed in the first half. Credit the red zone defense for preventing additional points from a Washington offense which easily moved the ball down the field throughout the first half. At halftime, Cousins was 20-for-27 with 189 yards and an interception, while Dalton was just 7-for-11 with 52 yards. Cincinnati was outgained in total yardage, 226 to 82. The Redskins were 6-for-10 on third down, while the Bengals were just 1-for-4.
Marvin Lewis’ halftime adjustments, however, quickly changed the momentum of the game, as Bengals players on both sides of the ball elevated their respective levels of play immediately.
The 2015-esque Bengals offense which we saw last week showed up again in the second half. Dalton marched his team 75 yards down the field on just 11 plays, connecting with Tyler Eifert on a 15-yard seam route to score a touchdown and take the lead. A missed Nugent extra point gave the Bengals a 13-10 lead.
And the Bengals’ dominance continued, as the defense forced a punt — thanks in large part to a huge Geno Atkins sack, his first since Week 4. The offense then marched right back down the field to take a 10-point lead. Dalton faked a handoff inside to Hill, who leapt over the pile on the goal line while Dalton jogged into the end zone for an easy score to cap the Bengals’ 10 play, 60-yard touchdown drive.
Momentum later shifted, as DeSean Jackson (38-yard catch), Jordan Reed (23-yard touchdown catch) and Jamison Crowder (33-yard touchdown catch) began to make some plays on offense. A Dalton interception killed a long Bengals drive, giving the Redskins momentum they needed to take a four-point lead with the two scores.
Again, the Bengals relentlessly battled back. On offense, Green fried Norman and caught a 40-yard bomb despite pass interference, and Hill cashed in on a one-yard touchdown run to put the Bengals back in the lead, 27-24. And the defense forced a very quick three-and-out to return the ball to the hands of the Bengals’ offense.
But alas, the Bengals gave momentum back to the Redskins, as the offense eventually punted and the defense surrendered a 40-yard field goal to Hopkins. Cincinnati’s offense got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 1:07 remaining and a chance to break the 27-27 tie which, unfortunately, did not happen.
An ugly overtime period, highlighted by a Dalton fumble and missed field goal from Hopkins, ended in a tie — the perfect finish for a game which was just as hideous (at times) as it was beautiful. Heading into the bye, the Bengals are now 3-4-1 and still in the mix in the AFC playoff picture.