About five minutes before our radio pregame show began on Sunday; I called my friend and favorite meteorologist – Fox 19’s Steve Horstmeyer – to get a weather forecast for the Bengals-Patriots game.
“Scattered showers between one and four o’clock,” Steve told me. “And there could be a brief heavy downpour.”
Accurate as usual – but Steve neglected to point out that the downpour would arrive when the Bengals needed it most.
With 1:48 left in the game and Cincinnati leading 13-6, the Patriots got the ball at their 35-yard-line giving Tom Brady a chance to engineer his 39th career fourth-quarter comeback. But Mother Nature provided the 12th man (woman?) as heavy wind and rain made it difficult to throw, catch, and even see.
“I was praying for a monsoon,” said Chris Crocker. “It just came down at the perfect time.”
On the Patriots final drive, Brady was 1-for-6 for 6 yards, and his final pass of the game was a wobbly, underthrown deep ball that was intercepted by Adam Jones.
“I was thanking God for the rain as it came down,” Jones told me with a grin. “I was like, ‘Thank you Jesus!’ It worked out man.”
While the Bengals got some heavenly help in the final two minutes, they didn’t need any in the first 58.
Cincinnati’s defense was nothing short of remarkable. Brady only completed 48% of his passes (18-for-38), his lowest completion percentage in a game since 2007, and the Bengals ended Tom’s near-record streak of 52 straight games with at least one touchdown pass.
“Honestly, I don’t think that any of the DBs even knew that,” said Crocker. “Seriously, Zim knows stuff like that, but we could have cared less. People were saying, ‘Brady is a Hall of Fame quarterback…it doesn’t really matter what receivers he has’ and we just felt like, ‘We’re pretty daggone good in the back-end.’ We can play, and we took that as a challenge.
“We really smothered those guys all day. And you have to be aggressive with a team like that because when you sit back on your heels it’s like seven-on-seven and Tom Brady just picks you apart.”
Brady came within inches of extending his TD streak early in the fourth quarter when he connected with a wide-open Danny Amendola as he fell over backwards at the one yard. But moments before the Patriots wide receiver rolled into the end zone, Crocker alertly touched him to prevent the touchdown. The Bengals came through with a goal line stand and forced the Patriots to settle for a field goal.
“Goodness gracious…he could have literally leaned over and put the ball across the goal line,” said Crocker. “It was one of those games where it fell right for us. I’ve been in a situation where hell, the balls gets tipped in the air and Brandon Stokley catches it at the end of the game and runs for a touchdown. I’ve been on the other side of it.”
And while the Bengals offense only scored one touchdown, they had to drive 98 yards to do it. The biggest play coming on 3rd-and-15 from the 2-yard-line when they quick-snapped it to Andy Dalton and he delivered a perfect throw between two defenders for a 28-yard gain to Marvin Jones.
“The quick snap was the perfect call,” said Jones. “Andy threw a good ball and I just came down with it. In those situations, all you care about is that football. I told myself, ‘Whatever happens happens. If I get hit, then I get hit.’ But it was a great call.
“Normally when you’re on the two-yard-line, you think about just getting out of there and punt it away. But we didn’t want to give them a short field and we capitalized on our opportunities. That just goes to show you that we can drive the ball.”
Giovani Bernard followed with a 28-yard run as the Bengals put together a 14-play drive that took 7:48 off the clock. On the touchdown drive, the Bengals called for seven passing plays and seven runs
“This week we really emphasized calling the run and getting after them,” said Clint Boling. “I felt like we did a good job of doing that. We stuck to the run throughout the game and kept calling them even though some of them didn’t work. I feel like that really helped us.”
“We knew that we were going to have to body them up and be physical,” said Marvin Lewis. “We worked all week at that. I thought that we did a great job on Wednesday and Thursday at practice and I almost had to back off as we went through the week because we had guys so sore. We had to go back to being us.”
After a poor performance in Cleveland, you might say that the Bengals weathered the storm.
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