I wanted to look back at five separate scenarios from last night's game where our defense either buckled down and helped take control of the game, or helped preserve the victory despite our offense's failures in the 1st and 4th quarters.
Situation #1: Bengals 7, Steelers 0. 1st quarter, 6:45 remaining.
The Bengals had scored on their opening drive, and after Big Ben was picked off on the Steelers first posession, we were entering dangerous territory early and often. The first play of the Bengals' second drive? An 18-yarder to Chad Johnson. Color me officially concerned at that point.
1-10-CIN 45 (6:31) 33-K.Watson up the middle to PIT 47 for 8 yards (50-L.Foote, 51-J.Farrior).
2-2-PIT 47 (5:56) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete deep left to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh (26-D.Townsend).
3-2-PIT 47 (5:50) (Shotgun) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete short left to 33-K.Watson. Coverage by #92 A. Harrison
4-2-PIT 47 (5:46) (Punt formation) 19-K.Larson punts 36 yards to PIT 11, Center-48-B.St. Louis, fair catch by 30-A.Rossum.
Big, big stop by the defense there to keep things in check.
Situation #2: Bengals 7, Steelers 0. 1st quarter, 0:58 remaining.
After a Daniel Sepulveda shank, the Bengals took over from the Steelers 28! That's pathetic by the way, and not going to cut it if we're ever forced to a play field position game. Anyway, here's our defense's response:
1-10-PIT 28 (:58) 32-R.Johnson left tackle to PIT 24 for 4 yards (26-D.Townsend; 92-J.Harrison).
2-6-PIT 24 (:15) 32-R.Johnson right guard to PIT 20 for 4 yards (53-C.Haggans, 24-I.Taylor).
END QUARTER 1
Cincinnati Bengals continues ...
3-2-PIT 20 (15:00) PENALTY on CIN-79-S.Andrews, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 20 - No Play.
3-7-PIT 25 (15:00) (Shotgun) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete deep right to 85-C.Johnson. Coverage by #23 Carter
4-7-PIT 25 (14:55) 17-S.Graham 43 yard field goal is No Good, Wide Right, Center-48-B.St. Louis, Holder-19-K.Larson
Again, huge hold there. Our offense was not yet on track, and who knows what would have happened if we had fallen behind by two TDs early. I was pleased we limited them to a FG attempt. The fact that he missed it was just icing on the cake.
>Situation #3: Steelers 17, Bengals 7. 3rd quarter, 13:36 remaining.
Pittsburgh was forced to punt on its opening drive of the second half, and if the Bengals were going to get back in last night's football game, it sure would have helped if they closed the gap and established some momentum on their first touch of the second half. They were on their way before the Steelers D tightened the screws at the last moment yet again:
1-10-CIN 25 (13:36) 9-C.Palmer pass short left to 85-C.Johnson ran ob at CIN 33 for 8 yards.
2-2-CIN 33 (13:28) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete deep middle to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh (23-T.Carter).
3-2-CIN 33 (13:23) 9-C.Palmer pass short middle to 83-A.Chatman to CIN 45 for 12 yards (27-An.Smith).
1-10-CIN 45 (12:50) 33-K.Watson up the middle to PIT 48 for 7 yards (23-T.Carter; 27-An.Smith).
2-3-PIT 48 (12:22) 33-K.Watson left guard to PIT 42 for 6 yards (93-N.Eason).
1-10-PIT 42 (11:45) 9-C.Palmer kneels to PIT 43 for -1 yards (26-D.Townsend).
2-11-PIT 43 (11:25) 33-K.Watson left tackle to PIT 46 for -3 yards (51-J.Farrior, 50-L.Foote).
3-14-PIT 46 (10:43) (Shotgun) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete deep right to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh. Coverage by #26 Townsend
4-14-PIT 46 (10:38) (Punt formation) 19-K.Larson punts 35 yards to PIT 11, Center-48-B.St. Louis. 30-A.Rossum to PIT 11 for no gain (46-B.Adams; 41-C.Ndukwe).
The Bengals had a nice mix of throws and runs going, and had 1st and 10 from the Steelers 42. The inexplicable kneel down by Palmer on first down didn't hurt our cause, but we followed up that mini-break by stuffing the run on 2nd down and forcing an incompletion on 3rd down. Palmer was officially out of sorts, and remained that way throughout the remainder of the game.
Situation #4: Steelers 17, Bengals 7. 3rd Quarter, 9:36 remaining.
Let the fumble party begin! Parker coughs it up inside our own 20 and the Bengals suddenly have life.
1-10-PIT 25 (9:36) 32-R.Johnson up the middle to PIT 25 for no gain (53-C.Haggans).
2-10-PIT 25 (8:57) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete deep right to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh. Coverage by #26 Townsend, Pressure by #50 Foote
3-10-PIT 25 (8:52) (Shotgun) 9-C.Palmer pass short middle to 15-C.Henry to PIT 12 for 13 yards (27-An.Smith).
1-10-PIT 12 (8:07) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete short left to 85-C.Johnson. Pressbure by #50 Foote, #92 A. Harrison
2-10-PIT 12 (7:58) 9-C.Palmer pass short right to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh to PIT 6 for 6 yards (26-D.Townsend; 23-T.Carter).
3-4-PIT 6 (7:10) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete short middle to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh [91-Aa.Smith]. Pressure by #99 Keisel, #90 Aa. Smith
4-4-PIT 6 (7:01) 17-S.Graham 24 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-48-B.St. Louis, Holder-19-K.Larson.
Bend, bend, bend. Yet, not an ounce of break in the defense last night.
Situations #5 and #6. Steelers 24, Bengals 10. Late 4th quarter action.
Two 4th quarter turnovers by the offense leaves the defense in a compromised position. Scary to think of what might have been if the Bengals had capitalized and came back and stole that one from us. Didn't happen though, as the Bengals were stuffed by the Steelers defense on both occassions.
Facing 2nd and 6 from the Steelers 34, the Bengals threw it unsuccessfully three straight times and the Steelers defense held on downs. At that point, I think most of us breathed a big sigh of relief.
Not so fast though Steelers Nation. Big Ben is picked off and we're forced to look on nervously once again, as the Bengals took over this time inside the Steelers 20. Once more, for good measure, the Steelers defense held. The Bengals had 1st and goal from the 5, but could neither punch it in with Kenny Watson nor throw for the TD, as Deshea, Ike and Larry Foote all made big plays in pass defense.
There ya have it boys and girls. This defense is for real. It would probably be prudent to wait until next week to see just how good our secondary is, but with this much evidence already in front of us, it's safe to say that the play of Townsend, McFadden, Carter, An. Smith, and Ike Taylor is one of the top two or three reasons this team is so vastly improved from a year ago. There won't be any NFL Films documentaries about this group, but the miserable pass coverage from our defense last year, and throughout large stretches of 2005, has been mostly a non-issue this year. Now, if the offense would just find a way to get on a run and carry its weight. Scary to think about, no?