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Notes: Magic No. 10 wins; Bengals cash out Manziel; Jackson, Nugent game balls; Hill sets the tone

Posted Dec 14, 2014

CLEVELAND - At 9-4-1,the Bengals have yet to clinch a thing in the AFC playoff scramble. A Bengals' win combined with a loss by Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or San Diego puts them in their fourth straight postseason and they got the loss when Denver beat San Diego Sunday night as the Bengals pulled into Paul Brown Stadium Sunday night.

CLEVELAND - At 9-4-1,the Bengals have yet to clinch a thing in the AFC playoff scramble. A Bengals' win combined with a loss by Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or San Diego puts them in their fourth straight postseason and they got the loss when Denver beat San Diego Sunday night as the Bengals pulled into Paul Brown Stadium Sunday night.

That means a Bengals' win over Denver next Monday night or in Pittsburgh in the Dec. 28 finale would get it done. Easier said than done. They've never beaten Denver quarterback Peyton Mannning in eight tries and they are 15-27 all-time in Pittsburgh.  They won their fourth straight game on the road Sunday and they'll go to Pittsburgh trying to do something they've never done. Win five straight on the road in the same season.

The way it stands now, the fourth-seeded Bengals would host the fifth-seeded Steelers in one Wild Card as the AFC North champ and the Ravens would go to Indianapolis as the sixth seed...

After one of the worst defensive outings of the Marvin Lewis Era last week, the Bengals defense played an impeccable game in deflating Johnny Football in its first shutout in six years, 30-0,  and allowed their third fewest yards in club history with 107.

Only two opponents have had fewer yards and one of them did it nearly 38 years to the day on Dec. 12, 1976 at Shea Stadium in Joe Willie Namath’s last start as a Jet when they gave just 72 yards, still second fewest ever. Earlier that season, the Bengals’ fifth-ranked defense allowed 35 yards to the Packers, still the fewest.

“All we hear is Manziel, Manziel, Manziel all week and we just wanted to go out there and keep people quiet,” said nose tackle Domata Peko. "We did. The Dawg Pound was kind of quiet today.”

They silenced the sellout sacking Manziel three times, picking him off twice, stopping him nine out of 10 times on third down and holding him to a 27.3 passer rating while stuffing the running game on 3.1 yards per carry in 17 carries.

“The sacks, the quarterback hits, the inability to run the ball, anybody would get frustrated and we did our game plan,” Peko said, alluding to last month’s loss where the Browns ran for 170 yards. “You know our defense, you know our locker room. We don’t like to get embarrassed like that. We made a point this week in practice to attack down hill. They ran it 52 times. That’s a punch in the face. We came out and got redemption.” ...

It was an emotional win. Head coach Marvin Lewis gave kicker Mike Nugent and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson game balls after a week they worked even though their fathers died. Jackson left for Los Angeles right after the game while Nugent thanked his teammates for their support. The only time he kicked during the week after his father died suddenly Monday night was Wednesday night at Paul Brown Stadium long after his mates left practice. They put the lights on and while his brother shagged balls, their wives watched.

"I didn't want to go a week without kicking," Nugent said. "The kicker has to be the closer."

Lewis just does not hand out game balls willy nilly after the game. It’s believed he’s only done it twice before: in 2009 when Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer coached in the wake of his wife’s sudden death, and in 2003, his first season as head coach, when he gave one to Bengals president Mike Brown after the win over the 9-0 Chiefs...

The Bengals piled up a season-high 244 rushing yards the week Jackson declared he wanted one back to get the bulk of the carries instead of a split. It worked perfectly. Rookie running back Jeremy Hill went for 148 yards on 25 carries and Giovani Bernard added 79 on 15 carries.

"Hue called us both into his offce, shut the door, and said he needed us because we were going to run the ball today," Hill said.

Hill was at the center of the controversy last month when he said after the game the Browns "were worse than I thought."

"I just decided not to say much this week to the media," Hill said Sunday. "The focus by everyone was extremely high."

The Bengals always seem to put the Browns on their highlights. It is the second most yards rushing in the 12 seasons of head coach Marvin Lewis, the first being the 253 against Cleveland 10 years ago in the 58-48 win that featured running back Rudi Johnson's lone 200-yard day with 202. Plus, the Bengals' last three shutouts have come in Cleveland, in 1989, 2005, and 2008...

With two games left Hill is 123 yards away from becoming the club's first rookie 1,000-yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 1997... 

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