In the biggest game of the season, Bengals middle linebacker
His first one bailed the Bengals defense out of a first-and-goal-from-the-1-yard-line hole early in the second quarter when he drilled running back Ben Tate in the backfield, popped the ball from him, and then won what he called a “tug-of-war” under one of the longest piles ever to recover the fumble.
Then early in the fourth quarter with the Bengals leading 19-10, Maualuga drilled running back Arian Foster on a screen pass six yards deep and forced a fumble gobbled up by defensive tackle
“I didn’t want to make the hit and not come up with the fumble,” Maualuga said of that first ball. “As soon as I made the hit, the ball came down and I knew if I grabbed it, it would have made the play extra special.”
Maualuga had some help from his friend, safety
“I guess 44 (Tate) was trying to take it out of my hand and I had Taylor trying to pull it out of my hands,” Maualuga said. “That whole time it’s like a tug-of-war. The energy is out. I’m down there for like two minutes. That’s all we were doing. I didn’t have possession. No one had possession until the last 10 seconds. The ref said, ‘Cincinnati’s ball,’ and I’m trying to tell the guy to let go. Trying to tell Taylor to get off me.”
The Bengals should have won this game so many different ways. The numbers said so. Thanks to Maualuga, the defense had its first four-turnover game of the season, which translated into a plus-two turnover differential. Under head coach Marvin Lewis the Bengals win 80 percent of their games when they do that and across the league since 2000 teams win 84 percent when they go two-plus.
But as safety
“We knew he was a lot better runner than the other two quarterbacks,” Maualuga said of the two sidelined Matts, Schaub and Leinart. “We knew there would be a time when they could call the right play at the right time. He made some good decisions.”
It was an odd day for the defense. It had a season-high turnovers and sacks (five) and hit Yates 10 times, and yet gave up 163 yards to him in the last 11:35.
“If you consider percentages, when a team has to go 80 yards to score, the defense is favored,” said outside linebacker
Now Maualuga knew no one would remember what would have been the game’s signature plays.
“Everything good that happened in the game is all forgotten,” he said.
NO CADENCE: For the second time in four games a cadence problem cost the Bengals big time in the red zone. The Bengals had the ball first and inches on their second possession when right guard
“We had one cadence messed up on a false start when we really had a chance to pounce on them," said left tackle
RED LETTER: It was a tough day for Houston native
But barely had the Bengals bottled that momentum when they let the Texans back in the game on the second snap of the second half. University of Cincinnati product Connor Barwin, Houston's leading sacker, drilled Dalton from the blind side on play-action, he lost the ball, Houston recovered at the 17 and the Texans used just four plays to cut the lead to 16-10.
Barwin victimized rookie tight end
“They were in a formation that was supposed to make us think they were going to run,” Barwin told The Houston Chronicle. “They were in max protection. I got off the ball well, and I knocked his (Cochart) arm down and got around him. When I got to the quarterback, I made sure to strip the ball.”
Dalton, who finished with an 89.7 passer rating, had the ball just 13 minutes in the second half and the Bengals could only get a field goal after his 36-yard jump ball to wide receiver
“We couldn’t get it done,” Dalton said of the red zone. “They made a couple plays on the ball. They had a couple good coverages out there, and they played the run well. Obviously, we would have liked to get touchdowns. We have to get better.”
Dalton has now thrown a touchdown pass in 10 straight games, but it was Cincinnati's lone touchdown. Nine of his 18 touchdown passes have come on third down. Only Eli Manning (11), Drew Brees (10) and Tony Romo (10) have more.