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TDBH: Chad’s late TD gives Bengals improbable division title

Posted Dec 26, 2017

This Day in Bengals History - December 27, 2009

If John Elway and Denver have “The Drive,” then Carson Palmer and Cincinnati now have “The March.” In vintage ’09 fashion it starts out as a 98-yard slog straight out of Valley Forge with the first play losing a yard and the first five snaps netting all of 20 yards. But it ends in beautiful quick time with Palmer’s six-yard arrow to wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco catching and falling in the back of the end zone on third-and-goal with 2:03 left for one of the clutchest plays in Bengals history. It gives them the AFC North title with a 17-10 victory over  Kansas City today at Paul Brown Stadium. The natural world even seems to celebrate the club's seventh and most improbable division title with a snow shower as the game ends supplying the 64,333 with some confetti. The Bengals start the season with a banged-up franchise quarterback working with revamped offensive line, a former No. 1 pick at running back exiled to his second team, and a no-name defense full of guys getting a second shot in the NFL. Today they show their wares when defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s fourth-ranked unit holds a team to a dozen points or fewer for the fifth PBS game this season and for the seventh time this season Palmer engineers a tying or go-ahead score in the final 2:03 in the fourth game they win in the final 123 seconds.

“Storybook,” says said running back Cedric Benson said. “That’s Bengals football.” Benson, a huge part of the equation, shows why today when he sets the Bengals’ single-season record with his sixth 100-yard rushing games as the big back smashes for 133 yards on 29 carries. “You have to be smart with (Palmer) and 85 (The Ocho)," says Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel, who had his share of clutch moments with the Patriots. “The reason they are winning games is that they are more balanced than Bengals teams before were. Carson used to throw the ball 50 times, and if he completed 30 or 40 passes, they would win. If he didn’t, they would lose. They are a lot more balanced now. They are able to dictate the flow of the game."  But the team MVPs are probably starting cornerbacks Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph on a defense giving up less than 16 points per game and virtually nothing through th . Today is Hall's day with his career-high sixth interception to match Joseph, a leaping grab on a Matt Cassel bomb in front of wide receiver Chris Chambers sprinting down the left sideline at the Bengals 19 with 66 seconds left to secure the playoffs. The two top Chiefs wide receivers, Chambers and Dwayne Bowe, don't have a touchdown or a catch longer than 18 yards. Hall and Joseph have allowed just seven touchdown passes this season to starting wide receivers.

Hall is reminded how the season starts on another desperation bomb thrown at him and the Bengals protecting a one-point lead with 11 seconds left. It is the opener. Denver. Hall batted it in the air and it somehow got deflected to a receiver out of the play and it turned into a historic yard touchdown and loss. "No, no. I learned from that," Hall says. "Either catch it or knock it straight down." Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has learned something, too. He doesn’t like the way Bengals responded to their first division title in 2005 secured with a win over the Lions. So today he eschews the obligatory Gatorade shower and the division championship baseball hats. “There are two more hats to get,” snaps Lewis in his post-game news conference, referring to the AFC Champions and Super Bowl Champions hats. “If we want to earn a hat, there are two more to earn. That’s what I told them. Enjoy it. Congratulations. But there are two more to earn, and that’s a different atmosphere than there was (four) years ago in Detroit, which is good. I think this group knows that there are more out there." Palmer, wearing a hat from a golf club in California called “The Bridges,” knows which one he wants: “I’m going to wait and wear the Super Bowl one.”

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