5-0 Bengals muffle Legion of Boom with 20 straight points, win in OT

Give the 5-0 Bengals this. They were never done and scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime to take down two-time NFC champion Seattle in overtime at rollicking sold-out Paul Brown Stadium at 27-24 before 65,004 believers.

Who else? After exchanging punts to open overtime, cornerback Adam Jones returned a punt 19 yards to the Bengals 43 with seven minutes left in OT. Quarterback Andy Dalton, enjoying his biggest comeback win ever and the Bengals' second biggest of all-time, then hit another star of the day, tight end Tyler Eifert for 12 yards and then running back Giovani Bernard ran them into field-goal range on a 13-yard bolt to the Seattle 32.

Three Bernard carries for eight yards later, Mike Nugent used the left upright for a 42-yard field goal with 3:36 that made the Bengals 5-0 for the first time since 1988.   

Cincinnati Bengals host Seattle Seahawks at Paul Brown Stadium in week 5 of the regular season.

Trailing Seattle, 24-7, in the middle of the third quarter thanks to largely to their own doing, they rallied to cut it to 24-21 with 3:38 left on two fourth-quarter touchdowns when Dalton snuck in from five yards out and then turned it over to his defense and Geno Atkins delivered a three-and-out with his third-down sack of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Bengals took their last timeout with 2:30 left before Jon Ryan's punt to cornerback Adam Jones. Jones ran it back 25 yards to the 45, but, much to his disagreement, he was called for making a fair-catch signal and he appeared to argue he was simply waving away a teammate and so they started at the 18.   

But a 27-yard pass interference call on cornerback Cary Williams working on wide receiver Marvin Jones put them at the Seattle 45 and Eifert's diving one-handed fingertip grab for 25 yards set up Nugent's tying 31-yard field goal as time ran out.

Eifert was huge with with two TDs and led all receivers with 90 yards on eight catches on a day Seattle Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham had just three cacthes for 30 yards. And although Dalton's season streak of triple digit passer rating games ended, his 95.9 (331 yards, two TDs, one pick) bested Wilson's 91.4, and his 15th game-winning drive marked the seventh time in the last 23 PBS games the Bengals had taken down a Super-Bowl-winning quarterback.

But it was Adam Jones gave the Bengals the jolt they needed early in fourth quarter. Despite dealing with last week's groin injury, Jones began to take punt returns when the Bengals got down in the second half and when cornerback Darqueze Dennard gave Jones some room on a returned when he blocked the gunner at the last instant and Jones took off on a 35-yard return to the Seattle 33 with 13:56 left in the game.

Suddenly, the Bengals' dormant running game rustled with Bernard ripping off three runs of 23 yards that set up Dalton's 10-yard touchdown pass to Eifert for Eifert's second touchdown of the game when he beat Cary Williams down the seam with 12:18 left to cut it to 24-14.

Although Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green didn't have a catch after the mid-way point of the second quarter, Dalton, who had 301 yards passing in regulation, went to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu over the middle for a 25-yard gain on the next drive and then went to him again for seven yards to convert a third-and-four. Dalton kept getting rid of the ball quickly against the blitz and found Eifert for seven more before Bernard carried for nine more yards on two snaps to put it at the 5 on second down, where Dalton called his own number for a five-yard sneak that made it 24-21 with 3:38 left.

The Hawks paid a price for taking out Green, whom had a 13-yard catch in OT and finished with 78 yards on six catches. Wilson couldn't match the weapons and he was sacked four more times while hitting 15 of 23 passes for 213 yards and the red-zone pick loomed large. 

While the Bengals could get no push in the run game in the first three quarters, the defense turned someone named Thomas Rawls into Marshawn Lynch when he took a simple cut back early in the third quarter and went 69 yards for a touchdown to give Seattle a 17-7 lead. At that point the 5-9, 215-pound rookie Rawls' touchdown run accounted for nearly twice as many yards as the Bengals had on the ground and then the Seahawks issued what looked to be the coup de grace on the Bengals next drive.

With running back Rex Burkhead going in motion, he was handed the ball on a jet sweep, but defensive lineman Michael Bennett shot through the interior of the line and dislodged the ball from Burkhead. Linebacker Bobby Wagner picked up the rolling ball for a 23-yard touchdown that seemingly put this one away for Seattle at 24-7 with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

That's all you needed to know. Turnovers and a lack of presence in the trenches doomed the Bengals against an elite team that has used both factors to play deep into January. But the Bengals were able to regroup to show their on the same level.

Rawls delivered Seattle's first rushing touchdown of the season when Wilson ran the zone read to momentarily cut down the Bengals' pursuit on the right side. Rawls started to the defense's left and then cut it back to the right side and he was gone. By the time he had 20 carries, he had 160 yards, but the Bengals buttoned him up and gave him just nine yards on his remaining three carries.

 Down 24-7, Dalton was at the mercy of Seattle's second-ranked defense teeing off on the pass. The third quarter ended with Dalton sacked three times on the day, one more than he had been sacked all season. He was sacked a total of four times, the most in nearly a year when they got sacked four times in the Oct. 19 shutout at Indy. The Bengals defense forced only the third interception in the red zone of Wilson's career on the first series of the second half when middle linebacker Rey Maualuga deflected a ball headed to tight end Jimmy Graham and, that man again, cornerback Adam Jones, made a diving catch at the Seattle 2.

The defense took one play to bounce back from Wilson burning them on a blitz, a 47-yard throw to wide receiver Doug Baldwin beating cornerback Darqueze Dennard straight down the field out of the slot.

The mistake the Bengals have avoided during their 4-0 start bit them in the last minute of the first half when Seattle Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas intercepted Dalton in the end zone of a  7-7 game and it translated into Steven Hauschka's last-snap 24-yard field goal that gave the Bengals their first half-time deficit of the season at 10-7.

It should have been the Bengals who were leading by at least 10-7 at the half in this measuring stick game for them that turned into a game of what-ifs.

The Bengals were working on a third-and-10 from the Seattle 21, well within range of Nugent. But Dalton made one of his rare 2015 mistakes when he floated a ball to Green too close to Thomas.

But the inability of the Bengals defense to prevent a field goal in the final 54 seconds of the half was just as crushing. It looked like the Hawks were going to run out the clock, but when the Bengals' D-line tried a stunt, Wilson stepped up, scrambled, and hit rookie wide receiver Tyler Lockett for his first NFL catch for 22 yards with 10 seconds left to put them in field-goal position.

The Bengals had the ball for nearly seven minutes before Thomas' pick, Seattle's first interception of the year and Dalton's second. They got one first down when Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor was called for holding Eifert on third-and-nine and Bernard converted a third-and-five for a 10-yard catch after he made Chancellor miss.

Dalton still had a solid first half, hitting 13 of 19 passes for 165 yards for a passer rating of 90.5. But Wilson was vintage Wilson with no mistakes and a 144 passer rating on a heady nine of 11 for 126 yards.

The Bengals had no success running the ball and were rendered virtually one dimensional with just 31 yards on 12 carries.

The Bengals got a big chip in what was expected to be a field-position battle when Kevin Huber dropped a 49-yard punt on the Seattle 2 and the PBS crowd gave Seattle a dose of its own medicine when the crowd noise forced a false start and a delay of game for penalties that forced a punt to set up the Bengals' drive late in the half.

The Bengals knew there would be adversity like this and it happened late in the first quarter when left tackle Andrew Whitworth's holding call wiped out Green's 72-yard touchdown catch as he worked on outside linebacker Bruce Irvin in a 7-7 game.

After the penalty killed the drive, the Bengals defense responded to force a punt when left end Carlos Dunlap chased Wilson out of the pocket to force a second-down incompletion and then the Bengals forced a check-down.

The Bengals had no trouble throwing on Seattle's vaunted pass defense early. The Seahawks had allowed just three passes of 20 yards or more in the last two games, but the Bengals got their third of the game when Sanu caught a 21-yarder on third-and-five.   

The Bengals scored the first touchdown against Seattle since Chancellor returned from his holdout and it took Dalton, Eifert, and Marvin Jones less than four minutes to hit a big play against the Seahawks' most stingy defense in the NFL to take a 7-0 lead.

It didn't last long.

Seattle, ranked No. 1 in yards allowed and scoring defense the past two years, also allowed the seventh fewest passes of at least 40 yards and Jones split cornerback Richard Sherman and Thomas down the middle for 44 yards to put the Bengals on the Seattle 14 and from there Eifert ran wide open down the seam for a 14-yard touchdown catch just 3:58 into the game.

Dalton was 4-for-4 for 80 yards and ran a zone read for six yards to account for all the yards in the drive. He got 15 yards when Green ran a come-back route on Sherman, a play that ended with Sherman complaining Green pushed off.

But Wilson answered right away with help from the Bengals coverage. Getting surprisingly good protection at the Bengals 30 from his beleaguered offensive line, Wilson found wide receiver Jermaine Kearse wide open in the end zone as SAM backer Emmanuel Lamur and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick looked like they had a breakdown in communication with 6:32 left in the first quarter to tie it at seven.

Without injured Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch and backup Fred Jackson dinged, rookie Rawls got the call and squirted out of the line and behind a few missed tackles for a 23-yard run.

ILOKA, GILBERRY BACK:Safety George Iloka was expected to return to the starting lineup and rotational defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry extended his string of Bengals games to 51 straight when head coach Marvin Lewis handed in his active list for Sunday's game against the Seahawks at Paul Brown Stadium.

Iloka, who saw his streak of 35 straight starts end last week with an ankle injury, was limited all week in practice. Gilberry (calf) didn't work Wednesday or Thursday, but got some work in Friday.

Lewis put defensive tackle Pat Sims on the inactive list and replaced him with Brandon Thompson for the first time with Sims healthy. Other than that it was business as usual with wide receivers Greg Little and Mario Alford and defensive linemen Margus Hunt and Marcus Hardison inactive for the fifth straight week. Cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris was also down for the third time in four weeks after playing last week.

BIG MATCHUP: Forget Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green vs. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. Or Michael Bennet vs. the Bengals offensive line or Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton vs. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

Try Bengals punter Kevin Huber vs. Seahawks rookie returner Tyler Lockett as Sunday's big matchup.

Lockett, the 5-10, 182-pound Kansas State comet (with apologies to Kansas greats Gale Sayers and Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) has immediately validated the Seahawks trading up 23 spots in the third round to grab him away from teams like the Bengals.

Lockett has not only returned a kick 105 yards for a touchdown, he's averaging nearly 12 yards per punt return that includes a 57-yard TD.

"Competitive. Tough guy. He did everything for Kansas State. He was their offense," Simmons said last week during heavy preparation for Seattle's excellent special teams.

Simmons spent a lot of time with Lockett during the draft process because the Bengals were in the market for a receiver-returner type. The second round, they felt, was too high and so did apparently every other team because Seattle got him early in the third at No. 69. The Bengals rarely take small receivers high in the draft (at No. 2 they have gone for tall receivers, linemen and running backs) and when they did, they waited to opt for 5-9, 180 speedster Mario Alford in the seventh round.

Now Simmons has to stop Lockett and he needs a Pro Bowl game from his Pro Bowl punter.

"He has a little Desean Jackson to him," Simmons said. "Great quickness. Explosive vertical speed. He's not afraid. He's aggressive. He tried to come up for a ball last week that was probably against his better judgment, but he was still aggressive."

Another rookie is also key in the matchup, Bengals gunner Josh Shaw teamed with another backup corner, Darqueze Dennard as they try to force Lockett east and west. Shaw actually spent about half a day with Lockett at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last January when the teammates worked a charity event for the college all-star game.

Shaw, tied for second with Dennard and running back Rex Burkhead with three special teams tackles behind Cedric Peerman's four, tried to simulate his tackling and leverage in practice.

"We don't bring down our own guys in practice. It's applying the principles Darrin teaches us," Shaw said. "Running down the field, being balanced, not crossing over. The most important thing is keeping our shoulders square so we can laterally re-direct easily."

Simmons has high hopes for a big DB (6-1, 201 pounds) that can run and cover in the kicking game.

"He's a rookie. He's still learning his way," Simmons said. "He needs to get more plays and be in as many situations as he be so he can react. He'll do anything we ask. I like his effort. It's a matter of time before he's an impact player for us."

CHAD ON SIDELINES: Chad Johnson, the Bengals all-time leading receiver, was at the Bengals hotel Saturday night and on the sidelines before the game before heading into a Bengals box to watch the game.

"Statement game. I need to be here," Johnson said.

Johnson said he wanted to see the matchup with Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman "up close and personal so I can dissect it. You can't see it on TV."

Johnson spent about two hours with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson at Capital Grille Saturday talking all things football. Johnson is still extremely close to his receivers coach in Cincy from 2004-06.

"Probably the best coach I ever had position-wise," Johnson said. "You don't get much better than that."

Johnson is raving about both Green and quarterback Andy Dalton.

"A.J. is awesome. The one thing he does that I couldn't do was jump and get the damn ball," he said. "Andy Dalton is unbelievable. You know what it's like to be a fan and just sit back and know he's taken your to the playoffs every year?"

At 37, Johnson looks like he can still run a nine route.

"Yeah,' he said. "But I can't take a hit."

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