It was defense and Dalton in the fourth quarter and OT, along with a heavy helping of Adam Jones.
Andy Dalton may be in the early MVP conversation, but Sunday's fourth quarter and overtime are a not so subtle reminder that defense and special teams have had a special place in the Bengals' five-year run that is now at 45-23-1 with a fifth consecutive play-off berth beckoning.
And cornerback Adam Jones was in the middle of it all.
A monstrous defensive effort in the final 26 minutes that allowed just two first downs and three three-and-outs teamed with two last-snap field goals and two supersonic punt returns by Jones to melt Seattle's 17-point fourth-quarter lead into a 27-24 overtime victory before a delirious sold-out crowd of the faithful at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I kept telling Darrin (Simmons) we'd break one," said Jones after his season-long 35-yarder set up one fourth quarter TD and his 19-yarder set up the winning field goal.
Simmons, the Bengals special teams coach, watched his group seamlessly hurry on to the field with no timeouts left at the end of regulation as the clock ticked to 10 seconds and Mike Nugent calmly lined himself up for the tying 31-yard field goal as time ran out.
Still steaming over the call that put the Bengals on their 18 instead of their 45 to start the Nugent drive (calling a fair catch and then running with it), Jones ran an angry 19 yards in overtime to set up the winning field goal. Jones' signal to a teammate was a wave to the side and not above his shoulder.
"Bad call," Jones said. "I was telling Darqueze (Dennard) just to slide out, so I can have the space to have a one-on-one with the gunner."
Jones was mad and avoided a15-yard penalty when he whipped off his helmet on the field in disgust.
But then Jones plays mad. With Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict on PUP, Jones brings the swagger and edge that feeds everyone else. Whether it is on teams or at cornerback, where he made a diving pick on the Bengals 2 to end Seattle's first drive of the second half.
"He's passionate," said safety George Iloka. "Every team has to have a player like him. He says what's on his mind, good, bad or indifferent. He holds people accountable and he holds himself accountable more than anybody. I'm glad he's on our team."
Jones tracked down middle linebacker Rey Maualuga's tipped ball on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson's pass to tight end Jimmy Graham over the middle. It was just one of five targets to Graham, Seattle's Pro Bowl tight end, and for the second straight year the Bengals shut down Graham on three catches.
And it was just Wilson's third career red-zone interception of his career.
But that didn't stop Cincinnati from falling behind 24-7 with 6:41 left in the third quarter on two bad touchdowns, a 30-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Jermaine Kearse on a coverage breakdown and a 69-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Thomas Rawls, where he simply cut back and no one touched him on an everything breakdown.
"I was pissed when it was 24-7," said Jones, who says he called everyone up around him. "I said, 'No matter what, keep playing.'"
Did they ever. The Bengals are 19-3-1 at PBS in the last 23 games and while their opposing passer rating in that stretch has taken a hit with back-to-back 90s by Wilson and Alex Smith, their pressure didn't. After four more sacks, the Bengals have 60 in those 23 games and while the third-down numbers aren't as dominant as they have been here, they were immense again in the fourth quarter, holding Seattle to one of six on third down.
They key on third down was the pressure. After they cut the lead to 24-14, they faced a third-and-two and nose tackle Domata Peko's penetration forced Wilson to scramble and left end Carlos Dunlap and right end Michael Johnson squeezed him in the pocket, forcing him to throw it away.
Then when it was 24-21 and the place deafening on third-and-4 from the Seattle 26, the Bengals blitzed cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and Wilson only looked to his right, where he saw SAM backer Emmanuel Lamur plastered on Graham and safety Reggie Nelson on rookie receiver Tyler Lockett. He stepped up and defensive tackle Geno Atkins was there for his fourth sack of the season and first of the day. What a huge one because it forced a punt with 2:30 left and the Bengals needed every second.
Then in overtime, a third-and-eight blitz by Lamur, and Dunlap's relentless pressure against Seattle's college tight end at right tackle, Garry Gilliam, got the sack at the Seattle 14 to set up the winning drive. With 1.5, Dunlap is now averaging one per game with a team-high five sacks. With 15, they now need just five to reach last year's total already.
Wilson suffered what other Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have suffered at PBS in the fourth quarter in this 23-game home stand that began against Eli Manning on Nov. 11, 2012.
The fourth quarter is when cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick pick-sixed both Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco. When Michael Johnson tipped Aaron Rodgers' last pass on fourth down. When Ben Roethlisberger got blanked and Tom Brady got smoked by both a Zimsoon from the sky and an Adam Jones interception inside the 5 as the clock neared zero. Since they beat Eli, they are 8-1 against Super winning QBs. They have two wins against Flacco, so Wilson is the seventh to lose here in three years.
Cincinnati Bengals host Seattle Seahawks at Paul Brown Stadium in week 5 of the regular season.
Peko indicated they were so worried about Wilson's scrambling that they were too tentative about getting to him until late.
"We got into the fourth quarter and we were still in it and that gave us some confidence," Peko said. "When our defense is playing at that high level like we did in the fourth quarter getting those three and outs, nobody beats us. We just started playing.
"I think we were too worried about what they were doing at the beginning of the game. We didn't focus on what we had to do. We were worried about rushing Russell. You just have to rush, man. Geno comes out loose and comes after it."
Iloka said they made no schematic adjustments.
"Those two plays were on us," Iloka said of the two touchdowns they gave up. "I just think guys became more focused. It helps that we've got a bunch of veteran guys. We know we're not going to get 17 points on one play. I think we took it a play at a time, a series at a time. We were doing, 'OK, that plays over. Here's second down, that's over. Let's get them off the field on third.'"
And then there was Jones trying to get on the field to return punts. Wide receiver Brandon Tate had that job in the first half because head coach Marvin Lewis said they were trying to preserve him for defense because of his injured groin. Then Jones says his groin loosened up and when Seattle threatened to run away, Jones suddenly appeared on returns.
"Coach Lew (Marvin Lewis) did a good job telling me when I could go in and out," Jones said. "We're literally fighting over there every time the ball is kicked, just so y'all know. I've got to do what Dad says. I have to respect my elders."
Jones certainly was after it was over as he hosted Bengals all-time leading receiver Chad Johnson at his locker and gave a shout out to his boss.
"I'll leave that up to y'all," said Jones when asked what it all meant. "You're going to write it. I'm just happy for the city, my teammates first and foremost, and Mr. (Mike) Brown."