Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led the points-starved Bengals offense 41 yards out of the desert Sunday on a drive that sapped more than seven minutes out of the fourth quarter and yielded Shayne Graham's 45-yard field goal with 2:20 left to secure the Bengals's second win of the season at wind-blown Paul Brown Stadium, 20-13.
Coupled with the 0-14 Lions' loss, the 2-11-1 Bengals won't have the 2009 draft's No. 1 pick.
"Execution," said right guard Bobbie Williams after the Bengals killed Washington's playoff hopes. "It makes all the difference."
The Redskins' Rock Cartwright cut short the celebration when he broke a kickoff return 87 yards to the put the ball on the Bengals 13, but Cincinnati kept Washington out of the end zone when running back Clinton Portis dropped a screen pass on third down and the Redskins got a 36-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham with 1:43 left to make it 20-13. Then he couldn't convert the onside kick when he punched it out of bounds.
"I feel good about the finish today and being able to stop them at the end. The defense, throughout most of the day, did a good job," said head coach Marvin Lewis, now 9-2-1 at PBS against the NFC East. "On the last drive where we drove for the field goal, we got the ball to midfield and then were able to keep churning it down into field goal range. It was big to have that 10-point, two-score differential. That was big."
Despite the play by a guy named Rock, it was a banner day for a Bengals defense that stoned the Redskins on the quarter-yard line midway through the third quarter to keep the lead at 17-10 and rocked the dangerous Portis on 25 carries for just 77 yards.
Chris Henry hauls in a scoring toss from Ryan Fitzpatrick that gave the Bengals a 14-0 first-quarter lead. (AP photo)
As quickly as the Bengals grabbed the momentum with 17 points in the first 18 minutes, the Redskins took it back and then even quicker than that Bengals backup middle linebacker Corey Mays snatched it back.
With the Bengals leading 17-10 midway through the third quarter, head coach Marvin Lewis successfully challenged fullback Mike Sellers' one-yard touchdown run as Mays teamed with the middle of the line to stop him at what the officials called "the quarter" yard line. Then on third down Mays and Will linebacker Brandon Johnson stood up the 280-pound Sellers and when Sellers tried to go at it again by reaching the ball across the goal, Mays swatted at the ball two or three times and then pulled it from Sellers for a recovered fumble in the end zone with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
While the Bengals cashed their long drive, the Redskins never recovered from coming up empty on 14 plays that consumed six and a half minutes.
"The line made the play; they pushed him back," Mays said. "I saw the ball and just started grabbing at it."
Bengals offense sputters after big lead
After running back Cedric Benson had rung up about 120 all-purpose yards by himself in staking the Bengals to a 17-0 lead, their offensive woes returned. The one break they had is that they were with the wind in the fourth quarter, but when Fitzpatrick was trying to convert a third-and-three from his own 30 with about 14 minutes left in the game, he rolled out and couldn't find a receiver and took a sack. The Bengals had just 66 yards in the third quarter, when Benson rushed four times for nine yards.
But the defense kept coming up with answers. With 9:33 left, the Bengals forced a punt on a series that began with Brandon Johnson and defensive end Darryl Blackstock hemming in Portis for a two-yard loss. Johnson left with a blow to the head after that play, but he was able to come back. The Bengals forced the punt when cornerback Leon Hall and safety Chris Crocker were blanketed on wide receiver Santana Moss to come up with the incompletion.
Then came the clinching drive when Portis then made one of his longest plays of the day sitting on the bench. Fitzpatrick made a great throw across the field, an 11-yard bullet to wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco for a first down at the Washington 40 with 7:32 left. But he gave the ball to Portis as he sat on the bench for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.
"It wasn't going to cost us. I'll always be able to make up for what happens," said The Ocho after he finished with three catches for 33 yards.
Lewis begged to differ.
"We've got to be smarter than that," Lewis said. "He knows better than that. It put us at risk. We were able to overcome it and get the field goal, though. But we had to go back on the other side of the 50."
Still, Fitzpatrick kept grinding out of the no-huddle. On fourth-and-one with 6:07 left from the Washington 46, he stayed no-huddle and waited for Lewis to give him the go ahead to sneak it and he did.
Then with 4:02 left he hooked up with wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on a third-and-eight and the NFL's third-down leader didn't disappoint. Houshmandzadeh made cornerback Fred Smoot miss in the middle of the field. But not before Houshmandzadeh put his hand on the ground to balance himself to get the needed yard at the 'Skins 34.
Four plays later Graham came on with the knowledge that a stiff wind last month had blown his 47-yard potential winner wide right at the last instant in the overtime tie to the Eagles. A similar wind of 15 miles per hour hit Graham on Sunday, this one at the other end of the stadium facing the downtown buildings.
"I hit it knowing it was going right to left," Graham said.
Bengals strike quickly
Not only did the Bengals break their scoreless skein early, but they scored two touchdowns for the first time in the first quarter this season to take a 14-0 lead when wide receiver Chris Henry scored his first touchdown of the year on a 12-yard pass with 3:10 left in the first before tacking on a Graham field goal to make it 17-0 midway through the second quarter.
But after the Bengals failed to take advantage of Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss' celebration penalty, Washington cut it to 17-10 heading into halftime on Suisham's 23-yard field goal with 15 seconds left.
Henry's catch, taking in stride a loft shot from Fitzpatrick as he raced past cornerback Carlos Rogers in one-on-one coverage, capped the Bengals' longest drive of the season. It went 94 yards and was highlighted by the longest play of the season on a 79-yard screen pass from their own 8 on second-and-19. Benson used blocks from Williams on the WILL linebacker and center Eric Ghiaciuc taking out the middle backer down the field as he rolled down the right sideline. Henry also came in at the tail end to add a block.
"I'm sure that's how they drew it up on paper," Benson said. "When I looked up and saw nobody in front of me, everybody must have done their job. ... I mean, Chris came all the way over from the other side and I tripped on him."
It was a resilient answer. Ocho Cinco had got the ball out to the 40 on a 19-yard catch, where he took a hellacious hit from free safety Kareem Moore that knocked off his helmet, and The Ocho got up yelling at Moore. But it all went for naught when left tackle Anthony Collins was called for holding, and then Benson responded with the screen on the next snap.
The Bengals defense set it all up with five straight three-and-outs to open the game and how about this stat at the end of the first quarter? Benson had 41 yards on seven carries and Portis had just 11 on six carries as he tried to recapture the magic that made him an MVP candidate a very long month ago.
Benson set up Graham's 32-yard field goal with 11:19 left in the half that made it 17-0 when he bolted for a 12-yard run through the arm tackle of middle linebacker London Fletcher. The Bengals defense then responded with its fifth straight three-and-out when cornerback Leon Hall had coverage on two incompletions. Hall had an active day with three passes defensed and four tackles.
The Bengals scored their first touchdown in 11 quarters when they jumped on the top of the Redskins 7-0 on Fitzpatrick's one-yard touchdown run just 4:30 into the game.
Fitzpatrick's 14-yard run to the 1 set up a first-down play in which the Bengals sent out the same goal-line formation that failed last Sunday in Indianapolis. This time defensive tackle Domata Peko as the fullback and center Andrew Crummey at tight end blocked like it was a running play and Fitzpatrick went in untouched on a bootleg to the right after a run fake to Benson.
"Its one of those plays that you always have, and it never gets called," Fitzpatrick said. "Its one of those plays where I turn my back to everyone and spin around, and hopefully don't get smacked in the jaw. It was great because I saw a lot of green grass out there."
Bengals force early turnover
The Bengals defense set up the score when it got off the field the unconventional way on third down on the first series. After Campbell picked up the first down on third-and-long on a 19-yard pass to tight end Chris Cooley, Bengals safety Chris Crocker jolted Cooley on a big hit that popped the ball loose and cornerback David Jones returned it 12 yards to the Washington 41.
The Bengals' next two series got short-circuited by Ryan Plackemeier punts that pinned them inside the 7. On the second series it looked like Fitzpatrick had converted a third-and-long, but Houshmandzadeh dropped a ball at the 12 over the middle when it looked like he tried to make a spin move out of traffic before he caught it.
"It was really the same play like the one I caught for the first down in the last drive," Houshmandzadeh said. "I just made sure I caught it first."
It took the Redskins until 8:20 left in the first half to get their first first down and there was 6:40 left when they converted their first third down. Facing a third-and-four from the Bengals 10, Campbell had no pressure and zipped a 10-yard touchdown pass to Moss wide open in the middle of a zone with 4:44 left in the half that cut the lead to 17-7.
But the Bengals blew a great shot to take advantage of Moss' celebration penalty (he took the towel off his belt and shined his shoes) combined with Suisham's kickoff out of bounds. That put the ball on the Redskins 45, but Fitzpatrick's play-action pass on first down to Houshmandzadeh was a tad late over the middle and there was good coverage. That led to Kyle Larson's shanked punt and the Redskins escaped and had the ball at their own 24 with 3:42 left and all their timeouts.
They used it to convert the field goal on a 12-play, 71-yard drive as Bengals rookie defensive tackle Pat Sims put good pressure on Campbell on a third-down incompletion to keep Washington out of the end zone.
But Portis had definitely swung the momentum. He had three carries for 12 yards in the final drive and finished the half with 39 yards on his last nine carries for a total of 50 on 15 carries. Benson didn't get the ball much after his run set up the field goal and he had 55 yards on 10 carries. Fitzpatrick hit just six of 14 passes in the half, but he had a 96.4 rating with 117 yards to go with his 19 rushing yards. He only got one completion each to Ocho Cinco (13 yards) and Houshmandzadeh (two).
Crocker led the way on defense at the half with six tackles and finished with Brandon Johnson as the team leader with 10.
PREGAME NOTES: Safety Chinedum Ndukwe missed his third straight game with a foot problem Sunday and rookie wide receiver Jerome Simpson was inactive despite not appearing on the injury report this week.
The Bengals went into the game with the Redskins at Paul Brown Stadium razor-thin at running back. Backups Chris Perry (groin) and Kenny Watson (hamstring) were inactive, leaving only rookie James Johnson behind starter Cedric Benson. Johnson, a free agent out of Kansas State, had been on the practice squad all year until he made his debut last week against the Colts with four yards on three carries.
Also inactive for the Bengals were left tackle Levi Jones (back) and tight end Ben Utecht (foot) while the Redskins put right tackle Jon Jansen (knee) on their inactive list. That means both regular Washington tackles are out. The 'Skins also put down starters Chris Horton at safety and Marcus Washington at linebacker, as well as the guy that might be their best interior defensive lineman in Cornelius Griffin.
Right end Antwan Odom is up for the first time in four games, but it appeared he would be used in mostly passing downs because linebacker Darryl Blackstock got his second straight start. So did Kyries Hebert in place of the injured Marvin White. Starting cornerback David Jones returned for the first time since hurting his knee Nov. 20 in Pittsburgh and got the start.
Also active was the freshly-arrived Mike Doss as a backup safety after signing Tuesday.
The wind looked like it was going to be a factor again at PBS with the National Weather Service calling for gusts up to 40 miles per hour out of the south on a day with temperatures in the 50s and the wind at between 15 to 25 miles per hour.
The Bengals played in winds that were clocked as high as 60 and 70 in the second game of the season back on Sept. 14 and against the Eagles on Nov. 16 Bengals kicker Shayne Graham had a wind of about 20 miles-per-hour push his winning field-goal attempt to the right with seven seconds left in overtime of a 13-13 tie.
The Bengals emerged in black shirts and white pants with a 9-15 record in the ensemble. Head coach Marvin Lewis, designating safety Chris Crocker as the special teams captain, introduced the defense as a unit as it bids to put the brakes on Redskins running back Clinton Portis. They got the first shot when the Redskins won the toss and took the ball.