Sims, a run specialist, plucked it out of the air for his first NFL interception as linemates Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson harassed Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning in what evolved into a stunningly common occurrence Sunday as the Bengals ambushed the Giants with dominating play in both trenches in the 31-13 victory at Paul Brown Stadium.
"It's a huge win for us. A huge game for us. You couldn't ask for anything better. Just going out and dominating, rolling on all cylinders," defensive tackle Domata Peko said as the Bengals savored their first win in five games and six weeks. "We took it personal."
Meanwhile the Bengals offensive line stoned the Tucks, Osis and JPPs on no sacks and gave quarterback Andy Dalton enough time on three third downs to throw three red-zone touchdowns against the league's best defensive line that was second best on this field Sunday.
Huge? It was not only a huge effort by left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith as they fended off at various times Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, but it was a big boost for the young Bengals interior with center Trevor Robinson making his second NFL start and the guards each making their ninth starts at their spots.
"At 4-5, we're definitely back in this thing," Whitworth said. "There's a lot of football left to be played. There's still a lot of teams bunched in there. We've played four games now where we've had it clicking with big plays and five games we haven't. When the guys on both lines are playing like this, this is what you're going to get."
What the Bengals hope they get is a booster shot of swag for the final seven games. During the week, Peko said head coach Marvin Lewis made them aware of quotes from Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
"The Bengals are hell of a team, but it seemed like they don't believe in themselves," is the way Peko read it.
"We read that. This whole week we just trusted each other and tried to build that confidence. It seems like we trusted each other today and got the job done. After losing four in a row, it's kind of hard to believe, but we stuck together. It's big confidence-booster. Now we've got the ball rolling."
What you get is the belief that the Bengals think they can go on a run in the next five games against teams with losing records and that they're as good as back in the playoff chase even though there are six clubs ahead of them in the AFC and they are tied in the next tier with Miami and San Diego at 4-5.
"Why not? That's what we ask ourselves," said middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. "Why can't we beat the defending Super Bowl champs? Why can't we win from here on out? It's just something we have to answer within ourselves. Treat this like a 1-0 start."
What you got was four sacks for the Bengals against a Giants offensive line that had allowed eight all season. What you got was a 127.3 passer rating from Dalton and touchdowns by four different receivers as the defense generating the sixth most sacks in the NFL per pass didn't get a sniff Sunday against a line that gave up five sacks last week. What is widely believed to be the best group of down pass rushers in the NFL couldn't get to Dalton on 30 pass attempts.
"Go over there and interview them now if you want to," said Johnson, the right end eyeballing a reporter that had asked him days before the game about playing the gold-plated Giants defensive line.
Johnson, who banged Manning's arm to produce the floater to Sims, has taken exception to the Giants being called the best D-line in football and it didn't sit so well with him Sunday, either.
"We've talked about that. I try not to compare this and that," Johnson said. "I know if we go out and play up to the best of our abilities, we're tough to beat, period."
Johnson's tag-team partner on the other end, Carlos Dunlap, displayed his considerable athleticism after not logging a sack since Cincinnati's last win on Sept. 30 in Jacksonville. He checked in with 1.5 sacks Sunday, but he also added three hits on Manning and one of them helped send an interception into the hands of safety Nate Clements. He also made a huge recovery of cornerback Adam Jones's forced fumble at the Bengals 14 early in the third quarter and generally had Lewis smiling.
"Carlos has been grinding, and that's good for him to come out and play a game against good people like this," Lewis said. "We need him to play well. The better he plays the better we will continue to play defensively."
Quite frankly, when Dunlap gets sacks, the Bengals win. He has 16.5 career sacks. In games he has at least a sack, the Bengals are 7-4. The last time he had a multi-sack game was the last time the Bengals beat a team with a winning record before Sunday in the Nov. 6, 2011 win in Tennessee.
"Our playmakers made plays; that's how you win games," Dunlap said. "You guys asked us about their defensive line. I feel like we outplayed them today, but we have to do it every Sunday."
Atkins has been doing it all year and on Sunday he was at his Pro Bowl best. You won't find it on the stat sheet, where he had no sacks, but it will be in the Giants cold tub Monday when Manning and left guard Kevin Boothe soothe the abuse Atkins produced.
"He was under duress a lot today," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said of Manning. "I think he got — what, (they had) four sacks and another seven or eight hits on the quarterback today. The protection was not what you would want; it's a combination. Again, there were times when perhaps the protection was good and we were holding the ball a little bit longer (than usual) due to people not being open or whatever."
For a while it seemed like Manning's No. 10 was actually No. 970 since Atkins's No. 97 was draped on him before or after both of his third-quarter interceptions.
"We know what we're capable of doing," Atkins said. "We stopped the run. They had something like (16 rushing) yards at the half and then when we got up 14, 17 points. We were able to pin the ears back. We know we have the ability to beat anyone we face. We wanted to see what we could do just having the four of us get after the quarterback and we proved we could do it."
Johnson said it was as simple as reading.
"The pass-run keys before the snaps," Johnson said. "If you think pass, play pass. And if it's a run, just run to it vs. trying to play the run, then convert (to the pass); it's tough doing that. We were able to get off on the ball, play hard and be aggressive and it worked."
The Big and Tall Men were kicking back and enjoying some winning banter.
"Even the Uso got a sack. Pretty good for a big nose tackle," Peko said with a smile, alluding to his Samoan nickname.
His teammates were getting on Sims a little bit. It's the first time he's played in a game since he injured his ankle Nov. 27, 2011 and he drew the wrath of Lewis when he injured his hamstring in the training camp conditioning test and didn't get off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) until Friday.
Asked if he had fresh legs, Sims said, "I'm going to have fresh legs for the next couple of weeks. That was a lot of snaps. Had to be 30-something … I appreciate (Lewis) giving me the opportunity."
"It's great having big Pat back," Peko said. "He's a force out there," and Atkins observed, "He's a run-stopper, but he can rush the passer out there. We had a good rotation going with him, me, and Domata."
Sims pointed to Johnson.
"I have to thank Mike for getting that ball to me," and Johnson said it was good "to have the Dancing Bear back," meaning Sims's big-man athleticism is nice to have inside.
"Have to come up with another name," Sims said.
Just give The Big and Tall Shop time. On Sunday it took the measure of some of the biggest names in the game.