Updated: 11 p.m.
The Bengals won the "Freezer Bowl." But they lost "The No Brainer Freeze."
That's what the Saints call it when they have no intention of snapping the ball and are only trying to lure the foe offside.
After frying the Bengals on five plays totaling 244 yards, it came down to just two yards on fourth down from the Cincinnati 7 with 34 seconds left for Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
He had no play in mind. He was just trying to draw the Bengals offsides before settling for a tying field goal with a bunch of mumbo jumbo at the line of scrimmage.
"The No Brainer Freeze."
Brees got the penalty when defensive tackle Pat Sims moved into the neutral zone, forcing left guard Carl Nicks to move. On the next snap Brees pumped in a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marques Colston for the winner, 34-30, with 31 seconds left.
What is it with the Bengals and 34 seconds left against Super Bowl champions? If Nicks doesn't move, it's not a penalty.
"I moved. My fault. All my fault. I made a mistake," said Sims, who said he moved out of his stance but didn't move his drive foot.
The Bengals said they knew what the Saints were trying to do. Saints head coach Sean Payton said it had happened a few weeks before. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said he showed it on film at the Wednesday meeting.
"It's really a No Brainer Freeze," Payton said. "If we felt there was clear movement, then the worst thing that could have happened is we move back five yards and kick the field goal. Drew Brees did a great job with the snap count and tried to create the illusion we were going for it, when we were really just going to let the time run out."
Except for those six plays, how good was the Bengals defense? The Saints came in leading the NFL with a 49 percent conversion rate on third down but could only cash one Sunday on eight tries. Sims played well, too, with a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.
But one play and six plays...
Defensive tackle Domata Peko waved reporters away from Sims as he took a locker-room grilling.
"He made a hell of a play two plays before," said Peko of Sims' two-yard loss on running back Chris Ivory on first down from the Bengals 15, which set up the fourth-and-two.
Saints fullback Heath Evans summed it up best.
"Luckily the Bengals made contact, and it was an easy call for the officials to make," Evans said. "In 10 years, this is my first time that play has ever worked. It doesn't work too often."
A day of five big mistakes and one little one.
The Bengals allowing five plays of at least 42 yards was stunning enough, but it is a season-long trend. They came into the game tied for fourth in the NFL with 26 big plays allowed.
The 55-yard touchdown run by Chris Ivory was the league-leading 15th run the Bengals have yielded of at least 20 yards and they gave up a 21-yarder later in the day. Last year, with pretty much the same cast, they allowed five. The four passes of at least 42 yards now give them 16 passes of at least 30 allowed, tied for seventh most allowed.
They came into the game as the first team since the 1964 Oilers to give up a run of at least 20 yards in 11 straight games.
SACKS ALIVE: The Bengals, dead last in NFL sacks, unveiled their most alive pass rush of the year Sunday as rookie left end Carlos Dunlap racked up 1.5 more sacks a week after getting two against the Jets. His team-leading 4.5 tie him with David Pollack's rookie output in 2005 and are four shy of Justin Smith's 2001 club record for rookie sacks.
Dunlap, a second rounder out of Florida, shared one of the sacks with fellow rookie Geno Atkins as both shot up the middle from the tackle spot on a third-and-six in the first quarter. Then, in the middle of the fourth quarter, Dunlap lined up at left end and chased down quarterback Drew Brees for a 15-yard sack on third-and-11, a huge play that came three snaps after the Bengals had tied the game at 27.
"Basically, we did a lot of straight rushes. Expected to beat your man. Man on man. It's a nickel package," Dunlap said. "So if they one-on-one block you, you're expected to beat your man. That's what we did."
The Bengals have to be encouraged by Dunlap's ability to move inside to tackle on some passing downs, as well as Atkins showing some of the push he showed early in the season. The Bengals only had two sacks, but they hit Brees six other times and forced him to get rid of it several times. The pressure was the reason the Bengals were seven-for-eight stopping the Saints on third down. On the second sack, Atkins pushed the pocket and Dunlap ran.
"Any time you get great push up front, especially with Brees, he's a shorter quarterback, so he's got to back up to see down the field," Dunlap said. "When he does that, we've got to get there."
Left end George Iloka said there was no magic.
"Just try to win our one-on-ones; work those guys," he said. "We've just been working hard week-to-week, busting our butt trying to get better. We're last in the league. That's nothing we're proud of, so we're just keeping our head down and working it."
TIMED OUT: The Bengals had an ever-so-small chance to win the game in the last 31 seconds, but their inability to negotiate the clock with just one timeout left doomed them.
They got a big-time kick return from running back Bernard Scott, which put the ball at the Saints 49 with 22 seconds left. But after an 11-yard screen pass to running back Brian Leonard netted 14 yards to the Saints 37, the clock went from 14 to eight seconds before quarterback Michael Johnson called a timeout.
"I run the plays on the field and Marvin (Lewis) handles the timeouts," Palmer said. "I just noticed it was taking a long time to get everybody set, so I went ahead and called that on my own."
The Saints then blitzed everybody and Palmer was sacked by safety Roman Harper to end it.
Lewis indicated he thought the officials were slow in marking the ball.
"To do it over again, I would probably call timeout. But we were going to try and (spike) it," Lewis said. "I was trying to preserve a timeout so we could throw the ball in the middle of the field. We knew the kind of coverage we were getting there. I wanted to give (Palmer) an opportunity where he can throw the ball in the middle of the field and we can cut the 40 yards in half, and now you've got a good shot at the end zone.
"When you have too far to go, you don't have enough time to get the ball down the field, and they can come and pressure you. So, you're kind of counter-productive that way. It didn't work out. We didn't get set, and then Carson saw the guys not getting set. And they (officials) didn't get the ball set real quickly there for us there, obviously. We ought to have an opportunity to get that bad boy set with probably about 11 seconds left … 12 seconds. That's what I'm looking for. To have it with 10 or 11 seconds left, it gives you an opportunity to get the ball up and down, call timeout and now you have a chance at it. … We were trying to get another play off, so we ended up calling the timeout. But what you'd like to have is for it to be second down, because you clocked it. You have 10 or 11 seconds left … 12 seconds. You ought to be able to get a play off and run at 12 seconds. You think you can get a field goal off and up in 14 seconds with the change in personnel, so we ought to be able to clock a play in that period of time."
The Bengals lost the two timeouts on their tying touchdown drive. The first with 10:49 left on third-and-one (which was followed by left guard Nate Livings' false start) and the second following Chad Ochocinco's 21-yard catch on third-and-10 that put the ball on the New Orleans 8 with 8:18 left.
"We had to burn timeouts, with guys unsure substitution-wise when injuries occurred on the plays before," Lewis said. "So we had to get other guys in the game. And, eventually at the end of the game, obviously, we would have liked to have had those timeouts."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Dunlap wasn't the only rookie to come up big Sunday.On a day he broke Tony McGee's 15-year-old club record for catches by a rookie tight end in a season, Jermaine Gresham converted a fourth-and-one for 23 yards when he broke away from safey Roman Harper after he ripped it away from him over the middle in lugging it into the red zone. The Bengals coudn't score on that trip, but when they needed a two-pointer to tie it at 27, Gresham caught a rope from Palmer just over the goal line.
"Jermaine did a great job getting that hole. It was a big play for a young guy to make," Palmer said. "He was in a situation where he had two options and he made the right decision versus the right coverage ... to be a rookie and make that play — to catch the ball with guys hanging on you and guys hitting you — just shows how strong he is. It was just a great play by him."
Gresham finishd with three catches for 43 yards, giving him 47 catches on the year, three more than McGee.
» Another rookie, kicker Clint Stitser, was big witha 3-for-3 effort on field goals in his debut. His 47-yarder with 4:25 left gave the Bengals a brief 30-27 lead and highlighted a clutch fourth quarter for special teams. Quan Cosby set up the field goal with his longest punt return of the season, a 19-yarder. Then Bernard Scott gave the Bengals a last shot with a 47-yard kick return.
» When the Bengals offensive starting lineup was introduced, wide receiver Terrell Owens wasn't among them. He was a bit amazed when his absence was noted.
"Yeah, my stomach was upset, so I didn't get out there. That doesn't have anything to do with the game, though. I'm on the roster, so what if I missed intros? I was on the front of the Gameday program. I think everybody knows I'm on the team."
» Running back Clint Boling rushed for two touchdowns in a game for the first time since 2006.
A third one might have won the game. On a fourth-and-inches from the Saints 5 with 3:32 left in the first half and the Bengals trailing, 10-6, Benson got swarmed from the left side for a one-yard loss by, among others, middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and strong safety Roman Harper.
"I got it by three dudes," Benson said. "They just had a better scheme, better play call than we did ... any time you get in the red zone and don't get it in, it's a credit to the defense."
» Bengals safety Reggie Nelson came up with his first interceptionas a Bengal and first since 2008. It came late in the third quarter at the Saints 46 and set up Terrell Owens' five-yard TD catch early in the fourth that cut it to 20-19.