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Cousins no kin to Bengals


Safety George Iloka came up with his first pick of '16 on Sunday.

LONDON _ Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey said he underrated the Wembley Stadium atmosphere while preparing for Sunday's game. After Washington's underrated quarterback, Kirk Cousins, left them fit to be tied on 458 passing yards, the Bengals went back over the pond with an abiding respect for both.

"He's going to get paid," one Bengal said after both teams left the 84,488 paying customers dizzy with a whacky 27-27 tie in the first overtime game ever in the NFL's International series.

"It was amazing. I underrated the atmosphere out there, but it was sold out, a big stadium with everyone yelling," Rey said. "At times it sounded like a real home game, although I wish everyone was for us. It got loud for our offense. But it was probably 60-40 for us."

But the Bengals came up 0.0 for the win they desperately needed to reach .500 at the bye week and the second half of the season. Still, at 3-4-1 they'll start the second half of the season no worse than a game-and-a-half behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

"It sucks to tie," said nose tackle Domata Peko. "But we have to come back strong in the bye week and finish this strong.  With eight games to go our division is wide open … The AFC North is in our grasp. We just have to go out there and get it."

It's only the second time in the last nine years the Bengals have been under .500 at the half-way point and they can take heart knowing the last time it happened they were 3-5 and began a 7-1 run to make the playoffs with a Paul Brown Stadium win over the Giants on Nov. 11, 2012, nearly four years to the day of their next match.

But what's different this season compared to that one when the Bengals defense finished in the NFL's top ten is this defense has yet to find its groove. After giving up more than 400 yards in two of the previous three games, they gave up a whopping 546 Sunday, a huge amount for even five quarters.

Say this, though. After giving up the tying field goal with 2:08 left, the defense stepped up in overtime and stopped them three times, the last when they went back on the field after quarterback Andy Dalton's fumble at the Cincinnati 47 with 62 seconds left.

"(When) we thought we had the momentum, but they were able to make big plays on us," Rey said. "Those X plays, crossing routes and (bootlegs) he had a lot of yards How many passes did he throw? That's a lot. Probably 10 yards a completion. That's a lot."

It works out to 12 yards per completion, but he didn't think Sunday was about stats.

"You know what? It's not about the numbers," Rey said. Or where we're ranked. At the end of the day if you win the game, nobody cares about that. Coming in here, we had the ball third-and-one at what? Midfield? We felt like were going in to win after we got the first down. In the third quarter we felt like we were rolling we're thinking we had (Tyler) Eifert back and we were rolling. There was a point in the first quarter defensively where we felt like we were making plays. And then they would come up with a big play."

The pass rush continues to try and find its way (they had one sack on 59 drop backs), the linebackers continue to struggle in coverage (two weeks after the New England tight ends combined for 210 yards Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis clicked for 192), and the secondary continues to give away momentum with big plays (a 38-yarder to wide receiver DeSean Jackson got Washington off the hook at their own 9 and down 20-10 with 4:22 left in the third quarter in a moment the defense of the past would have put the game away).

But it wasn't the deep ball that beat Cincy. The longest was a 44-yarder to Davis. Instead, Cousins killed the Bengals softly on quick rhythm passing looking for yards-after-catch, hitting 36 of 58 for 458 yards. If you saw Washington head coach Jay Gruden in his three seasons as the Bengals offensive coordinator, then this is what you saw.

Emphasis on yards after catch in the wake of the missed tackles.

"Quick throws, just like when he was here," said right end Michael Johnson.

The Bengals had a tough day wrapping up and tackling. As in, they didn't do it.

"Too many missed tackles," Rey said. "We didn't stay in our leverage, which means we didn't trust. We didn't trust enough. Because if you trust, you stay in your leverage and trust the man outside you and inside you.

"We were allowing them to catch so much and you know they're going to make catches off check downs and stuff, but we have to come down and make those tackles. So it's frustrating for me and frustrating for us as a defense not to make those plays."

The defense had five penalties, three of them of the 15-yard variety. The only one that turned into a TD turned out to be Peko's unnecessary roughness call on activity in the pile after a running play, which set up Reed's 23-yard touchdown working against linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Peko seemed to think he was merely pushing off to get up after the tackle, but he waved himself off in the middle of the explanation.

(Burfict, by the way, was symbolic of how all-out the Bengals went Sunday. He went down for a few minutes after wrenching his non-surgical knee early in the early moments and played the entire way gutting through it.)

"In the grinding moments, tough, tough atmosphere, you have to keep your composure," Peko said. "That's something we all have to do better. We can't be killing ourselves with those penalties because it extends your odds and creates points. That's the thing we have to do to become a better defense and myself too. I had a penalty today, so I own up to it. I have to do better with that."

Peko, the senior man on defense, was a rookie the last time the Bengals faced such a passing onslaught against Drew Brees in New Orleans ten years ago. But Kirk Cousins?

"We have to really look in the mirror and see what we need to improve," Peko said. "Penalties is one of the keys to every game. We have to eliminate those things and that comes by doing the little things right. Technique and composure and I take full responsibility."

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