Defense comes up big; Bengals alone in first place

Updated: 6 p.m.

A few postgame notes and quotes following Sunday's 18-12 win over the Steelers:

» "It's the most physical grinding game I've ever been on the sideline for," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "That was a big win."

» Cedric Benson said his injury wasn't his hip joint, rather it was a hip flexor and he thinks he will be OK.

» "It was a team win but our defense won this game," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "Field goals win games, touchdowns win games, we'll take this."

» This was the first season series sweep of the Steelers in 11 years.

» "It's scary. Everybody is going to be patting us on the back now, telling us we're great," Palmer said about the Bengals upcoming schedule. "We're not good enough to win the Super Bowl right now. We're not good enough to make a dominant playoff run. We have a long way to go. We can't start thinking about stuff like that.

"We're going to be playing teams that have won two, three, four games, and we're going to go into games expecting to win but we still have to play the same way we played today."

» It is the first time since 1975 the Bengals have won their first four road games to a open a season, and next week they go on the road to Oakland where they have never won.

» The Bengals have won six straight in the AFC North, the first time since Nov. 2005 to Nov. 2006.

» Late in the first half, after unblocked left end Robert Geathers dropped Roethlisberger for the Bengals' fourth sack of the half, Roethlisberger tried to hit Santonio Holmes on third down in the right corner. But leaping cornerback Johnathan Joseph seemed to get a finger on the ball as it whizzed past Holmes to force the field goal.

"That's the exact same play they ran to Santonio to win the Super Bowl," Joseph said. "I think I got my finger on it. I don't know if it mattered."

» Lewis said the biggest part of the game was coming out in the second half and getting the turnover to get the field goal that tied it at 9. The Bengals got the ball back when rookie cornerback Morgan Trent, blitzed, battled the ball and it was corralled by defensive end Frostee Rucker, who returned it 26 yards to the Steelers 14. That set up Graham's 23-yard field goal to tie it at 9 with 11:19 left in third quarter.

"Believe me, I've been coming here a long time, and that's a long walk," Lewis said of the walk to the field from the locker room. "My biggest job is to get us ready to go back out on the field ... and that was a big play."

» A week after holding the Ravens to 1-for-10 on third down, the Bengals held the Steelers to 3-for-15. Pittsburgh did not convert on its last 10 third-down tries.

"Defensively I felt like the key was once we corralled and contained Ben was how we played on third down," Lewis said. "We didn't let him got out of pocket like we did early in the game."

» Most of Cincinnati's four sacks came on third down, two by defensive end Jonathan Fanene, one by blitzing linebacker Dhani Jones, and one by the unblocked Robert Geathers.

» The Bengals linebackers and linemen combined for four tipped passes, two by Brandon Johnson, starting in place of injured linebacker Keith Rivers, and one each from Fanene and Rucker.

» "The line was big today," safety Chris Crocker said. "To get (Roethlisberger) on the ground four times has to be the key to the game. That has to be a tough thing to do."

» In his postgame press conference Lewis talked about Scott's reaction to seeing former Abilene Christian teammate Johnny Knox return kicks for the Bears three weeks ago. Knox came into the game as the league's leading kick returner.

"I know if he can do it I can do it too. It was a bad kick," said Scott, who took it from right to left before cutting it up the middle. "I was reading off my blocks and that's where they took me. Yeah, I wanted to outrun the kicker but I was getting tired."

» On the final drive that netted Graham's 43-yard field goal with 1:56 left, tackle Andrew Whitworth compared it to previous last-second drives needed to pull out wins in the first two months of the season.

"We had that imfamous fourth-quarter drive with six minutes left. 'Nine' (Palmer) came into the huddle and gave his words. He said 'we're going to run this thing until they don't have any timeouts left and we go all the way down the field,' and that's what we did."

It was Graham's first four field-goal game since a 19-10 win over the Rams Dec. 9, 2007 at Paul Brown Stadium.

» The Bengals emarked on an 11-play scoring drive that took 4:20 and featured just one pass, an eight-yarder to Laveranues Coles. Scott ran it five times for 16 yards, and for the second time in a divison game this season the Bengals got an unnecessary roughness call on an NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Last month in Baltimore it was Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. On Sunday, it was reigning Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, the Steelers outside linebacker.

"I was begging for it," Whitworth said of the Bengals running on the left side behind him and guard Nate Livings. "I told them and they trusted me to get (Steelers defensive end Brett Kiesel) out of the way."

» Sunday was Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's first loss to an AFC North team at home in his career.

» The Bengals have now won a club-record five straight games on the road, dating back to last season.

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