CHICAGO - The new and improved Bengals defense did it again Sunday when they gave the Bears nothing after an opening drive touchdown.
Nothing but two field goals.
They got contributions from just about everyone in holding the Bears to 206 yards for their best defensive outing under head coach Zac Taylor and best in seven years.
They prepared well for both Bears quarterbacks, checking down Andy Dalton to 61 yards on nine completions before he got hurt and then frustrating rookie Justin Fields on 6 of 13 passing. Throw in their stone-cold 61-yard job on running back David Montgomery and their own quarterback knew exactly what happened.
"You learn a lesson today that when your defense is playing as well as they are you don't have to force the balls you can just kind of let the game come to you," said quarterback Joe Burrow after the first multi-interception game of his career.
The defense didn't plan on beating Burrow, too, but they nearly did when they held the Bears to field goals despite starting from their own 39, 36 and nine following turnovers. They couldn't do anything about linebacker Roquan Smith's 53-yard pick.
Not only that, linebacker Logan Wilson breathed life into them when he grabbed Fields' first pro interception on an inexplicable play call that gave the Bengals the ball at the Bears 7 and allowed them to cut the lead to 20-17 with 3:39 left.
Wilson had a hand from Jessie Bates III's safety blitz on the backside that made Fields get rid of it.
"It was just a pressure, I got the slide to me and I'm allowed to pop out," Wilson said. "I didn't think he saw me because we had a lot of guys in his face. He threw it where his guy should have been and I just happened to be."
In the end, Fields got them when he raced out of edge Trey Hendrickson grasp on third-and-nine and about three minutes left to convert the first down.
"He's good at what he does, and that's an element, when you have to play an opposing quarterback that can scramble for first downs, it's always tough," Wilson said. "You've got to keep him contained the best you can."
Hendrickson was brilliant all day with his first 1.5 Bengals sacks. So was another big free-agent signing, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi with four tackles, one for a loss. Another big acquisition, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, had his ups and downs but made a huge play in the end zone on a third down on Bears ace receiver Allen Robinson II that kept the thing at 10-3.
The overhauled defense has now stacked two winning games.
"I don't think anyone can question the heart from this team," said Wilson, who was pretty good himself with a game-high nine tackles. "We were down 20-3 and came back and gave ourselves a chance. Obviously we didn't get a win but there's no question we have heart on this team. We've just got to clean stuff up on offense, defense and special teams, which I know we will."
Everybody seemed to have a hand in. Off his two-sack debut last week, newly-acquired tackle B.J. Hill was in on two huge third-and-one and fourth-and-one stops in the second quarter from their own 36. He got help from linebacker Germaine Pratt and Vonn Bell on one and tackle Josh Tupou on the other.
Hill and Tupou were also out there when it was 17-3 and Burrow's third interception had them on their own nine. A lot of defenses would have flat out melted there. But they forced a third-and-five and they held again with Awuzie covering Darnell Mooney in the end zone.
They had the zone read covered. Fields had just 31 yards on 10 carries.
"Just try to keep him in the pocket. We knew we were going to get some of him today, we didn't know how much," Wilson said. "We had planned for him throughout the week in practice. That's another element that he adds. When you have a quarterback that's a good thrower but can also scramble and get first downs, it's tough for a defense. There are some we definitely wish we would have had back, but that's every game. We'll learn from it."
Put that on top of the work against Montgomery and how they stopped Minnesota's Dalvin Cook last week and the run defense is AFC North ready for next week at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.
"That (shows) it's doable, that we can get the job done," Ogunjobi said of the work against the backs. "That's the biggest thing. You always have to be able to rise up to the challenge and understand this is a week by week league. You've got to keep working, keep pushing and keep fighting. That's the message in the room, and that's the message and we're going to continue to push forward."
Ogunjobi is one of these guys who talks the talk and walks the walk when he talks culture. In the past two games his defensive line has emerged as the most productive on the team.
"He's a great player. I'm really glad we acquired him in free agency and he just does so much for us defensively," Wilson said. "And truthfully, our whole D line has gotten a lot better since last year. The guys we have up front, I'm really glad we do. And we've just got to keep those guys healthy."
Here's a defense that came into the season off a year it had an NFL-low 17 sacks with six heading into the third game. It also had just finished a three-year stretch allowing the most rushing yards in the league now giving up fewer than a total of 200 on 3.6 yards per carry after two games.
"Very resilient. Tough game, just keep fighting," Ogunjobi said. "Find a way to push through to give yourself a chance to win. A lot of guys with a lot heart, a lot of dedication. An unselfish team, that's the biggest thing. Guys are just out there playing for each other."
After all that, after all those miscues in the first 57 minutes, after that first touchdown drive way back to start the day, the defense kept them in it.
"We felt the momentum shifting, it was right on the grass," Ogunjobi said. "So when you're trying to change a culture, what's been before, those are the kind of games you want to come out with a victory. Once again it's a learning experience and we have to put our focus on Pittsburgh and try to find a way to win."
Check out some of the best action photos of the Bengals Week 2 contest against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.