The Bengals defense rode the redemption of cornerback Johnathan Joseph (15 tackles and the big play on the two-point conversion) and safety Marvin White (the other big play on the two-pointer) and middle linebacker Dhani Jones' first interception in 23 games as a Bengal.
But Sunday's 21-19 victory over Jacksonville also served as the coming-out party for rookie defensive tackle Pat Sims.
Sims had to smile about that first sack. Garrard got away from him the first time, and he had to track him down with a nice diving tackle at the shoetops.
"I was hoping to get him up top, but I had to run a little bit. I had to stretch it out a little. Show that 4.7 (40 speed)," Sims said.
"We wanted to keep this thing going. We want do it every game. We wanted to stick our feet in the ground and hold them."
Thornton went to defensive line coach Jay Hayes recently and told him he was open to playing Sims more on running downs while putting him in the passing sets of the nickel and dime packages. That's the way it pretty much broke down after the first series.
"I know I don't have a contract for next year. I know they like to look at the young kids when you have a season like this," Thornton said. "I think he's going to be a good player, but you have to find out and I told them I understand. Plus, I like the chance to do something different. It gives me a chance to pass rush and my first year here (in '03) I had six sacks, so I think it's something I can do to help."
Thornton was only credited with one hit on Garrard, but he had more than that while Sims showed the push in the middle the Bengals so desperately need. Also the toughness. He only missed a snap or two after he came off the field with an early foot injury.
"I'm having fun; this is what I want to do," Sims said. "I've been wanting that first snap for a long time. I finally got it."
Thornton, whether he's here or not next year, thinks there'll be plenty more from Sims.
"I'm trying to get him to practice harder," Thornton said, "because I think you play how you practice. But there's no question he goes hard on Sunday."
"I went back to being myself. I was going to have fun. Let my teammates know I'm out there and show everybody I'm in there to win it with you guys," Joseph said.
He was a big reason the Bengals did win it when he blanketed wide receiver Jerry Porter on a slant into the end zone on the two-point conversion with 1:17 left in the game. He bothered Porter enough that Porter couldn't get a handle on it. And White, back in the starting lineup after Dexter Jackson went on injured reserve, finished Porter off with his second hit of the day that dislodged the ball.
Also big on the play was cornerback Leon Hall's coverage on 6-5 Matt Jones, Garrard's primary target.
"We had a slant on the call. The defender was playing inside of me," Jones said. "It's David's decision to go the other way."
Joseph said the film showed during the week when the Jags went three wides with a tight end, which was usually on third down, they were looking to throw the slant.
"We had the right covergae called," Joseph said. "I knew I had the safety sitting in there inside."
Jones' pick, which halted Garrard's no-interception streak of 166 straight passes, came as he dropped into a zone and timed his leap on a ball over the middle.
"It's one thing to have it thrown to you; it's another thing to catch it," Jones said. "We got good pressure all day. The guys up front kept coming and that's why you can make plays like that."