Posted: 1:20 a.m.
Not only did defensive tackle Domata Peko return to the Bengals starting lineup after suffering a painful bruised knee on the third snap of the game last week, but he took a turn at fullback when Jeremi Johnson left the game with his own knee problem in the third quarter.
The 6-3, 318-pound Peko got the call for the first time since last year on the first play of the fourth quarter with the ball on the Bears 1 and the Bengals looking to get running back Cedric Benson a touchdown against his old mates. Benson followed him up the middle for the touchdown early in the fourth quarter as Peko eclipsed the linebacker.
"He was surprised. I don't think he knew I was back there," said Peko of the unsuspecting Bears backer as he widened his eyes. "It was a nice little iso up the middle. You should have seen his face. It was like this."
Peko didn't get marked for a tackle, but he didn't have to play much because the Bengals basically used their nickel package for every snap in the second half. Stopping the run on the early downs is his specialty and the 21-0 lead built in the first 18:36 did as much to stop it as the team-leading seven tackles of middle linebacker Dhani Jones. Those included two for a loss and a recovered fumble.
"It was a big win for us to get a complete game," said defensive tackle Tank Johnson.
Not only did the offense come up with its most points in two years (45 against Cleveland), the most yards in three years (545 against San Diego), and the biggest margin of victory in seven years (35 against Houston in 2002), but the defense celebrated holding the Bears to a season-low 35 yards rushing on just 12 carries.
The Bengals gave up 31 in the season finale to Kansas City and they stand as the two stingiest games in Lewis' seven seasons.
The defense also came up with four turnovers for the first time this season and for the first time since last year's 13-13 tie with the Eagles in the 10th game.