KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While A.J. Green and Geno Atkins continue their assault on the Pro Bowl as arguably the NFL's two best players at their position, Jermaine Gresham is quietly showing in his third season why the Bengals thought he can be one of the best tight ends in the league.
Gresham capped off an eventful three weeks Sunday when he tortured the Chiefs in the middle of the field with six catches for 69 yards, but that's not the half of it. His 10-yard catch on third-and-goal from the Kansas City 11 swung the game when he dragged three Chiefs into the end zone after taking a throw over the middle at the 5-yard line.
Replay overturned the touchdown when the refs said Gresham's knee touched just inside the 1, but it set up quarterback Andy Dalton's easy touchdown on fourth-and-one to give the Bengals a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Not to mention pumping up his teammates.
"It always pumps you up when you see someone give second, third, fourth and fifth effort. When you see that it makes you want to play even harder," running back BenJarvus Green Ellis said.
Gresham politely declined talking after the game, but he was clearly motivated after he got in a dustup with strong safety Eric Berry early in the game after the whistle that involved jawing and shoving.
"A great effort by him on the almost-touchdown," Dalton said. "He was dragging a couple guys with him; he was fired up today. It was good to see him like that."
If Gresham continues to put up these numbers, he'll be entering Bengals royalty with 67 catches for 827 yards, the best for both by a tight end since Dan Ross had 71 catches and 910 yards for the 1981 AFC champs. With 80 more yards, Gresham passes his career-best of 596 yards last season. Last week he had a third-down leaping touchdown catch against the Giants and two weeks ago he became the first Bengals tight end since Tony McGee in 1995 to have a 100-yard game.
"He's playing like we expect Jermaine to keep playing; he's doing a great job," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "He's really had a good season, and he's getting better each and every week. He's putting the team on his shoulders. He's doing that in the running game, and he's doing it as a receiver. This is why we got him. He's doing a great job of it, and he keeps growing with it and he's having fun with it. He likes to be the guy. He's doing a good job of it."
FOURTH AND GO: No one wanted to talk about the fourth-and-three fake punt that stirred the Bengals on Sunday and sparked their run of 21 unanswered points in the first half.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't say why he decided to pull it while backed up on his own 29 and trailing, 3-0, with 6:51 left in the first quarter, and when asked if the Chiefs had changed their look from the first Bengals punt of the game, running back Cedric Peerman offered, "It could have been, but maybe not."
What we know is that Peerman did what he did previously on the road back on Sept. 30 in Jacksonville. Standing in front of punter Kevin Huber as his personal protector, Peerman took a short angled snap from long snapper Clark Harris and took off on a long run. This time it was 32 yards around the left side. In Jacksonville it was 48 around the right side.
"Just communication, guys doing their job and hope it works out," Peerman said.
Special teams coach Darrin Simmons did say Peerman and his players responded with good communication before the snap and that they did get a different look from the Chiefs punt return team.
What is also clear is running back Brian Leonard's block on the perimeter sprung Peerman for more than the first down.
But the Bengals needed another fourth-down conversion three plays later with seven yards to go from the Chiefs 36. Lewis didn't like the crosswind and eschewed the 54-yard field goal, and Dalton made it work when he made a quick, decisive move out of the right side of the pocket and sprinted 11 yards untouched to the opposite side of the field.
"It was a man look; I went through my first progression and saw a lane," Dalton said. "It was a big first down for us to pick up, especially on that drive. I saw it pretty quickly, everybody else was clearing out and I knew we had to make a play at that point and it opened up nicely."
That play set up the first touchdown and the next one, the fourth-and-one made possible by Gresham, was another easy run for Dalton after faking left to Green-Ellis and running untouched to the pylon for Cincinnati's second touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
Lewis said there was no hesitation to go for it with 7:54 left in the first half because the Bengals had the Chiefs backed up.
"I figured we would," Dalton said. "Getting down there I figured we knew which play we were going to call. It worked out perfectly."
PALMER NEXT: Defensive tackle Domata Peko said the name of former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer surfaced quickly in the postgame locker room. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth knows why with Palmer's Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium in Sunday's 1 p.m. game.
But he doesn't think there's going to be a lot of talk about how Palmer wanted out with a trade demand.
"Even when you see Shaun Smith out there today it's good to see him," Whitworth said of the former Bengal playing some defensive tackle for the Chiefs. "You enjoy playing against guys that used to be here and that competitive spirit will be there.
"At this point in the season we've got a lot to achieve and our goals are in front of us and our main thing is to get a win. It will be nice to just to play against (Palmer). It's going to be a neat experience for everybody to play against a guy that was such a staple here, such a key player here for the franchise. That always makes it fun."