It was as crazy as it gets Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton racking up the sixth fourth-quarter comeback of his career in an eight-turnover quagmire even though it was cornerback Terence Newman that scored the winning points with a 58-yard fumble return with 3:47 left in the 34-30 victory and the defensive line preserved it with three tipped balls in the last two minutes.
The Bengals' climb back from a 16-point deficit is thought to be their biggest comeback since they came back from 17 down in Baltimore Dec. 5, 2004 and won 27-26. It's also believed to be their biggest fourth-quarter comeback at PBS since scoring 14 unanswered to beat the Steelers, 23-20, in 2009.
It's hard to quanitfy just how good, tough and clutch the Bengals defense played Sunday. But this may help. The Packers got the ball four times inside the Bengals 40 and scored nine points. This from a team with Aaron Rodgers at the helm that leads the NFL in red zone efficiency since 2008 by scoring TDs 61.9 percent of the time. Last year the Pack was third-best.
With the Bengals committing four first-half turnovers and then getting flagged on a couple of debatable roughing penalties in the second half, Newman noticed when the ball took the right bounce after right end Michael Johnson knocked it out of rookie running back Jonathan Franklin's hands on fourth-and-one at the Bengals 41 and safety Reggie Nelson tried to run with it a few yards before he lost it.
"Because the ball took a proper bounce, it kind of bounced up a little bit. It was easier for me to grab it and just go forward," said Newman, who had already followed the bouncing ball for an interception earlier in the second half.
Newman said he felt someone at his back and thought it was a Packer grabbing at his jersey. But it turned out to be teammate Vontaze Burfict guiding him with a hand on his back and when Newman looked to his left and saw cornerback Leon Hall blocking wide receiver Jordy Nelson, he knew he was OK. He ran through the end zone and pulled a Lambeau Leap in Cincinnati, vaulting into the first row of seats.
"I think I had one of those crazy moments where I thought I was 25 again," said the 35-year-old Newman, the second-oldest player on the field. "I just saw the fans going crazy. 'Hey I'm going to jump up there and have some fun.' It was pretty stupid on my part. They wouldn't let me go. 'You got any good food or anything?'
"I know the (Packers) are a big Lambeau Leap team, and I saw a bunch of fans up there so I just wanted to get up there and have some fun."
It marked Cincinnati's first fourth-quarterback comeback since the 20-13 victory in San Diego last December, the only one of last season.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Hall hurt his hamstring on the block and missed the last series. Asked if he can play in Cleveland next week Sunday he said, "That's the plan."
» Johnson wasn't trying to punch the ball out of Franklin's hands on that fourth-and-one. It was pretty basic.
"I knew they didn't get the first down. I was trying to put my head and shoulder pad on him and stop his momentum and get off the field and get the offense the ball back."
» But the biggest play of the game was head coach Marvin Lewis's challenge of the spot that would have given the Packers a first down at the Bengals 29 with 4:01 left and a 30-27 lead. Replays clearly showed that Hall had tackled Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb before the first-down stick with his knee touching about half a yard shy.
When the Bengals coaches saw the Fox Network feed in their booth, all agreed it was short and advised Lewis to throw the challenge flag.
"They said we were good, and when I saw it on the (scoreboard) I felt better about it. I thought they gave him further than what he got," Lewis said.
» Before defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap brought havoc in the last drive, Rodgers had words with Johnson about his hit on him as threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver James Jones in the third quarter. Rodgers looked like he objected to Johnson trying to get him to the ground going low. But Rodgers was hittable since he was out of the pocket.
"We made amends. He said he didn't mean anything by it and I trust him," Rodgers said.
Johnson said the two aired it out.
"I'm sure he didn't like getting hit," he said. "I told him I wasn't trying to do anything dirty to him. He was throwing the ball and I was just trying to get a hit on him. I didn't know if he had thrown it or not. I've got to continue to play. He said OK, he understood."
» One of the quiet heroes Sunday was safety Taylor Mays. He not only recovered the fumbled kickoff way back in the first quarter on the Packers 2, but when Hall got hurt he had to play slot corner with Dre Kirkpatrick and Brandon Ghee also out.
"Taylor Mays stepped up big today," cornerback Adam Jones said.
» Hall was immense covering Cobb in the slot. Cobb was coming off two 100-yard games and had the third-most receiving yards in the league, but Hall wouldn't let him up for air. Cobb caught just five of the 11 balls thrown his way for 54 yards.
» Packers coach Mike McCarthy said while the play was being reviewed he thought about kicking a field goal and it sounded like he wished he had.
"With the challenge, you obviously had plenty of time to think about it. I probably over-thought it, because my initial thought was to kick the field goal," McCarthy said. "I'm paid to make those decisions. When they go wrong, I'm responsible."
» The Bengals have been stingy late. They've given up seven points in the fourth quarter this season and none since Brandon Marshall's winning TD catch two weeks ago in the opener.
» The only other four-turnover game the Bengals have had in the 35-game Dalton era came last October in Cleveland in a 34-24 loss.
» With another touchdown Sunday, rookie running back Giovani Bernard is on pace for 16 this season, which would tie the club record for a running back held by Pete Johnson.