With three straight wins for the first time since the 2009 season, the Bengals get to keep their perfect October going into this week's bye. And they can do it with memories of Sunday's 27-17 victory that quarterback Andy Dalton fashioned with 78 percent passing courtesy of an offensive line that didn't allow a sack against Pro Bowl rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden looked at the stat sheet and looked at Dalton as he passed through the postgame locker room and said, "25-for-32. Pretty good."
But Gruden took his hat off to left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Andre Smith for blocking Freeney and Mathis, respectively, with virtually no help from running backs and tight ends and let them go one-on-one. Freeney and Mathis came in with a combined eight sacks and they left with eight and the Bengals had their first sackless game of the season.
"That was the plan. We know how good those two guys are and they showed it today," Gruden said.
» The defense may have lost its No. 1 rating to the Steelers after Pittsburgh held Jacksonville to 209 yards, but it secured this game, starting with 5:38 left in a game the Bengals led, 20-17, and cornerback Nate Clements' block of Adam Vinatieri's tying 52-yard field-goal attempt.
"I think the snap was bobbled, the timing was off," Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons said. "Nate had a great get-off."
It was almost two years to the day of the Bengals' last block—Oct. 18, 2009—when end Antwan Odom blocked one against Houston.
Then with 2:36 left from the Colts 33 and the Colts still down by just three, outside linebacker Brandon Johnson, subbing for the injured Thomas Howard, held up Pierre Garcon after a five-yard catch and safety Reggie Nelson hit Garcon's arm just before his knee hit the turf and the ball bounced into the hands of left end Carlos Dunlap and he zig-zagged for a touchdown from 35 yards out.
"One guy had the tackle, one guy got the ball out, one guy caught the ball and ran it in for a touchdown," said Johnson, who lost his job to Howard but not his leader presence among his teammates. "That's consummate team defense to me."
The 6-6, 290-pound Dunlap, who once returned a kick for a touchdown in high school against A.J. Green's team, thought about climbing the end-zone wall to greet the fans, but he said Paul Brown built the walls too high and besides, "I was pretty tired."
And then cornerback Leon Hall finished it off with the Bengals secondary's first pick of the season when quarterback Curtis Painter threw into double coverage and Hall ran it back 15 yards to the Colts 19 with 2:06 left.
"It's finally nice to have. We knew it was coming," he said.
The Bengals were No. 2 in D with two games left this week.
» Before Mike Nugent missed a 43-yard field foal attempt wide right with 2:36 left that would have given the Bengals a 23-17 lead, he had hit from 20 and 43 yards to give him 14 straight field goals for the third-longest streak in club history behind Shayne Graham's 21 in 2007 and his 17 from 2005-06.
» The victory gives the players a nice respite. After practicing Tuesday they are off until next Monday, when they begin to prep for the Oct. 30 game in Seattle.
» Safety Taylor Mays got his first playing time as a member of the Bengals and showed up on special teams. He had a big block on Brandon Tate's 33-yard punt return up the left side and had a tackle on kick cover. But the guy who sprung Tate was running back Cedric Peerman when he drilled linebacker A.J. Edds off his feet and knocked him out of the game.
Last week Mays was active but didn't play and Lewis said that wouldn't happen again. It didn't. Mays appeared on all the special teams but punt.
"I had heard something like that, but I didn't think about it. I just wanted to get out there and help the team," Mays said. "It felt great to run around out there with my teammates."
He had a blocked field goal and a 33-yard punt return, but Simmons thought the biggest play of the game might have been on the kickoff after Dunlap's touchdown. The Bengals got an excessive celebration penalty and Nugent had to kick from the Bengals 20. He drilled it 80 yards and Peerman and safety Gibril Wilson dropped Joe Lefeged at the 15.
» Head coach Marvin Lewis tied Sam Wyche with the most coaching victories in Bengals history at 64 and how fitting that he could pass him in Seattle Oct. 30? That was the scene of the most controversial moment in Wyche's career of controversy when he banned a woman reporter from the locker room, which at the time earned him the largest fine in NFL history: A game check of $27,000.
But on Sunday Lewis was thinking of that Super Bowl title Wyche missed by 34 seconds.
"I want one thing that Sam and those guys don't have, and that's all I want. That's all that matters," Lewis said.