SANTA CLARA, Calif. - There's no question the Bengals were thinking about next Monday night's game in Denver, which has now become the game to decide the AFC's second seed and a play-off bye. The 24-14 victory over the 49ers had just put the 11-3 Bengals into the playoffs for the fifth straight season and yet head coach Marvin Lewis had to tell his players to smile.
"They thought I was going to tear them up," Lewis said.
Wide receiver A.J. Green has now been in the postseason every year of his career, but he shrugged.
"It's just another game," Green said. "It doesn't matter unless you win the big one."
Ten-year nose tackle Domata Peko was more demonstrative.
"The city should be excited and proud. That's what we're trying to do here in Cincinnati," Peko said. "We're trying be a winning team. Just like the Patriots. They're in the playoffs year after year. That's what we want to be here in Cincy. We just have to keep getting better and that's what we're doing. Working."
Green banged his back on a retaining wall late in Saturday's practice at San Jose State and said he hurt some ribs. Even though he was downgraded to questionable just before kickoff, he started and caught a 37-yard bomb from AJ McCarron. He didn't play for most of the second half but both Lewis and Green said he was OK . . .
McCarron did exactly what he was supposed to do in his first NFL start. No turnovers and protected the lead. No picks. One TD. Three red zone TDs. 15 of 21 passing.
"The big thing is we took care of the football," said McCarron after joining Andy Dalton and Boomer Esiason as Bengals QBs that won their first starts. "I think they had (four) turnovers and in this league that decides games a lot of the time."
McCarron admitted to some butterflies, but they're never bad for him.
"It couldn't be any worse than last week getting thrown in," said McCarron of his sudden entrance into the brawl against the Steelers down, 10-0 . . .
After the game WILL backer Vontaze Burfict wanted to know the defense's third-down percentage. Told the 49ers were 2-for-14 and missed on their first 12 before getting their first one with 2:53 left in the game, Burfict was impressed. He was interested because for the first time this year he played a lot in the nickel package, like he did his first three seasons in the league . . .
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins was again a monster against a backup guard. Try two sacks to go along with four forced holding calls. He now has 10 sacks, double-digits for the second time in his career.
"He's 120 right now," Burfict said. "He's flying on a pedestal . . I feel like he's possibly going to get to 15." . . .
Left end Carlos Dunlap blocked his second field goal in three weeks and praised the play of right end Margus Hunt, the guy that lines up next to him on field goals. Hunt is known for blocking 17 kicks in his career at SMU.
"We make them choose between the two of us," Dunlap said . . .
Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers in week 15 of the regular season.