The Bengals saw a lot of bodies go down in the 41-20 victory over the Browns on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, but with a bye week it doesn't look it is going to keep anybody out of the next game on Dec. 1 in San Diego.
"We seemed to come out of this pretty good today," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "There are always a few surprises afterward."
» The locker room agreed that SAM linebacker James Harrison's interception with the Bengals trailing, 13-0, turned the game. But Harrison didn't know the name of the guy that made it 21-13 and started Cincinnati's runaway on his 24-yard fumble recovery of rookie linebacker Jayson DiManche's blocked punt.
"Who? Oh, No. 44," Harrison said of first-year safety Tony Dye, promoted from the practice squad 24 hours before and making his NFL debut with a touchdown to remember.
It was the first time the Browns had allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown since Sept. 23, 1990 against the Chiefs, when Dye was all of seven months old. His journey to his first NFL game Sunday was a lot longer.
Undrafted out of UCLA in 2012 because of a neck injury his senior year after a strong junior season, the Bengals signed Dye but an ankle injury suffered in the first week of his first training camp put him on injured reserve. He played in all four preseason games this year, got cut and was on the street for a few weeks before the Bengals signed him to the practice squad in the last week of September.
"A dream come true," Dye said.
It was a dream come true for Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons. A total of 17 points in that club-record 31-point second quarter off special teams. Dye's TD, a deflected punt by rookie Shawn Williams set up another touchdown and an Adam Jones 27-yard return with 20 seconds left in the half set up Mike Nugent's 41-yard field goal.
» DiManche, a rookie linebacker playing on all four kicking teams, has come close a few times to getting to a punt. This time Simmons called for him to loop from the edge up the middle. Simmons wasn't very surprised. He makes his players write out their assignments each week on their iPad and the past two weeks DiManche has written at the bottom of his entry, "Block a punt and help win the game."
"But this one he underlined it. He was going to do it this week," Simmons said.
DiManche said he beat Cleveland's top draft pick, Barkevius Mingo, its prized pass rusher. It was undrafted rookie from Southern Illinois vs. No. 6 pick from LSU.
"He had beat me the punt before, ran down and almost got in on the tackle," DiManche said. "I felt a little pressure to work a nice move and get some pressure on the kicker to force a bad ball or block it."
DiManche, enjoying his first punt block since his high school days in New Jersey, was surprised at how quickly he got back there.
"I was literally on top of the punter and I was like, 'Oh man, he's about to kick it,' " DiManche said. "I completely lost all my technique. I just stuck my hand out and slapped at it. We knew he was a little slower than some of the punters we faced. We knew we'd have an opportunity to get back there."
» Dye's effort was the first blocked punt for a TD by the Bengals in almost six years to the day. Running back DeDe Dorsey returned his own block 19 yards for a TD against Arizona on Nov. 18, 2007 at PBS.
» Ho hum, just another 15-day tackle for WILL backer Vontaze Burfict, the NFL's leading tackler. But this time he sprinkled in his first NFL touchdown when he drilled running back Chris Ogbonnaya on a checkdown pass, forced a fumble, scooped it up, and returned it 13 yards for the touchdown that made it 28-13 with 2:45 left in the first half.
Burfict said last week that Harrison continues to play at a high level because he remembers he was undrafted all those years ago. Burfict, of course, is also undrafted. He also has more than $50,000 in fines this season for his aggressive play.
Asked if he sees a little of himself in Burfict, Harrison smiled within earshot of Burfict and said, "Yeah, especially with all the fines."
» Another good line by Harrison when asked about playing for two esteemed defensive coordinators in Cincinnati's salty Mike Zimmer and Pittsburgh's laid-back Dick LeBeau: "They both care for their players and make great calls. ... The only difference is that Coach Zimmer has a little bit different language."
» Burfict just refuses to back down. He was drilled with his team-leading ninth penalty early in the game when he pushed back on center Alex Mack and got an un unecessary roughness call. He said he was sticking up for a teammate.
"One of our linebackers was getting pushed. I've got everybody's back on defense, and if someone's pushing me, they've got my back," Burfict said. "I retaliated and pushed him, and I think that set the tone. Everyone was like, 'OK, let's go. They want to play like that?' We stopped them, they got three points, and I think that set the tempo. If they push my teammate, I've got their back."
» Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green saw his club-record five straight 100-yard games end with the thud of career-low seven yards on two catches. Both of quarterback Andy Dalton's two interceptions came on out routes where Green was bracketed heavily by cornerback Joe Haden and friends.
Green sounded as if he were taking the blame for both picks and Dalton indicated there was miscommunication. Green certainly was well covered each time. He said both defensive looks were similar, with Haden getting help from buzzing safeties and linebackers.
"The linebacker dropped underneath. I have to go to the outside on that," Green said. "It's my fault, I think I could have filled that. He was throwing to the open spot. And I was thinking about wrapping around the linebacker. That's stuff I need to clean up myself. "
The second one, which Haden returned for a 29-yard touchdown, Green threw his arms in frustration as he trailed the play.
"I was frustrated. I saw the safety buzz underneath and I knew he was just sitting there because he had nothing to worry about," Green said. "With his ball skills and the way he breaks on the ball, it's all over after that.
"It's a tough road every time I go against (Haden). He's one of the best corners anyway, but they have a good defense and they scheme well."
Green had one catch for eight yards in the loss to Pittsburgh last year for a touchdown before Sunday's career low.
"My numbers are going to come regardless," he said. "I was glad to get the win. That's all that matters." » Bengals right end Michael Johnson always gives Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas as much as he can handle and Sunday was no different. Johnson had one of Cincinnati's four sacks, an interception and three tipped passes. Two of them were huge. One tip resulted in Harrison's pick and another came on third down and prevented Browns quarterback Jason Campbell's one-yard touchdown pass to wide-open wide receiver Greg Little. It was the first of back-to-back stands from the Bengals 1- and 10-yard lines that held the Browns to two field goals and a 6-0 lead instead of 14-0.
» Talk about a hot streak and a cold streak. In the three games since Dalton was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month with a 116.8 passer rating, he's thrown five TDs with eight picks for just 639 yards and a passer rating of 66.7.
» The boos started rolling after this series, down: 13-0: A tipped pass, a holding call on a run, a dropped pass, a checkdown pass, punt. And right end Michael Johnson didn't like it:
"I don't appreciate that, speaking for me. I don't appreciate it. Stay with us and believe with us. That's what you're here for (if) you're here to support (us). If something bad happens, that's not our plan to go out there and have something bad (happen). The negativity doesn't help. Stay positive, stay encouraging — we'll fight. They'll know we'll fight. Just stick with us a while."
» The Bengals are 5-0 at home for the first time since the 1988 AFC championship season...It's the first time the Bengals have three blocked kicks in a season since cornerback Eric Thomas blocked three field goals in 1991...The Bengals had scored 28 points in a quarter three times before exploding for 31 Sunday in the second quarter. The last time was nearly 24 years to the day in a 42-7 win over the Lions at Riverfront Stadium on Nov. 19, 1989.