INDIANAPOLIS _ Neither Chris Carter or Marcus Hardison knew that Thursday night's winning play had been fumbled.
And Carter caused it and Hardison recovered it.
But once Hardison saw it, that ball laying on the ground at the Colts 34 was all his in a 6-6 game with 3:54 left. Less than a minute later rookie Tom Obarski kicked a 28-yard field to give the Bengals the pre-season finale, 9-6.
"No overtime, no overtime," said Hardison, the rookie tackle, of what his thoughts were. "I was on contain . . .I was about to make an inside move and I saw it bounce. I just took off where I was . . .I just dove. I did a little broad jump. I didn't want to go to overtime. That kind of motivated me. That gave me a few inches."
The sack-and-strip gave Carter 3.5 sacks for the preseason and a virtual spot at linebacker on the 53-man roster that gets sliced Saturday from 75. This sack came off a blitz as the Bengals keep giving Carter more snaps at linebacker to complement his pass rushes from the edge.
"I was just trying to hit the quarterback," Carter said. "I didn't know there was a fumble until I got up and saw Marcus on top of the ball. I said, 'I'll take that, too.' . . .
Wide receiver Brandon Tate probably already had a job won before Thursday night. But after he led the team with four catches for 77 yards, don't tell him that.
"I'm just trying to fight to make the team. Hopefully I did that," said Tate, who also flawlessly fielded three punts and made a heady fair catch. "We'll have to see. It was fun playing a little more than usual."
That's why Tate is going to stick. He had the wherewithal to make the Bengals' longest play of the night, a 48-yarder when he and quarterback AJ McCarron correctly read blitz and Tate delivered a nice stiff arm to rack up some yards after catch. He just responds in every situation and head coach Marvin Lewis virtually gave him a roster spot after it was over.
"He takes advantage of every chance he gets," Lewis said. "He had a big run and catch against a zero coverage to set up a score. He just keeps doing things well. . . . Obviously he's been a valuable member of our team and he will be again this season.' . . .
The kids are pretty focused. Undrafted rookie DeShawn Williams capped off a terrific preseason with a sack, but didn't know he got one until perennial Pro Bowler Geno Atkins told him on the sidelines.
"I'm going to be on pins and needles the next two days," Williams said about his roster bid. . . .
It's a good thing Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still dropped those 30 pounds over the offseason. He joked it seemed like he played 80 snaps on Thursday.
"I put in the work in the offseason to withstand all those snaps," Still said.
If this was Still's last stand as a Bengal, he left a solid impression. He had a tackle for a loss and had a sack taken away via penalty, when Carter was offsides.
"The stats in the preseason don't really matter as long you get certain things on tape and allow the coaches to evaluate," Still said. "In that sense, if it was the regular season, me and Chris would have a problem with that."
He said it with a smile.