No one could block Geno Atkins (97) Sunday as he wrecked the Rams' plans.
You just never know what is going to inflame the other guy.
Rams second-year center Demetrius Rhaney, who made his first NFL start at left guard in Sunday's 31-7 Bengals victory, found out the hard way.
Here is Rhaney's quote as told to Jim Thomas in Friday's *St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"They're pretty good. But we practice against one of the best, too, every week. You got Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn. We practice against the best, so they shouldn't be too much to handle."
The Bengals' proud defensive line took affront. When the dust cleared at Paul Brown Stadium, Bengals Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and his line outplayed Donald and his line. Atkins' had the game's only sack along with two of the four other tackles for loss. Left end Carlos Dunlap had a big one to set up cornerback Leon Hall's 19-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"One of the backups said they practiced against the best, so we wanted to show them we were the best defensive line on the field," Dunlap said. "They gave us bulletin-board material and we responded."
With three tackles, nose tackle Domata Peko anchored the assault on Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley and they stoned St. Louis' best player like he hadn't been stoned since his debut. He came in fourth in the NFL in rushing while averaging 97 yards per game and had just 19 yards on nine carries against the Bengals. When Rhaney wasn't getting it handed to him, rookie right guard Cody Wichmann got it in just his second NFL start.
"One of their centers was talking crap about us," Peko said. "They were asking him, 'What do you think about the Bengals' D-line?' And he said something like, 'I practice against Aaron Donald every day, so I'm not too worried about them.' To us, that's kind of a cheap shot at us because we have some of the best guys in the league in our locker room."
INJURY UPDATE: Everybody who got hurt Sunday looks like they may be OK for next week's game in Cleveland. Tight end Tyler Eifert got a pinched nerve in his neck when he nicked his shoulder recovering a key fumble and he was originally called probable to return. But as the Bengals built the lead he was ruled out. He said after the game he can go next Sunday.
Also ruled out during the second half were linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (ankle) and backup cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris (rib), but they both looked like they were OK in the locker room after the game.
After he had a season-high 86 yards rushing on 16 carries, running back Jeremy Hill left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, but he also said after the game he was good to go.
SHOUT OUT FOR SHUTOUT: The Bengals offensive line offered a beauty Sunday in holding the defense that has the most sacks in in the NFL during the last four seasons without a sack. And that means the interior of left guard Clint Boling, center Russell Bodine, and right guard Kevin Zeitler held down Pro
Bowler Aaron Donald. Donald, who flipped sides during the game, came in tied with the Bengals' Geno Atkins for most sacks among NFL tackles. Now Atkins has the lead with eight.
It appeared the Bengals tried to get four hands on Donald when they could with Bodine helping the guards when he didn't have a backer responsibility. And if Donald lined up over Bodine and the guards could help, one of them would.
"The guy is one heck of a player," Zeitler said. "If there was (help) great, but you had to be ready when there wasn't."
The Bengals O-line, which had allowed 13 sacks in the last four games, posted its first shutout since the Oct. 18 win in Buffalo. It came against the defense with the second-best third-down percentage, so the best pass protection turned out to be no third downs. Their last two TD drives of 10 and three plays, respectively, never reached third down. The only third down on the first TD drive was a manageable third-and-three that wide receiver A.J. Green converted on a 14-yard crossing route.
"We had a great game plan. It was a group effort. We had to be on the same page," Boling said. "It was one of those things you had to do the best you can. Sometimes it takes two guys to block him and if you're able to get those kind of looks in protection and dictate how you want to block him, that definitely helps.
"It keeps them out of exotic looks," Boling said. "Anytime it's third and short, you're able to set a little bit differently, a little more aggressively."
DOWNHILL: Hill had his most carries since the opener and his most yards all season. Maybe the questions about what happened the rookie Hill, who led the NFL in rushing the final nine games, are going to start to go away. Mired in 3.3 yards per carry, Hill got off for 5.4 on Sunday against a defense giving up 3.8.
Hill said there was nothing different. But it was the most carries by a back in six games, since Hill had 16 in the Oct. 18 win in Buffalo.
"The offensive line played their butts off. They just got me to the second level," Hill said. "They got a hat on a hat. They just made my day easy for me."
HISTORIC PICK: Safety Reggie Nelson's career-best sixth interception gave him the NFL lead Sunday and it also put him into a tie for sixth place with Tory James on the Bengals' al-time interceptions list with 21. It was a big one because it came at the Bengals 15 with 31 seconds left in the half and prevented the Rams from cutting into the 17-7 lead.
"Probably was the play of the game because they didn't get any points going into the half," said linebacker Vincent Rey.
Nelson, who had five interceptions as a rookie, is making a run at the Pro Bowl in his ninth season. But, as he always does, he downplays it.
"My D-line makes it easy," Nelson said. "I don't do anything, I sit back there and save touchdowns, that's my job.
"I don't care anything about stats. Ask me about stats after the season. We've got bigger goals and that's what we're going to keep setting our minds to. It will take care of itself."
65 EQUALS TOUGH: The Bengals haven't lost three straight in more than three years. Cornerback Adam Jones, who had a streak of 57 straight games broken last week in Arizona with a foot injury, wanted to make sure it wouldn't happen Sunday.
"(I) wasn't 100 percent. When you lose two in a row, sometimes you have to suck up the pain and help the team out," Jones said.
Asked what percent he was, Jones figured, "Maybe 65 percent."
Cincinnati Bengals host St. Louis Rams at Paul Brown Stadium in week 12 of the regular season.