Defenders like Leon Hall are a reason the Bengals have been so good on the road lately. Not to mention quarterback Andy Dalton.
The Green-Dalton Bengals have turned the Bengals from road kill into kings of the road.
According to Elias, since they came into the league in 2011, they have led the Bengals to the NFL's third best road record at 25-14, behind only New England (26-12) and Denver (27-13). Since 2012, only Denver (22) has more road wins than Cincinnati, tied with New England with 20.
And this year's team has turned blue highways into orange and black with a 6-1 record that includes the franchise's first win ever in Oakland and their first win in San Francisco since 1974.
The Bengals would like to compete the trifecta Monday night (8:30-Cincinnati's Channel 5) in Denver, where the last time they won, Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham was their right guard and Broncos Hall-of-Fame quarterback/GM/Rocky Mountain icon John Elway was a California schoolboy in 1975. They've never gone 7-1 on the road before. "It starts with the head coach," said cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. "I feel like he does a great job of motivating us, of getting us in tuned to what's going on."
In Marvin Lewis' first eight seasons as Bengals head coach, they went 24-40 on the road and lost some tough ones that cost them play-off berths.
Start in 2006 and the Christmas Eve Heave in Denver on the blown extra point in the last minute that would have tied the game. Or the 2-6 road record in '07 with four losses by seven points or less.
Now it is flipped. Lewis is looking at it with this roster and says there is a reason.
"How they play and how they approach is helpful. It's everything and obviously the players," Lewis said this week. "That's probably the most important part. You have a good football team that expects to win when you go on the road. They expect to win all the time. They're able to block out the noise, whatever it is, and focus on the task at hand play-to-play."
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was there in Denver in '06. He was also there in 2011 for the crucial October win in Tennessee that got them into the playoffs, in Pittsburgh for the Week 16 Wild Wild Card in 2012 that got them in again, and the three straight wins in New Orleans, Houston, and Tampa Bay that revived last year's Wild Card run.
"Experience,' Whitworth said. "This team has been together for so long and been successful and success breeds success. You look at the Seattle comeback against a great team. That was at home, but we used that experience to help us in Arizona. It didn't work out, but we used that game to help us come back on the road against one of the best teams in football. I think it's gotten to the point that we're not saying, 'Oh, that's a tough place to play.' Now we just go play the game."
Besides good players used to winning (and quarterback Andy Dalton can't be underestimated), the other huge road factor is the rise of the defense. In the last five seasons the defense has been ranked in the league 7, 6, 3, 22 and they are currently No. 9. From 2003-07, try Nos. 28, 19, 28, 30, and 27.
* BEST ROAD RECORDS / SINCE 2011 SEASON*
* New England 26 12 0 .684*
* Denver 27 13 0 .675*
* Cincinnati 25 14 0 .641*
* Green Bay 24 15 0 .615*
* Carolina 22 16 1 .577*
* BEST ROAD RECORDS / SINCE 2012 SEASON*
* Denver 22 10 0 .688*
* New England 20 10 0 .667*
* Cincinnati 20 11 0 .645*
* Carolina 19 11 1 .629*
* Dallas 18 13 0 .581*
* Seattle 18 13 0 .581*
"The reality is any team that has a great defense has a chance to win a game on the road. At the end of the day, if you don't have a defense on the road, you're in a lot of trouble," Whitworth said. "With our team playing defense as well as we do, that's what helps us win those road games.
"Even just being stingy with points," Whitworth said. "Look at '09 and how many times we got the ball at the end of the game with the chance to win after not moving the ball all day? That's how we swept the division. You get the ball in a two-minute drill and it makes the crowd irrelevant. It becomes a neutral field. Anytime you've got a good defense, you can stay in it and you've got a chance on the road."
Lewis has teamed with Mike Zimmer and now Paul Guenther, his defensive coordinators for the past eight seasons, to put out some fires by the side of the road.
"If you don't give up explosive negative plays in those areas and manage the game and field position, you have a good opportunity most of the time," Lewis said.
Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the San Francisco 49ers in week 15 of the regular season.