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'Trust Me. I'm Going  To Get There': How Defense Came Up Big Late In Bengals' Win Over Seahawks  

DT B.J. Hill high-fives DE Cam Sample during the Seahawks-Bengals game on Sunday, October 15 in Week 6 of the 2023 season.
DT B.J. Hill high-fives DE Cam Sample during the Seahawks-Bengals game on Sunday, October 15 in Week 6 of the 2023 season.

The next time the Bengals defensive line goes out to dinner, which is probably going to be after this week's bye, B.J. Hill and Sam Hubbard are no doubt going to dine out on Sunday's last play in Paycor Stadium's greenhouse of noise.

How it ended one of the Bengals' more remarkable efforts in this remarkable three years of defense. How Seattle quarterback Geno Smith faced fourth down from the Bengals 8 with 41 seconds left with the Bengals hanging onto a 17-13 cliff and 66,385 making it ludicrous to try and hear.

How Hill approached Hubbard as the Seahawks huddled and called a 'T," stunt. Hubbard said, 'No.' He had owned right tackle Jake Curhan all day, hitting Smith four times, including that sack with 2:03 left on the previous fourth down from the Bengals 6.

Why stop now with the money on the table?

But when Hill told Hubbard, "Trust me, I'm going to get there," he had his man.

"So we ran the stunt we've been running together for years," said Hubbard, still sitting at his locker fully dressed 30 minutes after it was over. "I sold it. He made it through and we both got the hit. He got the ball out. We won the game."

A few lockers down, after teasing Hubbard for not showering yet, Hill explained why he believed.

"If you look at it, we've had quite a bit of sacks and hits from it the last three years. We already knew what we can do. We've done it multiple times," Hill said. "We already knew before they came out of the huddle what we were going to do. He just let me get high vertical and he's going to just read off me. That's all it was."

Hubbard dug at the ground like he was coming after the tackle Curhan again. But while he backed off just a tad, Hill shot through the middle of both Curhan and right guard Anthony Bradford as Hubbard cut right off Hill's back up the inside and hammered Smith just as Hill grabbed his arm and forced the incomplete pass to end it.

So you want to know why the Bengals are so good in the red zone and so good rushing the passer and good enough this year to get the Bengals two of their three wins when they didn't score 20 points? Good enough that everybody on defense got a game ball?

Beyond the film study that slot cornerback Mike Hilton brought to life for a red-zone pick on the first series of the third quarter?

After Hill got the ball and walked to the stands to give it to his daughter, nose tackle DJ Reader tried to explain it.

"We talk. We communicate very well. Everybody's got mutual respect for each other," Reader said. "So there's not too much yelling. There's a lot of man-to-man communication. There's not a lot of you stepping on my toes or me stepping on your toes. We talk through things. It was pretty loud, (The fans) did a great job."

They were so loud that Reader and right end Trey Hendrickson were trying to work their own little game on their side without knowing what Hill and Hubbard were doing next to them. When it didn't work, Reader immediately went over to check on Hendrickson.

"It's OK," Hendrickson told him as the ball rolled on the ground. "We're off the field."

Hubbard thinks that's where a lot of the success on the field comes from.

Off the field.

"We've been playing together a long time," said Hubbard of a front that's been together since the 2021 opener. "The defensive line goes out to dinner once a week. We've formed that relationship with each other off the field. In moments like that you trust each other because of the relationship you've built with each other."

Hubbard feasted Sunday with five of the 13 hits on Geno Smith, including a fourth-down sack with 2:03 left and Seattle on the Bengals 6. That appeared to end it until the Bengals offense went three-and-out in 24 seconds.

"I was like, 'I'm getting another sack.' We were ready to go. No matter how much gas you think you have in the tank you've got enough to win the game," Hubbard said. "You always find that extra bit. That's why we've got such a great D-line. Such a great defense. Nobody was going to tap out if we had to play three more series or whatever it was."

It was only one, but Seattle couldn't fend off Hubbard and the crew and he pointed to a raucous crowd that had Geno Smith resorting to the silent count that gives every pass rusher a slight edge. Hubbard also shouted out line coach Marion Hobby.

"Coach Hobby has been helping me with my pass rush plan the last few weeks and has really helped me," Hubbard said. "Know when to do what in the big moments of the game because you've been setting it up all game … (On the sack) you just consistently get off the rock and throw power and in the biggest moment of the game you hit him with a swipe and they're not expecting it, and you win the game. Can't draw it up any better than that."

Hubbard didn't want to get specific, but on the sack with 2:03 left it looked like he did a little bit of both power and swipe to shoot past Curhan's outside.

"He had a great rush plan. I watch him work week in and week out and his preparation is second to none," Hendrickson said. "He works hard, he's a great captain."

High praise coming from a sacker on pace to be voted to his second straight Pro Bowl. Hendrickson has been rock-ribbed consistent since he joined the Bengals as their richest free agent in history in 2021 with 29 sacks in 37 games. He's got seven in six games this season and he and Myles Garrett are the only defensive ends with at least 40 sacks in the 2020s. Consistency. During every interview he thanks, "My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," as well as his teammates.

"When you get sack, that's great coverage," Hendrickson said.

Hilton, the feisty slot cornerback, had such good coverage he came up with their second red-zone pick of the season early in the second half of a 14-10 game. Only after a good study week did he jump in front of rookie wide receiver Jaxon Smith Njigba at the Bengals 3. Hilton knew the route so well, it looked like he ran it as well, if not better, than the intended target.

Once Smith-Njigba (No. 11) went in motion, and not slot receiver Tyler Lockett (No. 16), Hilton was off.

"It was a route I've seen on film a lot. They want to get him the ball on wheel routes. I knew it was in the same area," Hilton said. "Once I saw the formation, I was expecting it. The motion tipped me off. They had certain motions with him in the backfield. It's usually been 16, so we know when 11 is back there something is up."

What's up is the Bengals are 3-3 thanks to the D-line dinner and some film study.

Reader was asked if this is the best defensive outing of the last three years.

"I don't know," said Reader, thinking of all three Ravens games last year and both Raiders games from 2021. "But it's up there."

Check out the best photos from the Bengals 17-13 win against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 of the 2023 season.