In arguably the most stunning result of this past weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals exorcised their prime-time demons, beating the Denver Broncos, 37-28, on Monday Night Football.
And the best player on the field wasn’t A.J. Green or Andy Dalton. No, it was Adam Jones, who picked off Peyton Manning, had four tackles and returned three kickoffs for 134 yards, including an 80-yarder that set up a touchdown.
“I’m just enjoying the process,” Jones said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I think the guys upfront did a great job blocking (and) our coaches put us in good position. So it all worked out.”
The Bengals held the Denver offense scoreless in three of four quarters Monday, flustered Manning from start to finish. Manning finished 28-of-44 for 311 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had four interceptions, including a pick-six at the hands of Dre Kirkpatrick that made it 37-28 with 2:41 to go.
“I think Paulie G put us in great situations,” Jones said, referring to Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. “It just so happened that me and Kirk and Reggie (Nelson) were the ones to come up with the ball, but I take my hat off to the whole defense and the coaches. They put us in a great situation to make plays, and we just believed in ourselves and went out there and competed.”
Manning engineered three touchdown drives in the third quarter, relying mostly on the no-huddle offense. Outside of that, though, Denver had trouble moving the chains as rain drenched Paul Brown Stadium.
Scott Ferrall, for one, said he had never seen Manning get so worked over by a defense.
“I’ve never seen that, either,” Jones said.
Offensively, the Bengals did more than enough to win. Andy Dalton was a steady 17-of-26 for 146 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Jeremy Hill rushed for 147 of Cincy’s 207 rushing yards. In fact, Hill’s 85-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, which came 23 seconds after Dalton threw a pick-six, seemed to ignite the Bengals.
With the win, Cincinnati (10-4-1) secured its fourth straight playoff appearance. The Bengals close the regular season against the Steelers (10-5) in Pittsburgh this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET, with the AFC North title up for grabs.
“We got to make sure that we control the ball – let the guys upfront rush,” Jones said. “And no big plays. Try to keep the deep balls at a minimum and don’t turn over the ball.”
The Steelers beat the Bengals, 42-21, in Cincinnati on Dec. 7.
“We played good the last time; we played them to the fourth quarter,” Jones said. “We should have won the game, but we’ll be ready. I think the coaches do a good job of getting us ready every week, so I’m eager to see what (the game plan will be).”
Regardless of what happens Sunday, the Bengals are determined to win their first playoff game since 1990. Could this year finally be the year?
Jones said yes.
“I’m a betting man,” he said. “I would bet on myself.”