The Bengals' defense scored the team's only touchdown and rattled QB Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers into enough mistakes to send Cincinnati to the playoffs for the second consecutive season in one of the biggest victories of the Marvin Lewis era.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau stacked the box to eliminate the run and force Andy Dalton to beat him downfield. BenJarvus Green-Ellis could only squeak out 14 yards on 15 carries. With the outcome resting on the arm of Dalton, he missed enough throws to keep the game in jeopardy. That is, until the Bengals lined up at the 46-yard line with 14 seconds left and he threw a perfect strike to A.J. Green for 21 yards to set up the game-winning Josh Brown field goal. Dalton finished 24 of 41 for 278 yards and two picks, but he made the throw when he had to -- the biggest of his career to this point. That's all that mattered on this day. Previous game's grade: D
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Outside of Adam Jones biting on an Antonio Brown double move for a 60-yard touchdown, the Bengals defense was nearly flawless. DT Geno Atkins whipped first-round pick David DeCastro all day to the tune of 2.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QB hits and six tackles. Leon Hall's pick-6 amounted to Cincinnati's only TD of the game and Reggie Nelson's INT set up the game-winning throw, catch and kick. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer deserves the game ball, and somebody should give him a head coaching gig while we're at it. Previous game's grade: B
Special Teams: B+
Punter Kevin Huber owned the hidden yards game, averaging 52.7 yards per punt with four of his six kicks landing inside the 20. And inevitiably, K Josh Brown connecting from 43 yards won the game. When special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons tried out three kickers to replace injured Mike Nugent three weeks ago, Brown's history of hitting clutch kicks was his deciding factor. It proved prophetic, even if Brown didn't have enough leg from 56 earlier in the fourth quarter. The day wasn't flawless, with Jason Allen's costly holding penalty on a long Adam Jones return turning into a 72-yard penalty. Previous game's grade: B
The good, the bad and the ugly in this category. The good was Zimmer, whose gameplan to keep corners on Heath Miller allowed Hall to anticipate his interception for a touchdown. The bad was offensive coordinator Jay Gruden being unable to find success on third downs, where the Bengals were 4 of 15 on the day. Then, the ugly, which was Marvin Lewis deciding to go for it on fourth-and-22 from the Steelers 33, but kicked a 56-yard field goal in the fourth quarter instead of punting. He admitted after the game his defense "bailed my butt out." There would be no doubt about that. This win came in spite of Lewis' decisions. At the end of the day, thanks to the genius of Zimmer, Cincinnati earned its first win over either Pittsburgh or Baltimore in 10 games. Previous game's grade: B+
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