Bengals notebook: Defense delivers huge plays

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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David Kohl | Associated Press
A fan holds a sign supporting Bengals punter Kevin Huber, who suffered jaw and neck injuries last week against Pittsburgh.

CINCINNATI — The Bengals scored nearly as many touchdowns on defense in their victory yesterday as the opposing Minnesota Vikings did on offense.

Linebacker Vincent Rey scored on a 25-yard interception return that gave the Bengals a 14-point cushion five minutes into the second quarter, and Minnesota never threatened after that, losing 42-14.

“It was a huge play in the game,” Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. “It changed the momentum of the game back in our favor.”

Shortly before the play, Rey frantically made a motion to signal a certain defensive coverage, and he then cut forward to pick off the short pass thrown by Matt Cassel.

“I had an idea of what they were going to do just because of film study,” Rey said.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap thought he knew what he was going to do less than two minutes into the game, when he picked up a fumble by Cassel.

With open field in front of him, Dunlap anticipated scoring a touchdown.

Instead, after gaining 42 yards, Dunlap was tackled at Minnesota’s 4-yard line by running back Toby Gerhart.

“I started celebrating too soon,” Dunlap said. “That’s what happened. I wasn’t running the whole time. I’ll never let that happen again.”

Two plays later, the Bengals capitalized on the turnover with a 4-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

So instead of two defensive scores, Cincinnati settled for one, which left Dunlap hearing good-natured ribbing from his teammates. “I got a lot of it,” he said, “because I’m always talking crap to them.”

Disaster free

Unlike the previous week in a 30-20 loss at Pittsburgh, the Bengals didn’t suffer any mishaps on punt plays yesterday despite having to use a punter they had signed only five days earlier.

Free agent Shawn Powell, 25, was signed by Cincinnati as emergency punter and holder in place of an injured Kevin Huber.

Powell had been out of the NFL and home in Knoxville, Tenn. The second-year player out of Florida State had been cut by the Buffalo Bills following a poor performance in a game at Cleveland on Oct. 3.

Powell punted four times yesterday for a net average of 34.5 yards.

“Shawn did what he needed to do today,” Lewis said.

Huber’s net punting average of 40.5 yards was eighth-best in the NFL when he was lost for the season after suffering a broken jaw and broken bone in his neck on a hit by Pittsburgh’s Terence Garvin. The NFL fined Garvin, a rookie linebacker, $25,000 for an illegal helmet hit on a defenseless player.

The injury to Huber occurred on a block as Antonio Brown returned a punt 67 yards for a Pittsburgh touchdown.

Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels entered yesterday’s game with the NFL’s third-best punt return average. He returned only one of Powell’s punts and gained 22 yards.

Cincinnati’s kickoff coverage proved to be poor yesterday, allowing 26.3 yards on six returns. Minnesota’s Cordarrelle Patterson took the game’s opening kick for 48 yards and averaged 35.8 yards on his four returns.

“We’ve definitely got to play better on special teams,” said Adam Jones, a member of Cincinnati’s coverage units. “They had too many yards this game.”

By the numbers

The four touchdown passes thrown by Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton gave him a career-high 31 this season. He’s one short of Carson Palmer’s team record, set in 2005. … Receiver A. J. Green enters the regular-season finale with 1,365 receiving . He is 75 yards short of Chad Johnson’s team record, set in the 2007 season. … Lewis is 16-7 at home in December, including 12-3 since 2007. … Dalton is 9-5 in December games. … Cincinnati is 4-0 this season when playing at home following a road loss.

tjones@dispatch.com

@Todd_Jones

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