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3 things we learned about the Bengals

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PITTSBURGH — Vincent Rey looked around the Cincinnati Bengals’ locker room and smiled.

“7-0,” the linebacker said to no one in particular. “7-0. How about that?”

The Bengals remained unbeaten Sunday but it wasn’t easy as quarterback Andy Dalton overcame two fourth-quarter interceptions to throw for 235 yards and the winning touchdown, rallying Cincinnati to a 16-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

Dalton’s 9-yard touchdown to wide receiver A.J. Green gave the Bengals their first lead, 13-10, with 2:37 remaining.

Fifty seconds later, kicker Mike Nugent added a 44-yard field goal, his third of the game, to help the Bengals build a commanding 3 1/2-game game lead over the second-place Steelers (4-4) in the AFC North.

“Being 7-0 is great and being in first place is great but it’s always a great feeling whenever we beat the Steelers,” Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. “They are our archrival. It’s always extra special to come in here and beat them on their home field.”

The Steelers drove to the Cincinnati 16 but the game ended on an incomplete pass by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Dalton completed 22 of 38 passes after entering the game with an NFL-best 161.1 passer rating, but was intercepted twice with the Bengals trailing 10-6, getting picked by Antwon Blake in the end zone and free safety Mike Mitchell at the Pittsburgh 24.

“That’s the way Andy has always been his entire career,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s going to forget that and come right back and go to the next drive. He has a great demeanor that way. That’s one of his great traits.”

Green had 11 receptions for 108 yards.

The Bengals also had two fourth-quarter interceptions of Roethlisberger, who was in his first game back after missing four games with a sprained knee. Strong safety Shawn Williams’ pick set up the winning touchdown and free safety Reggie Nelson’s second interception of the game led to Nugent’s last field goal.

“We were determined we weren’t going to get beat,” Nelson said.

Roethlisberger was 26-for-39 passing for 239 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted three times.

What we learned about the Bengals:

1. Quarterback Andy Dalton has his share of critics for being 0-4 in the playoffs, but he showed some resiliency Sunday. Dalton threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter while trying to rally the Bengals from a 10-6 deficit. However, he bounced back to throw a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green with 2:37 remaining that gave Cincinnati its first lead, 13-10, as it went on to win 16-10 and stay unbeaten at 7-0.

2. Vontaze Burfict is ready to make an impact on the defense. The standout linebacker saw his first action of the season after missing the first six games while recovering from offseason knee surgery and didn’t miss a beat. He made the game’s first two tackles and finished with five as coach Marvin Lewis limited Burfict’s number of snaps while the fourth-year defender regains his conditioning.

3. The Bengals (7-0) are in complete control of the AFC North. The Bengals widened their division lead to 3 1/2 games over the second-place Steelers, who dropped to 4-4. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns pose no threat to Cincinnati, as they are both 2-6.

Etc.

–LB Rey Maualuga (calf) left the game in the first quarter and did not return. He did not make any tackles before being injured. He came into the game second on the team in tackles with 39, including 19 solo stops.

–DE Carlos Dunlap (shoulder) left the game in the fourth quarter. He had two tackles before being injured, raising his season total to 26. He leads the team with 6 1/2 sacks.

–OF Andre Smith (head) left the game in the fourth quarter. He was placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol.

–LB Vontaze Burfict returned after missing the first six games of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery. He had five solo tackles, including the first two stops of the game that his teammates said helped set the tone in the 16-10 win at Pittsburgh.

–CB Leon Hall (knee) started after being listed as questionable coming into the game. He had six solo tackles and two passes defensed.

–QB Andy Dalton threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter with the Bengals trailing 10-6, which was as many as threw in the first six games of the season combined. However, Dalton bounced back and threw the winning touchdown pass to WR A.J. Green, a 9-yarder with 2:37 remaining that put Cincinnati ahead 13-10. Dalton completed 23 of 38 passes for 231 yards. His passer rating was just 64.7 after entering the game with an NFL-best 116.1 figure. Even with the win, Dalton is just 3-6 in his career against the Steelers, and he was intercepted nine times in those games.

–WR A.J. Green caught the winning touchdown pass, a 9-yarder from QB Andy Dalton with 2:37 left, to put the Bengals up 13-10. He finished with 11 catches for 118 yards. Green has 55 receptions for 674 yards in his past six games against the Steelers.


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