Rashard Mendenhall ran for a pair of touchdowns Sunday, and the Steelers intercepted rookie Andy Dalton twice in the fourth quarter, holding on for a 24-17 victory over the Bengals. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts recap all the action from Cincinnati.
Posted by Ryan Wilson
The Bengals were supposed to be in rebuilding mode this year. Partly because they're always in rebuilding mode, it seems, but mostly because Carson Palmer had quit, and the team decided Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens weren't worth the trouble. And on defense, Jonathan Joseph, one of the league's best young cornerbacks, signed with the Texans during post-lockout free agency.
Which meant that Cincy would rely on former first-rounder Leon Hall and grizzled veteran (yep, that's a euphemism for "over the hill and not much left in the tank") Nate Clements.
Yet through the first nine weeks, the Bengals were 6-2, one of the best teams in the AFC, and atop the AFC North with the Ravens. And they did it with a rookie quarterback.
But as the old saying goes: It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
The Bengals lost at home against the Steelers Sunday, but worse than that, they were without two of their best players for most of the game. Rookie wideout AJ Green tweaked his knee on a second-quarter touchdown catch and played sparingly thereafter. Hall was left in the second quarter, suffering an Achilles injury.
Good news first: “I think it will be fine (for next week's game vs. the Ravens)," Green said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy. "It doesn’t feel too bad, just a little stiff. I feel like I’ll be back next week. After halftime it got stiff. I got on the bike and it didn’t feel the same.”
Now the bad news: Hall, who was on crutches after the game, had an MRI Sunday night. According to Reedy, his teammates feared he had a torn Achilles. And ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted that Hall had in fact torn his Achilles.
That means Hall's 2011 season is over and now the team will rely on Kelly Jennings and Adam Jones to pick up the slack. Hall signed a $39 million extension a week before the regular season.
It's a tough break for the most underrated team in the NFL, but winning football games is as much about roster depth as it is about having quality starters. We'll see how Cincy responds.
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