Just like Gregory Gall eight years before, Terence Newman put a charge in the Paul Brown Stadium crowd when he unexpectedly grabbed the football late in the fourth quarter against Green Bay and raced toward the south end zone.
But unlike Gall, the fan who infamously stole the ball from Packers quarterback Brett Favre in 2005, Newman didn’t have a security guard waiting to plaster him before he reached paydirt.
Newman’s 58-yard fumble return for a touchdown on a fourth-and-inches play was the crazy capper to one of the wildest games in PBS history that saw the Bengals lead by 14, then commit four turnovers and fall behind by 16 before eventually prevailing 34-30 Sunday afternoon.
“It was a great win to persevere and get through as many negative plays as I’ve ever seen in my life on a football field,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We learned some valuable lessons and survived one today that you don’t survive very often.”
After jumping out to a 14-0 lead before Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers ever touched the ball, the Bengals committed four turnovers on four consecutive possessions, one of which led to an M.D. Jennings 24-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
It was a stretch of stumbles that could have been fatal against Rodgers and the NFL’s No. 1-ranked offense, but the Cincinnati defense held the Packers to just two field goals after the other three giveaways and only trailed 16-14 at halftime.
“That was great,” Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said. “These are the games you live for. It’s easy to go out there and play when you’re expected to win. Green Bay is a great team, and (defensive coordinator Mike) Zimmer called a hell of a game today.”
Rodgers faced constant pressure from a Cincinnati defensive line that sacked him four times and hit him four other times. Rodgers finished 26-of-43 for 244 yards with just one touchdown and the two interceptions, continuing the Bengals’ NFL-best streak of 17 consecutive games without allowing a 300-yard passer.
The former NFL MVP got hot in the second half and led back-to-back touchdown drives to give the Packers 30 unanswered points for a 30-14 lead. But Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green with a 20-yard TD pass to stop the skid, and then the Cincinnati defense came up with back-to-back interceptions in its own territory.
Newman got the first, which didn’t lead to anything. But after Leon Hall picked off Rodgers at the 5-yard line, Dalton and the offense responded with a 95-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard TD pass to Marvin Jones that cut the deficit to 30-27.
Dalton outplayed Rodgers, completing 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Mohamed Sanu caught four passes for a career-high 68 yards, and running backs Giovani Bernard (10 carries, 50 yards) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (10 carries, 29 yards) each rushed for a touchdown.
But it was the Cincinnati defense that provided the final points. After a Packers first down was overturned on a Lewis replay challenge, Michael Johnson stripped Jonathan Franklin off the ball on fourth-and-inches.
Reggie Nelson picked it up first and lost it before Newman grabbed it and went the distance with 3:47 left in the game.
“I saw the ball pop loose and it took a nice bounce where I could grab it on the run,” Newman said. “All I had to do was run straight. It was just being in the right place at the right time I guess.”
Despite allowing Green Bay to roll up 399 yards of total offense, the defense held the Packers to 4-of-13 on third down and forced four fumbles to post a statement win.
“The defensive effort was outstanding,” Lewis said. “We’re a good football team. We’ll keep proving it. The Packers are a good team. If we want to be a good team, we have to beat good teams. That’s how you end up being a great team. We have good players here, too, and they showed up today.”