How does Marvin Lewis do it?
“We just keep pumping them full of air and starches and fruits and stuff,” the coach said with a chuckle after the Bengals’ 17-10 victory Sunday.
Cincinnati got sacks by five different players and three interceptions, including Tory James’ sixth of the year. Carson Palmer and Rudi Johnson led three first-half scoring drives against the league’s top-ranked defense.
Injuries have forced Lewis to give extensive playing time to rookies Matthias Askew, Robert Geathers, Landon Johnson, Keiwan Ratliff, Madieu Williams and Caleb Miller—though Miller missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. Still, the Bengals (4-5), who defeated Dallas 26-3 last week, broke a six-game road losing streak and have won three of four.
The five rookies combined for 17 tackles, two sacks and three deflected passes Sunday.
“When we drafted them, we knew they could play football,” Lewis said. “We didn’t know it was going to have to be all right now.”
Palmer completed 24 of 39 passes for 217 yards with two interceptions and a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tony Stewart. Johnson added 102 yards on 31 carries and a 1-yard TD run. Shayne Graham kicked a 41-yard field goal to give Cincinnati a 17-0 halftime lead.
The Redskins (3-6) hit a new low in Gibbs’ comeback year, with the crowd booing from the opening drive. The Hall of Fame coach eventually had to relent to the fans’ chants and end his steadfast loyalty to Brunell, replacing the struggling veteran with Patrick Ramsey in the second quarter.
Ramsey started slow but led a late rally with a pair of scoring drives. It wasn’t enough to win, but it was probably enough to give him his first start of the season next week at Philadelphia.
“I’m pretty reluctant to make a change there. I felt like at this point it was the smart thing for us to do,” Gibbs said. “I know Mark’s disappointed that he hasn’t played better than what he has. I think we need to see if we can get a lift. In all likelihood, it’s probably good to give Patrick a chance now to see what we can do.”
Brunell was benched after going 1-for-8 for 6 yards and an interception for a quarterback rating of 0.0. He was 1-for-2 for 8 yards in the second half of last week’s victory over Detroit, giving him 14 yards passing over his last 3 1/2 quarters. He entered the game with the worst completion percentage in the league.
“It was really frustrating,” Brunell said. “On a team, you never want to be the guy to let the other guys down and I feel that way. … It’s tough. I haven’t had to face this before.”
Ramsey was making his second appearance of the season, having thrown three interceptions against the New York Giants after Brunell left with an injury. He bettered Brunell’s output with his second pass, a 19-yard completion to Laveranues Coles, and finished 18-for-37 for 210 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Ramsey was 12-for-20 in the fourth quarter, including a 9-yard scoring pass to Chris Cooley with 2:22 left to pull the Redskins within a touchdown. The Bengals then covered an onside kick, ran three plays and punted, leaving the Redskins to mount a futile drive in the game’s final minute.
After the game, Gibbs sounded like a coach who’s already thinking about next year. He spoke of taking “a measure of each guy as we go down the stretch here.”
“I’m not afraid to change anything,” Gibbs said. “I’m committed to finding a way through it, trying to build the franchise.”
Palmer’s first pass was intercepted, and two poor throws fell incomplete on the next drive. From then on, he was clinical, completing 14 of 16 passes on the next three drives to give the Bengals all the points they needed.
The Redskins lost their best defensive lineman, Cornelius Griffin, to a hip flexor in the first half. LB Khary Campbell had a knee injury. Both will have MRIs on Monday. … Bengals CB Reggie Myles left the game with a chest injury. … The Bengals, who entered the game with the league’s worst run defense, held Clinton Portis to 81 yards on 17 carries. The Redskins are 3-0 when Portis gets 100 and 0-6 when he doesn’t. … The game marked the Bengals’ first trip to Washington since 1991.