The Bengals gave their most complete effort of the young season Sunday with the home win over the Chiefs while stretching their hot start to 4-0.
While they looked better in the second half after leading by just two at the break, coach Marvin Lewis was pleased with the overall effort.
"I was pleased with what we did in the second half. We came out and got the stop on defense, and got rolling on offense," Lewis said. "We were able to put the ball in, and got it back up to a two-score lead. That’s the first time this season that we’ve been able to do that."
Lewis said it's something more to build on as the team prepares to defend its unbeaten status going forward.
“It’s probably our best," Lewis said as he ticked off the reasons why he pleased with the defense. "Offensively, they present some issues and problems with the running back (Jamaal Charles). Their receiver (Jeremy Maclin) is a good player. Their tight end (Travis Kelce) is a good player, and their quarterback (Alex Smith) played a good game for them today. He was smart and completed the ball underneath. We were able to stop them and hold them to field goals in those situations and not panic."
Kelce, making a homecoming of sorts after playing collegiately at the University of Cincinnati, was involved in a key play of the game when he lost a fumble. Defensive end Michael Johnson put the kibosh on a type of screen pass that the Bengals are seeing with greater frequency by stripping the football.
Safety Reggie Nelson recovered, returning the fumble 25 yards to the Chiefs' 5-yard line. It led to a Jeremy Hill touchdown and a 29-15 Bengals lead with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. Johnson also had a sack on the day, one of five times the Bengals got to Smith.
“The fumble was a big play for us. It was a wide-receiver screen — the “shield" — which is the en vogue play right now," Lewis said. "It was a good job by Michael hustling inside-out. I believe he probably had the coverage on the play. So, it was a good job by him.”
The five sacks were a team season-high.
“We’ve had a good start to the season, the first four football games," the coach said. "We’ve gotten pressure in each game, whether it be with pressures or four-man, three-man, five-man, six-man, we did a good job today. We’ve just got to keep it up. Everybody has to work together — rush and coverage has to work together all the time.”
Nothing, however, could upstage the Bengals' red zone defense.
“You get a little shorter and tighter windows when the ball gets down in there, so when those tighter windows and tighter passes happen, you’ve got to do that," Lewis said of the defensive stands that yielded three points instead of seven. "The field shrinks a little bit, and the defense gains a little bit of an advantage when you get down in there.”
The coach also was thankful that the team pulled out of an early second-half snooze.
“That lull through the third quarter, we were able to get out of it. There was a big stop by the defense on that drive to hold them to a field goal," Lewis said. "We had different things occur. That was a big stop, when we held them to a field goal there in the fourth quarter. It was huge. They got the ball down in there, we were able to get some pressure, get the ball out of his hand and make some tackles.”