The Bengals jumped out to a 17-0 lead and then held on for their second win of the season, dealing an all-but-knockout blow to Washington's playoff chances in the process. Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ran for one touchdown and threw for another, while Cincinnati's defense limited Washington to 280 yards and forced a pair of turnovers in sending the Redskins (7-7) to their fifth loss in the last six games after starting the season 6-2.
The Bengals (2-11-1) went 1-2-1 against the NFC East. They tied Philadelphia, 13-13, and lost close contests at Dallas (31-22) and the New York Giants (26-23 in overtime).
In a week in which head coach Marvin Lewis had to answer questions about his team's heart and if it would tank the final three games of the season, the Bengals gave their coach one of their best efforts of the season.
"The guys worked hard. It's a good victory for them," said Lewis. "We're going to work really hard to finish this thing off. And now we get to go play the Browns."
The Bengals close out the season with games at Cleveland (4-9) next Sunday and then at home against Kansas City (2-12) on Dec. 28.
The Bengals had been outscored 96-9 in their last 11 quarters of play heading into the game – their last offensive touchdown had been a 10-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Glenn Holt with 3:08 left in the first quarter at Pittsburgh on Nov. 20 – but the offense responded against the Redskins by scoring points on three of its first four possessions while the defense held Washington without a first down for the first 21 minutes of the game.
The two units were equally impressive in securing the win in the fourth quarter. The offense produced a 16-play, 41-yard drive that ate up 7:31 of the clock and resulted in a 45-yard field goal by Shayne Graham to give the Bengals a two-score lead, 20-10, while the defense forced Washington to kick a field goal with 2:20 remaining after Rock Cartwright's 87-yard kickoff return put the Redskins at the Bengals 13 on their ensuing drive.
Fitzpatrick got the scoring started with a 1-yard run on a naked bootleg play with 10:30 left in the first quarter. It marked just the second time this season the Bengals scored a touchdown on their first possession of a game; the other time was against Jacksonville in the team's only previous win.
"One of the things Marvin talked about wanting to do in this game was giving the crowd a reason to be excited," said Fitzpatrick, who completed 16 of 29 passes for 209 yards and did not throw an interception. "That comes with a fast start and scoring points. That turnover was huge and then for us to be able to go down and score was a big deal. It energized the crowd."
The Bengals increased their lead to 14-0 on a 12-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Chris Henry. Sunday was one day shy of one year to the date since Henry's last touchdown; he caught a 52-yard throw from Carson Palmer at San Francisco last Dec. 15 in a 20-13 loss. The touchdown capped a 94-yard drive for the Bengals, a drive that featured a 79-yard gain on a screen pass from Fitzpatrick to running back Cedric Benson.
It was the longest play of the season for the Bengals as well as being the longest completion of Fitzpatrick's career and the longest gain of Benson's career.
Shayne Graham added a 23-yard field goal to push the lead to 17-0 before Washington began its comeback.
The Redskins picked up their initial first down of the game on a 5-yard run by Clinton Portis with 8:30 left in the second quarter. The Redskins had five previous possessions which resulted in a total of 15 plays run, one fumble and four punts, but on this drive they converted good starting field position at the Cincinnati 40 into a touchdown.
Quarterback Jason Campbell threw a 10-yard pass to Santana Moss on a third-and-4 play to put Washington on the board. The Redskins cut the halftime deficit to seven points on a 23-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham.
Portis gained just 11 yards on his first six carries of the game but picked up 61 yards on his next 14 attempts. The Redskins appeared to be on the verge of tying the game on their first possession of the second half, mixing in Portis runs and Campbell passes to set up a first-and-goal situation at the Cincinnati 1.
The Bengals defense stiffened at that point, however. Campbell threw an incompletion on an attempted first down bootleg pass. Fullback Mike Sellers got the ball on second down and was initially ruled in the end zone by officials. Lewis challenged the call and TV replays showed Sellers was down inside the 1-yard line, bringing up third down.
Sellers got the ball again. Linebackers Corey Mays and Brandon Johnson met him as he attempted his leap, and then Mays stole the ball from Sellers as he reached for the goal line. The Bengals took over on the touchback.
"The D-line did a great job of getting penetration," said Mays. "We were really just trying to get the stop… Everybody was swiping at the ball trying to get it."
Crocker and Brandon Johnson each had 10 tackles to lead the Bengals. Cornerback Leon Hall had three pass deflections to go along with his four tackles.