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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

The Bengals? Hear 'em roar

Cincinnati is 4-1 for the first time since 2006 -- and if it weren't for a fluke deflection, they'd be undefeated. As it stands, they're all alone atop the AFC North.

October 12, 2009|SAM FARMER

The Cincinnati Bengals once felt like this season's unluckiest team.

Now, they're feeling like one of the best.

For the third time in three weeks, the Bengals pulled off a last-minute victory Sunday, winning at Baltimore, 17-14, to claim first place in the AFC North.

The Bengals are 4-1 for the first time since 2006, and they would be 5-0 if not for Denver's fluke touchdown off a deflection in the opener.

The winning touchdown Sunday came with 22 seconds left, when Carson Palmer hit Andre Caldwell on a 20-yard slant.

Palmer, the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner from USC, kept that drive alive with a six-yard scramble on fourth and one. He did the same thing a week earlier against Cleveland, tucking the ball and running in a now-or-never situation.

"They believe they can win, no matter what the circumstances are," Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis said of his team.

"We keep talking about that. Don't worry about it, don't flinch, keep playing."

Cincinnati's victories are anything but "cheapies." The Bengals beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field, knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and picked up a tough road victory in Baltimore against a team that swept them last season.

The pivotal player has been the cool-headed Palmer, who seemed completely at ease as he directed the winning drive.

"That was Carson in the huddle, being very confident, being very sound, keeping everybody calm," receiver Chad Ochocinco said. "When he talks the way he does in that huddle, with that confidence and that swagger like that, there's no doubt that we're going to go down and score."

The victory was especially meaningful to the Bengals, heavy-hearted in the wake of Vikki Zimmer's death. She's the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, and she died unexpectedly Thursday. Zimmer coached Sunday and, in the emotional aftermath, was presented the game ball.

A look at some of the other happenings around the league Sunday:

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Statistical surprise

The Steelers aren't stealers. Heading into Week 5, they were last in the league with just three takeaways. Although they had an interception Sunday, they failed to recover any of the Lions' four fumbles.

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Statistical surprise II

A week after they collected exactly zero first downs with the run, Cleveland couldn't do anything but run against Buffalo. Browns quarterback Derek Anderson completed two of 17 passes for 23 yards with an interception -- and his team still won! That's the fewest yards for a Browns quarterback since 1953.

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Statistical surprise III

In a 20-17 overtime loss to Denver, New England's Randy Moss had two catches -- one from Tom Brady and the other from Kyle Orton. He had a reception for 36 yards and, as a member of the defensive hands team, an interception of a "Hail Mary" pass at the end of the first half.

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Trend-buster

Cincinnati's Cedric Benson gained 120 yards in 27 carries against Baltimore, becoming the first player in 40 games to rush for triple digits against the Ravens' defense.

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Getting tricky

Kansas City nearly picked up its first victory of the season before falling to Dallas in overtime, 26-20. Clearly, Chiefs Coach Todd Haley felt he needed to do something special to jump-start his offense. The Chiefs ran a flea-flicker on their second play, and a reverse on their third. They also tore a page from New England's playbook, scoring a touchdown on a pass from Matt Cassel to linebacker Mike Vrabel. In his career as an occasional receiver, Vrabel has made 11 catches for 11 touchdowns, his first 10 with the Patriots.

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Boneheaded play

With his team down 35-10, San Francisco's Dre Bly intercepted a Matt Ryan pass and started to showboat on his return. That allowed receiver Roddy White to catch him from behind and cause Bly to fumble the ball back to the Falcons. Oh, to hear Mike Singletary in that locker room.

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What was he thinking?

During Seattle's player introductions, Seahawks fullback Owen Schmitt had the bright idea of taking off his helmet and excitedly slamming it into his bare head. Twice. That opened a nasty cut at his hairline and blood ran down his face.

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Quote of the day

Oakland defensive end Richard Seymour after a 44-7 loss to the New York Giants: "We couldn't stop anything. That's a bad feeling when you are out there and they are running whatever plays they want to. The third or fourth quarter I think they had their backups in the game and they were still doing whatever they wanted to offensively. There is no excuse for that and everybody has to look themselves in the mirror and say, 'I have to do a better job.' "

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Throw them back

In the competition for the most hideous throwback uniforms, Denver just retired the trophy. For their game against New England, the Broncos wore their 1960 uniforms: brown helmets, bright yellow jerseys, brown pants with yellow stripes, and brown-and-yellow barber pole socks.

Here's hoping these uniforms don't stick.

"Denver Broncos" has a better ring to it than "Bruised Bananas."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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