With the Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers in a surprisingly pivotal AFC North showdown, the outcome at Paul Brown Stadium helped to answer a true enigma. Who are the Cincinnati Bengals?
Like the stripes on their helmets, fans were curious which color is truly representative of their 2011 story.
Is it black, implying that their fast start is the mere result of victories over anemic teams and other NFL surprise stories (i.e. Buffalo)? Are preseason expectations that expected the failures of the young "Bungles"—whose franchise has two winning seasons in twenty years—only being disguised by a deceptive 6-2 record?
Or, is a new, bright orange dawn rising in Western Ohio, rife with young talent and a winning formula? Is the franchise simply seeing the benefit of removing players whose hearts weren't fully committed to winning in Cincy?
Similarly, while Steelers have proven their mettle in recent seasons, skeptics question if another championship run burns inside the veteran squad. Like Cincinnati, fans are looking to discover if the 2011 Steelers will finish more black or gold, stumbling to a heartbreaking finish or showing the mettle that has led them to three Super Bowls in six seasons.
With two top-five defenses (points per game) on the field on Sunday, the key to victory was decided by the offense that blinked late.
William Gay intercepted Andy Dalton in the final moments of a near comeback for the Bengals. While Cincinnati proved their mettle, validating their winning record, the Steelers showed their pedigree with a key turnover late in the game and critical win.
It was Dalton's second interception of the final quarter, the deciding factor in the key division contest.
The "Red Rifle" Andy Dalton once again spun his chamber and found his bullet—namely lead pass-catcher and star rookie receiver A.J. Green—who made an incredible touchdown catch that simply wasn't ultimately enough.
FINAL SCORE: STEELERS 24, BENGALS 17