Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots had first-and-goal and the Cincinnati Bengals’ 1-yard line and came away with a field goal.
Sunday in Buffalo, the Bills had first-and-goal at the 2 and ended up with absolutely nothing to show for a 16-play drive.
“It’s all about attitude when you get to the goal line,” Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko aid. “It’s them vs. us. It’s your will vs. my will. We just put it in our mind that they’re not going to run the ball in on us. If they’re going to get in there, they’ll have to pass it in.”
The Patriots tried to run on first down and then threw two incomplete passes before setting for a field goal in the fourth quarter of the Bengals’ 13-6 win Oct. 6.
The Bills, on the other hand, ran Fred Jackson on first, second and third downs before trying a pass on fourth, which resulted in linebackers James Harrison and Vinny Rey taking down Bills quarterback Thad Lewis for a 1-yard loss, marking Harrison’s first sack in a Bengals jersey.
“The whole mindset is don’t let them get an inch,” said Rey, who also teamed with Geno Atkins for the first-down stop of Jackson and with Taylor Mays for the third-down tackle. “Everybody is focused and determined not to let them run it through their gap.”
Sunday’s stand was especially impressive because Buffalo had driven 73 yards for a touchdown on its first possession and then went 60 yards in 12 plays down to the Cincinnati 2 before coming up empty.
“Regardless of whether they drive 98 yards to our 1-yard line, we can still keep them out,” Mays said. “That’s kind of how the defense thinks. We’ve got tough players on our team, and (defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer) has a tough mindset.”
Four weeks ago the Packers had first-and-goal at the 5 twice in the first half and had to settle for field goals, keeping the game close enough to allow the offense to rally in the second half for a 34-30 victory.
But in the 17-6 loss at Cleveland the following week, the Browns converted both of their goal-to-go situations into touchdowns.
“We gave up a score against Cleveland that was pretty important in the game,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “If you have a negative, you have to learn a lesson. Hopefully you can capitalize on it.
“You have to have 11 people get the job done both physically and mentally.”
While the stops against the Packers and Patriots were big, Sunday’s stand against the Bills had greater significance when the Bengals took over and drove 98 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
“That really swung the momentum,” Peko said. “They had the momentum before that, and that kind of got us on kilter. It really made a big difference in the game. We needed that. It was a big stop.”
The Bills averaged 4.4 yards per rush on their 29 other carries, but on those three rushes on the goal line in the second quarter, they netted a single yard.
“Coach Zimmer’s thing is ‘create a new line of scrimmage,’ and that’s what we were trying to do,” Rey said.
“They needed half a yard and had four plays to get it,” Peko said. “We put our foot on the gas pedal and shut them down.”
Bengals (4-2) at Lions (4-2), 1 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 7, 12; 700-AM, 1530-AM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM