A rookie quarterback, a game on the line. No better time for the Steelers’ defense to get back to what it does best.
Grab the ball.
Rashard Mendenhall ran for a pair of touchdowns yesterday, and Pittsburgh (7-3) intercepted Andy Dalton twice in the fourth quarter, holding on for a 24-17 victory over the host Bengals and moving a half-game up in the AFC North on Cincinnati (6-3) and Baltimore, which lost at Seattle.
The Steelers ended the Bengals’ five-game winning streak with some vintage defense, something that’s been missing this season. Pittsburgh had only two interceptions and two fumble recoveries heading into the game, a stunningly small total for players who pride themselves on getting the ball.
They got it twice when it mattered most.
“We’re a great defense because of the way we play,’’ safety Ryan Clark said. “Turnovers tend to come in spurts. That’s what separates teams from being a great defense. Today, we were able to help us win it.’’
Ben Roethlisberger led long, balanced drives while thousands of Steelers fans waved Terrible Towels amid the first sellout crowd of the season at Paul Brown Stadium. Mendenhall’s 9-yard run put the Steelers ahead, 24-17, late in the third quarter, leaving it to the defense to close out the win.
First, linebacker Lawrence Timmons picked off a deflected pass, ending a drive at the Pittsburgh 33. William Gay pulled off the clincher, stepping in front of Jerome Simpson for an interception at the 19-yard line with 2:27 left.
Dalton had two touchdown passes, but also finished just 15 of 30 for 170 yards, and played parts of the game without rookie receiver A.J. Green, who hurt his knee in the first quarter.
Cowboys 44, Bills 7
A fully healthy Tony Romo guided touchdown drives on his first four series, Terence Newman returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, and host Dallas clicked in all phases while blasting Buffalo.
The Cowboys (5-4) scored their most points since Sept. 9, 2007, and enjoyed their most lopsided win since Oct. 22, 2000. No longer wearing a vest to protect his formerly broken rib, Romo put Dallas ahead, 21-0, by throwing touchdown passes of 34 yards to Dez Bryant, and 58 and 5 yards to Laurent Robinson. He hit his first 13 attempts and finished 23 of 26, setting the franchise record for game accuracy (88.5 percent). For the second straight week, he had no interceptions and wasn’t sacked.
Buffalo (5-4) lost its second straight and third in four games. Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for just 146 yards and threw a season-worst three interceptions, and the Bills were just 2 of 7 on third-down chances.
Bears 37, Lions 13
Chicago pulled into a tie with visiting Detroit for second place in the NFC North by winning its fourth straight game. The Bears (6-3) intercepted Matthew Stafford four times, with Charles Tillman and Major Wright returning their picks for touchdowns in the third quarter. Chicago also turned turnovers on the Lions’ first two possessions into 10 points.
In between the turnover binges, Devin Hester caused his usual havoc on special teams. He set up a field goal early in the second quarter with a 29-yard punt return, and then took another punt 82 yards for a 20-0 lead.
Stafford attempted a franchise-record 63 passes, competing 33 for 329 yards and a touchdown that came much too late for Detroit (6-3), which has dropped three of four.
Cardinals 21, Eagles 17
John Skelton threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Early Doucet with 1:53 left to rally Arizona in Philadelphia. Both teams are 3-6 after the Eagles blew a fourth-quarter lead for the fifth time this season.
Starting for the injured Kevin Kolb, Skelton threw three touchdown passes - two to Larry Fitzgerald - to lead the Cardinals to their second straight win. Skelton completed a 30-yard pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling on fourth and 2 from the Arizona 32 to keep the winning drive going. On third and 10 from the Eagles’ 38, Fitzgerald made an incredible catch and was tackled at the 1.
Skelton passed for 315 yards, more than double Michael Vick, who was 16 of 34 for 128 yards and two interceptions. Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson was inactive after missing a team meeting Saturday.
Seahawks 22, Ravens 17
A week after beating rival Pittsburgh in thrilling fashion, Baltimore (6-3) tumbled out of the AFC North lead with a letdown in Seattle. Marshawn Lynch got the Seahawks (3-6) rolling with an early 1-yard touchdown plunge, and Steven Hauschka matched a franchise record with five field goals.
The Ravens committed three turnovers, including two fumbled kickoffs by David Reed that the hosts turned into 6 points. Ed Dickson caught two scoring passes, the first coming on a halfback option pass from Ray Rice in the second quarter after Seattle had jumped ahead, 10-0.
Dolphins 20, Redskins 9
Reggie Bush scored twice and Miami twice intercepted surprise starter Rex Grossman while earning its first home victory in nearly a year. The Dolphins (2-7) ended a franchise-record streak of seven losses in Miami, dating to last Nov. 14. The Redskins (3-6) dropped their fifth consecutive game, the longest losing streak of Mike Shanahan’s career as a head coach.
Texans 37, Buccaneers 9
Houston’s top-ranked defense suffocated host Tampa Bay, forcing four turnovers and sacking Josh Freeman four times. The Texans (7-3), winners of four straight, also got two touchdown passes from Matt Schaub and scoring runs from Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and Derrick Ward. The Buccaneers (4-5) have lost three straight games and four of five.
Titans 30, Panthers 3
Chris Johnson ran for a season-high 130 yards and a score, and Tennessee (5-4) sacked Cam Newton five times and took away Carolina’s vertical passing game during a rout in Charlotte, N.C. Johnson had 174 yards from scrimmage and topped 100 yards rushing for the first time since Oct. 2. Newton had just 212 yards passing and the Panthers (2-7) totaled 279 total yards, 136 below their average.
Rams 13, Browns 12
With almost certain victory one short kick and two minutes away, host Cleveland found a way to lose. Phil Dawson’s 22-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left following a bounced snap, and the Browns (3-6) were booed off the field after losing to St. Louis (2-7). Dawson and the Rams’ Josh Brown combined for six field goals in blustery conditions.
Jaguars 17, Colts 3
Jacksonville (3-6) picked up its first road victory of the season at the expense of winless Indianapolis, which is 0-10 for the first time since 1997, the year before Peyton Manning’s arrival. The Jaguars finished with just 251 total yards to the Colts’ 212, but also got a touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert and a scoring run from Maurice Jones-Drew, both in the second half.