Back and forth, back and forth, that's how it went in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon in an interconference matchup between the Bengals and the Carolina Panthers. They traded touchdowns and field goals in the second half. They traded field goals in overtime. Mike Nugent had one more chance, but missed wide right for a 37-37 tie.
It was the first time the Bengals ended a game in a tie since 2008 (a 13-13 affair with the Eagles, the one where Donovan McNabb learned that you can in fact have tie games in the NFL). For the Panthers, it was the first tie in franchise history.
Adam Jones returned a kick to the 3-yard line right after the Panthers took a lead in the fourth quarter, and the Bengals then scored to tie things up at 31-31. That was essentially the way it went until the clock slipped under three and a half minutes left, when Reggie Nelson picked off Cam Newton. The Bengals hit a field goal and the Panthers answered with one of their own, sending the game to overtime.
1) Hue Jackson is one of the best play callers in the NFL right now. No A.J. Green, no problem. The Bengals' offensive coordinator found an easy workaround for missing their No. 1 wide receiver. Six different players caught at least four passes from Andy Dalton, including a crucial second-quarter touchdown catch by Brandon Tate. Of course, Gio Bernard made things much easier, forcing the Panthers' defense to stay on guard against explosive plays like his 89-yard touchdown.
2) That Cam Newton fella ... He scored his first rushing touchdown of the season, on a read option, and it couldn't have come at a better time, snapping a 17-17 tie. The Panthers have been hesitant to run their franchise quarterback because of his rib injury in the summer. They missed having that element in their offense, and it gave Carolina a big advantage on the field this week. Newton had a total of 14 runs prior to this game. He had 17 carries for 107 yards this week.
Beyond that, Newton's poise was impressive throughout the game ... what are pundits going to complain about with Cam if he keeps playing like this?
3) Under pressure. The Panthers' defense just can't seem to get the kind of pressure on passers that they did last year, and the secondary was exposed because of it. Carolina's defensive backs struggled in zone and man coverage, and Andy Dalton had more than enough time to find his men down the field. Obviously, they're missing Greg Hardy. Charles Johnson's struggling to produce, partly because Hardy's not on the field and partly because he's dealing with a hip issue.
The Bengals' defense was no great shakes either, especially when it came to generating pressure, whether they were blitzing or not. Cincinnati's defense has now given up 80 points in its last two games.