In the locker room following their 17-10 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, several Cincinnati Bengals were remarking about the long ride home they were about to take.
The overwhelming sentiment among those who discussed it: "Thank goodness we got a win."
Even before they arrived in San Diego, the Bengals were readily lamenting how disappointing a four-hour trip back to Cincinnati would be if it resulted in a loss instead of a win. Forget seeking out a playoffs berth, that was reason alone for them to make sure they pulled out Sunday's game and earned a meaningful victory.
Of course, by now you've read all about -- or even watched -- the way the Bengals used their running game to offset the pass, and got another inspiring defensive performance en route to the seven-point victory that pushed them to 8-4. Ahead of next week's potentially pivotal home showdown against the also 8-4 Indianapolis Colts, the win came at a great time.
Four weeks remain on the Bengals' regular-season schedule, and it's beginning to appear that a 10-6 record will be good enough to qualify for one of the six AFC postseason slots. The fact that three of Cincinnati's next four games are at home should help it get to 10 wins and maybe even beyond. After all, the Bengals are 5-0 so far at Paul Brown Stadium.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves looking at next weekend, though, let's quickly glance back at Week 13 and the storylines that came from this key West Coast win. Here are your Monday Morning Stripes:
Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com looked at Cincinnati's win through the lens of the offense. For the first time in a while -- some might even say this season -- the Bengals rode the physical play of their offensive line to a victory. As they helped open enough holes for a 164-yard rushing performance, including three first-down runs on the final, game-clinching drive, the linemen ended up being the driving force behind the tough, gritty, AFC North-style win. Before the game, Cincinnati's defensive linemen were expecting a true battle in the trenches, like the ones that often play out within their division. Little did they know their offensive teammates were adopting the same mentality.
Sunday's win taught the team, fans and reporters one other important fact, in Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty's eyes. It showed us all that as much as we want to dump successes and failures onto quarterback Andy Dalton's shoulders, he isn't the only one bearing that weight. Cincinnati's offense can operate just fine without him, and did Sunday. Even though he ultimately returned to a semblance of his October form by the second half, overall he had another uninspiring performance. Meanwhile, his running backs stepped up. There's more to this team than Dalton.
Before the ballgame, Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen caught up with former Bengal Mike Goff for this read on the current Southern California resident's take on his old team. Goff, who was part of coach Marvin Lewis' first team in Cincinnati in 2003, had plans to attend Sunday's game. Like a few of the other former Bengals who have chimed in this season, Goff has been pleased to see the transformation this year's group has taken, but he isn't surprised.