How many men does it take to fill Champ Bailey’s shoes? It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but to be honest, it’s a serious matter that doesn’t have an answer. Second-year corner back Cassius Vaughn and former Patriot Jonathan Wilhite were the two men who tired, and did a fairly good job of it.
There was no question that Marvin Lewis was going to ask rookie QB Andy Dalton to test the left side of the Broncos’ secondary. On the right stood veteran Andre Goodman.
Dalton ended up going 27-for-41 for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a QB who had only played one half of football prior to this game.
“I mean, it doesn’t really matter what I did. we had a chance,” Dalton said. We were in it right down to the end, but we have to do a better job of executing when it matters.”
The Bengals execution at the end was stalled in part because of Vaughn’s tight coverage and Wilhite’s sack that backed the Bengals up 9 yards. In the end Vaughn finished with 4 tackles and 2 pass deflections. To go along with his crunch-time sack, Wilhite added 2 tackles.
Vaughn and Wilhite weren’t the shutdown corners that Bailey is, but they did just enough to help their team win. In the end, that’s what matters most.
“No matter what our offense scores – whether they score 40 or they score three – we have to go out there and win, keep guys out of the end zone,” Wesley Woodyard said. “That is the name of the game when it comes to defense.”
Vaughn and Wilhite were relied upon to do their job just like Bailey is relied upon to do his. Fox’s system doesn’t exercise cover stories. It utilizes what they have when they have it.
“I think at the end of the day, when you have men, you don’t want to give them an easy way out,” John Fox said. “No excuse is no explanations; Be part of the solution. If you’re engrained enough, there’s a mental toughness in that message.”
“Next-man-up” turned into “best-man-up” Sunday afternoon, and that’s just how Fox planned it.