For much of his time in Southwest Ohio, second-year Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has been lamented by fans for one of two reasons: Either he's been injured too much for their liking, or he has failed to play up to the high expectations that come with being a product of the University of Alabama machine.
This week, there isn't much lamenting of Kirkpatrick. That's because, after appearing on just two defensive snaps, he ended up placing his first career interception in his statistics line.
Halfway through the third quarter of Sunday's game at San Diego, Kirkpatrick ended up picking off a Philip Rivers pass intended for tight end Antonio Gates. It appeared Gates caught the ball, but Kirkpatrick ripped it right from Gates as they both went to the turf. Officials ruled it a turnover.
At the time, the play helped preserve a 7-7 tie and ended up giving the Bengals' offense the football just outside the red zone. Ten plays later, after a pair of Chargers defensive backs got confused by a crossing route at the line of scrimmage, Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green got wide open in the middle of the field, giving quarterback Andy Dalton a clear window to deliver a 21-yard touchdown pass. The score ended up being all the points the Bengals would need, as they went on to win 17-10.
Kirkpatrick may not have been on the field much defensively -- most of his day was spent on special teams -- but when he was out there, he took full advantage.
We'll have a little more on Kirkpatrick here on the ESPN NFL Nation Bengals blog later in the week, but for now, we'll kick off the Tuesday Morning Stripes with a look at him through the eyes of another reporter:
Geoff Hobson covers the team for Bengals.com, and here's his look at Kirkpatrick's meaningful day, and what it meant to him to have been given the ball he intercepted.
In its daily "Walkthrough" blog, the Cincinnati Enquirer looked at where the AFC North and AFC postseason picture stood as of Monday. Now 13 weeks into the season, the Bengals still hold the division lead and remained the No. 4 seed after New England survived a scare, and Indianapolis eked out a win of its own Sunday. The Bengals have a key conference game against the Colts this weekend in Cincinnati. A win, combined with a Patriots loss, could bump the Bengals all the way into the No. 2 seed. They would then have tiebreakers over the Patriots and Colts. ... Also, be sure to visit ESPN's Playoff Machine. This interactive link allows you to play out a host of postseason scenarios with a click of a mouse.
Here's another item we'll have a little more on later this week, as well, but from Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen, this is a look at how Cincinnati's defense has shut down yet another quality passer. Aaron Rodgers, check. Tom Brady, check. Rivers, check. Entering Sunday's game, Rivers had been averaging more than 300 yards passing. He fell nearly 50 yards short of the 300-yard mark against the Bengals. Cincinnati's knack for stopping big-name passers has to impress the rest of the league. After all, 25 times in the last 26 games, opposing quarterbacks have been held to under 300 yards passing.
Finally, with the pass defense game performing well, the Bengals are looking like they are getting a running game re-established, too. The two-headed tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard have started turning a corner the past two games, even if neither one of them has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game this season. That doesn't matter so much since the team's benchmark for rushing success is a combined 150 yards on the ground. The pair hit that Sunday for just the third time all year. Here's a read on the backs from the Associated Press' Joe Kay.