ATLANTA — The Bengals punt team trotted onto the field midway through the first quarter Sunday, shortly after the Chiefs had kicked a field goal to take a rare lead in a game.
All the momentum was going Kansas City’s way.
Then the snap landed in the hands of Cedric Peerman, who was lined up to protect punter Kevin Huber. The running back raced around the side of the line, the perfectly executed fake catching the Chiefs napping, and 32 yards later gave Cincinnati a first down.
New life, too. The Bengals would convert another fourth down on the same series, and Andy Dalton would hit A.J. Green with a short touchdown pass to cap it off, giving Cincinnati a lead it would never relinquish in a 28-6 victory on Sunday.
“It was a momentum-swinger,” running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said. “That’s the thing about the NFL — most of the games are decided by a few points. When you get a momentum-swinger like that where you punch them right in the gut, it swings the momentum going your way.”
Dalton wound up with 230 yards passing, including another TD throw to Mohamed Sanu, and also scampered for a score. Green had six catches for 91 yards, and Green-Ellis bullied his way for 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground as the Bengals (5-5) won their second straight.
Cincinnati plays its next four games against teams that began the day with losing records.
None of them are as bad as the Chiefs, though.
Jamaal Charles had 87 yards rushing for Kansas City (1-9), but that was the only highlight for a team that lost its seventh straight amid a gloomy backdrop at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Chiefs’ once-raucous home venue was only about half-full most of the game, and a good portion of those who showed up were dressed in black — a grass roots effort organized by fans who have been trying to pressure team ownership to clean out the front office.
“I focus on the game. I don’t get into the crowd,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said.
Perhaps he should have let his eyes wander.
What happened on the field couldn’t have put him in a good mood.
Dalton and Green shredded Crennel’s porous pass defense, Ellis pounded away at a front line that had played better of late, and a middle-of-the-road Cincinnati defense looked like an iron curtain against a Kansas City offense that has been utterly inept.
The result: The Bengals are back to .500, and eying back-to-back postseason appearances for only the second time in franchise history, while the Chiefs have dropped seven straight games in a single season for the first time since Oct. 5-Nov. 23, 2008.
“We felt like we gave a couple of games away,” said Dalton, who had four TD passes in last week’s win over the Giants. “Now we’ve got momentum and we’ve got to keep it going. We’ve had two great wins, full-team wins, with everybody doing their part, and we’ve got to keep that going.”
The Chiefs struck first for the second straight week, turning several nice runs by Charles into a 34-yard field goal by Ryan Succop, before reality set in again.
That’s when the Bengals pulled off their faked punt, converted another fourth down and then saw Dalton cap the drive with a 5-yard fade pass to Green, who managed to stab the ball with one hand and then slap both feet into the end zone before falling out of bounds.
Peyton Hillis fumbled on the Chiefs’ ensuing possession, their league-leading 31st turnover this season, but they dodged trouble when Mike Nugent missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt.
Cincinnati made it 14-3 later in the second quarter when Dalton fooled the entire Kansas City defense on a perfectly executed naked bootleg. The 1-yard TD run came on fourth down after a video review showed that Gresham had been stopped just shy of the goal line on a 10-yard catch.
The Bengals’ most impressive drive of the game came after they forced the Chiefs to punt for the third straight time, an 11-play, 78-yard masterpiece in which they faced third down once.
Ellis capped that one off with a short touchdown plunge for a 21-3 lead.
Matt Cassel deftly led the Chiefs to a field goal in the closing seconds of the half, but Crennel elected to put backup Brady Quinn into the game at quarterback to start the third quarter.
Cassel sustained a concussion earlier this season, and then lost his job to Quinn, who was active for the first time since sustaining his own concussion Oct. 28 against Oakland.
Quinn didn’t fare much better leading the Kansas City offense, and the Bengals tacked on Sanu’s touchdown catch in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“We did good things in all three phases,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We knew it was going to be a grind. We can’t worry about things around us. We just have to take care of us.”
NOTES: Bengals CB Terence Newman left with a concussion. Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (neck) and left tackle Branden Albert (back) also were hurt. … The Bengals were 3 for 3 on fourth down. … DT Geno Atkins forced two fumbles, had a sack and led Cincinnati with six tackles. … Cassel and Quinn combined to go 17 of 30 for 188 yards.