Backup holds up as Bengals clinch
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — AJ McCarron's mind-set with a big lead had everything to do with protecting the ball and sticking with high-percentage plays.
His opportunistic defense could take the risks while the replacement QB mostly handed off.
Jeremy Hill ran for two 1-yard touchdowns to back McCarron's first start, and the patchwork Bengals clinched a fifth straight postseason berth by beating the 49ers as Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton watched with a broken right thumb.
McCarron threw a 20-yard TD pass to Tyler Kroft just before halftime for Cincinnati, which forced three second-quarter turnovers.
Dalton offered high-fives to McCarron with his good hand. "I was happy for him," Dalton said. "It's never easy to win on the road."
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones each made interceptions on balls that deflected off the hands of San Francisco tight end Vance McDonald.