How Good Is The Bengals Defense?

Posted by Dan Hoard on December 3, 2012 – 6:50 pm

Going into last week’s game at San Diego, I figured that if the Bengals beat the Chargers, they would have a one game over Pittsburgh in the wild card race because there was no way that the Steelers would win in Baltimore without Ben Roethlisberger.

Admit it, you thought the same thing.

The Bengals were obviously hoping that would be the case.

“I saw it come up on the scoreboard during the game when Pittsburgh was down by seven and I was like, ‘It’s going to happen,’ said Carlos Dunlap.  “After the game, somebody told me that Pittsburgh won and I was like, ‘What?  No way.’  But hey, Pittsburgh is still Pittsburgh no matter who is the quarterback.  They still have a bunch of great players around him.”

“Pittsburgh has a great defense, and anytime that you have a defense like that you’re going to be in the game,” said Leon Hall.

The question is:  Do the Bengals have a defense like that?

Rivers sacked (440x297)

It certainly didn’t look like it in September when the Bengals allowed an average of 28 points in their first four games but managed to win three of them thanks to an offense that averaged 33 points in the victories.

“When we were struggling early on defensively, the offense was able to pick us up and vice versa,” said Hall.  “We realize that not everybody is going to play a great game every week, so if somebody is struggling on a certain side of the ball or special teams, somebody else has to pick up the slack.  That’s our mentality and really what it takes to be a team.”

The defensive repaid the favor in San Diego when the offense sputtered by holding the Chargers to two field goals on offense and no points in the second half.

“We went in at halftime and everybody was on edge because it wasn’t how they envisioned it going,” said Zimmer.  “I had to remind them that the Chargers hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown yet, so let’s just relax and do what we’re supposed to do.”

“Ideally, that’s not the type of game that we want from our offense, but we were able to hold it down,” said Carlos Dunlap.

While the Steelers rank number one in the NFL in total defense, the Bengals steadily have climbed to number eight.  During the current four game winning streak, Cincinnati is allowing a mere 279.3 yards per game.  To put that into perspective, there are only two teams in the NFL that are allowing fewer than 300 yards of offense per game:  Pittsburgh (259.8) and San Francisco (279.6).

“We got back to doing some of the things that we’ve done in past years,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.  “We were trying to be fancy and stay ahead of the curve and then we basically decided that the stuff that we used to do was pretty good.”

“At the end of the year, we want to look back and say that we were in the top five or the top three – really we want to be number one,” said Dunlap.  “That’s our goal as a unit.”

“Zim talks about it all the time – he doesn’t care where we started, he wants to look at the end of the season and figure out where we are,” said Rey Maualuga.  “We have four more games to develop as a unit and make sure that all we do is climb and I think that we can get there.”

The Bengals have already proven that they can win a game when their offense isn’t clicking.

“The defense is playing lights out,” said fullback Chris Pressley.  “As long as the offense puts a couple of things together, we feel like they’re going to hold them.”

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Bengals Grind Out Win In San Diego

Posted by Dan Hoard on December 3, 2012 – 1:00 am

Leave it to Jay Gruden to invent a word to describe the Bengals 20-13 win in San Diego.

“It was a ‘grindy’ game,” said the Bengals offensive coordinator.

Grind + ugly = grindy.

In this case, it was a winning combination.

Dalton diving TD (440x290)

For much of Sunday’s game, the Bengals offensive did all it could to keep the Chargers in the game.  A “Pick Six” by Andy Dalton…a costly drop by Marvin Jones…a fumble by Jermaine Gresham … not what the doctor ordered against a team that was missing four defensive starters.

“We gave ‘em reason to believe,” said Gruden.  “We shot ourselves in the foot a few times.”

But the Bengals defensive did not allow San Diego to capitalize, holding the Chargers to 297 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.

“In the NFL, whenever you’re able to hold a team without a touchdown – especially with guys like Rivers and Gates – that’s pretty impressive,” said Robert Geathers.

“The defense did an excellent job of not giving up big plays and keeping us in the game,” said Gruden.

Especially in the second half when five of the Chargers first six drives lasted for four-or-fewer plays.

“It shows the talent that we have on our defense and the opportunity that we have to make a name for ourselves,” said Carlos Dunlap who had two sacks and forced two fumbles.  “We just have to do it week in and week out.  Today was another brick and we’re trying to build a fortress.”

“We’re so talented man,” said Adam Jones.  “We just have to keep working because the sky is the limit for this team.  I just pray to God that Coach Lewis, and Zim, and Jay just keep doing what they’re doing because it has a positive effect on everybody in the room.  We have a lot of young guys that love to compete and everybody wants to win.  It’s a great group man.”

When 11:53 remaining, the offense was finally able to avoid mistakes on a methodical 14 play, 55 yard touchdown drive that won the game.  There was no gain of more than nine yards on the drive and the Bengals successfully converted three times on third down before Andy Dalton scored on a six yard run to give Cincinnati the lead for good.

“He had a couple of things that didn’t go his way, but man, Andy’s a trooper,” said Jones.  “He’s one of the guys that you know is going to give his all every week.”

“We didn’t play perfect and made a lot of mistakes, but that’s what good football teams do – they stay in it, they keep working, and they pull it out in the end,” said Andrew Hawkins who had five catches for 47 yards.  “I’m proud of all of the guys in here.”

Baby Hawk has every reason to be proud because winning in San Diego is tough.  And the way the Bengals pulled it out on Sunday showed toughness.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Gruden.  “San Diego was playing for their playoff life and we got their best game.

“That’s one of those games that we needed as a team,” said Carlos Dunlap.  “It tested our heart and we showed how bad that we wanted it.”

“To come here and win on the road is huge,” said Andy Dalton.  “It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to win.”

Who needs pretty when you have grindy.

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