The Cincinnati Bengals have started their 2015 season with renewed confidence. The offense is soaring and on a level with teams that are considered to be the elite of the NFL. The Bengals have matched a franchise record for consecutive wins to open a season. But the Bengals’ defense has yet to be mentioned by many of the experts. The Bengals defense has been the catalyst behind more than a few of the team’s victories.
The shootout with Cam Newton and the Panthers ended in a tie, but the Bengals’ defense had opportunities to stop Carolina. Hopes for a playoff berth and win began to look shaky. Championship teams don’t have defensive units that allow those many points.
The Bengals’ defense seemed to right itself and played the next six games at a higher intensity. Through that stretch the defense once again gave up 107 points. But over the six game span, that was a more respectable 17.8 points per battle. The Bengals went 4-2 over that period and seemed to have the defense corrected.
Then along came Week 14 and a date with the Steelers. The Bengals’ defense responded by allowing 42 points. Once again, the defense righted itself and helped the Bengals make the playoffs.
This year, the Bengals’ defensive unit has turned around and the results are statistically proven, despite their rank. Through Week 6, the Bengals’ defense is ranked No. 23 but they are only yielding 20.3 points per game. The ranking is based upon yardage. When it comes to points per game, the defense has given up less than the Super Bowl Champion Patriots.
They say defense wins championships. Even though the Bengals aren’t ranked higher in all categories, their defensive execution is at a playoff level. They’re playing better than their ranking.
According to stats posted by SB Nation, the Bengals’ D line has been phenomenal. The return of key players from injury, and stints with other teams, has helped the Bengals’ defense become the force it was before Mike Zimmer left for Minnesota.
Carlos Dunlap has been a beast. He’s top in the league with 6.5 sacks. Geno Atkins is returning to form and has four sacks. That surpasses his total of three for all of last season. The Bengals defense registered 20 sacks last year. Through Week six, that total is already at 17. The overall ranking of the unit is lower because of a few nagging injuries that should be resolved after the bye week.
The play of Andy Dalton was a huge factor in the Bengals’ win over the Seahawks. Dalton was a calm and steady influence. But after a gut check by the defense, the Seahawks were shut out and forced to punt on the rest of their possessions. A few well-placed comments by Adam Jones helped get the Bengals’ defense back on track.
“I could see it in their eyes, motherf****** looking at each other. We ain’t got time to be looking at each other. We need to be lookin’ at what the h*** we need to do.”
Going forward, the Bengals’ defense will need to stay healthy and avoid untimely breakdowns. But the way they are playing keeps hopes of January alive.
[Feature Photo by Brett Carlsen / Getty Images]