When the Cincinnati Bengals walked away from their heavyweight title fight with the Steelers, they owned a 16-10 victory. It’s easy to overlook the Bengals defense. They did their job and saved the day for a struggling offense. It was a typical AFC North battle that saw the Bengals defense rise like superheroes.
Going into the game, the Steelers had planned to take advantage of the Bengals’ weaknesses. The Bengals were giving up 4.9 yards per carry on the ground and were ranked at No. 21 in total yards given up. Cincinnati was giving up 370.7 yards per game, and that was a green light for the Steelers’ coaches.
According to Team Rankings data, the Steelers’ coaching staff didn’t pick up the emotion in the numbers they were interpreting. Even though the stats indicated that the Bengals were giving up hunks of yards, those numbers also showed that the Bengals’ defense was playing harder on the road. That number puts the Bengals defense in group with some very strong defensive units.
The Pittsburgh staff also didn’t count on the presence of Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Bengals’ bully was only supposed to play around 10 snaps. But when Rey Maualuga left with a calf injury, Burfict was pressed into action. That injury helped Burfict log 35 snaps on his surgically repaired knee. That’s the heart and human element the Bengals offered over numbers and stats.
When Burfict took the field, the Bengals had reunited the defense which ranked No. 3 in 2013. The group that sent shivers down the spines of opposing quarterbacks was back in business, against the Steelers. With Burfict in the mix and calling plays, the Bengals defense is a force to be reckoned with.
“What he brings is something we need for the long haul here,” said Peko, via the Bengals website. “It was great to see him back out there flying around and making plays. I’m excited for him. If anybody can come back so soon it can be him. He has the instincts, he knows the game. He just knows how to find the ball. He brings intensity. We’ve been playing well as a defense, but with him we can get even better.”
The Bengals defense will definitely get better and save the day, when needed.
The Cincinnati run defense was better than advertised for the Steelers. What was looked upon as a chance to run on the Bengals’ defense got bottled up. The Steelers did rush for 116 yards at 6.1 yards per carry. But DeAngelo Williams broke a 55-yard run late in the game, which exaggerated those numbers. Doing a little math and taking away that defensive breakdown, the numbers are respectable. That brings the Bengals’ totals down to 61 yards on the ground, for 3.2 yards per carry. That’s the emotional part showing up.
Safety Shawn Williams may have single-handedly saved the day with a pick of Ben Roethlisberger. It was the first interception of his career and helped turn the momentum firmly in favor of the Bengals. The Bengals’ sideline went insane over the incredible play.
On another occasion, an interception by Reggie Nelson gave the Bengals the ball at the Steelers’ 33 yard-line and the offense lost 17 yards, before having to punt. But the defense was producing. They picked off Ben Roethlisberger three times.
“That’s what the defense is supposed to do,” said Nelson. “Get the ball back to Andy and let him go to work.”
The Bengals defense did that and more. They saved the day.
[Featured Photo by Jared Wickerham / Getty Images]