The Cincinnati Bengals’ defense is a beast. It is a nightmare, with 22 hands and arms constantly reaching towards the opposition’s quarterback. Not only are the Bengals a nightmare to the guys under center, they harass and stuff those who venture out of the offensive backfield. The Bengals are once again the stingiest unit in the league. They’re on a mission to prove they’re the best.
After the dismantling of St. Louis, the Bengals have held a team to 10 points or less in four of the last five games. It is not outrageous to include the defensive front four in conversations that refer to them as being elite. They are playing at a level that exceeds any that analysts or fans could have expected. The defense is coming together at the best time. The playoffs are right around the corner. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther explained part of the success via the Cincinnati Bengals site.
“We’re healthier this year. Let’s face it, we were playing with guys who aren’t even on our team anymore,” Guenther remarked. “We’ve got better guys and we’re healthy. I don’t have to sit there and look at my coaches and say, ‘Oh, I can’t call this, I can’t call that,’ because it puts us in a bad matchup all the time. To me, that’s the most important.”
Since key players have come back from injuries, the Bengals’ defense has been humming like a Bentley. With the exception of a third quarter meltdown against the Arizona Cardinals, the Bengals defense has been playing Super Bowl caliber defense.
Players are feeling the wear and tear of a long season. Paul Guenther had the luxury of substituting chess pieces, during the Bengals’ blowout of the Rams. After the secondary took a hit in Arizona, he wants guys to be ready if it happens again. Carson Palmer was able to drive the Cardinals for 21 unanswered points in the third quarter of what many called a Super Bowl preview.
“We are going to have to use all these guys. It’s to the point now in the season where guys are dinged and nicked. We get in a game like that I tell them you are in a uniform you are going to go in. Down the road we don’t run into the situation we have in Arizona we have three DBs in there that haven’t played a whole bunch. It was good to see those guys get in there and go.”
Bengals coaches have been harping at the players all year to communicate in the secondary. Players believe that has translated to better coverage in games, and is a reason why they have nine interceptions in the past five weeks.
Those picks have also come because the Bengals’ defensive linemen are wreaking havoc on the opposition. When the front four are playing sound, Guenther can use more vanilla blitz schemes and leave the linebackers and defensive backs in place. If there’s no need to use more than the down linemen for pressure, he doesn’t need to draw up exotic rush packages.
Things are falling into place for the Bengals. They have a chance to show the NFL how good they are and show off a beastly defense that’s playoff ready. The mission is almost accomplished.
[Feature Photo by Gary Landers/Associated Press]