ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 18: Thomas Howard #53 and Jonathan Fanene #68 both of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrate Fanene's sack against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 18, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
As they say in circles around the NFL, winning an ugly game is always preferable to a beautiful loss; though sometimes during the game of an ugly loss, the two thoughts are indistinguishable. Much of the frustration from last week, if any exists, resides in Cincinnati’s offense. On the other hand after allowing only two of 13 third down conversions, while also holding the Rams out of the end zone when St. Louis reached the red zone, the Cincinnati Bengals defense stepped up. Secondary was improved from last week, containment was largely effective against outside runs and as the game meandered into the final seconds, a pass rush began to generate pressure on St. Louis’ quarterback. Onto our top five defensive plays from the weekend.
Geno Atkins Tackle On Third Down In The First Quarter
The Rams were driving to Cincinnati’s 43-yard line with just under 13 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Third and seven with Kellen Clemens in shotgun and Steven Jackson flanking his right projects an obvious a passing scenario. Cincinnati expected as much, bringing a nickel package into the game with Reggie Nelson showing blitz along with Thomas Howard and Brandon Johnson suffocating the line of scrimmage.
Geno Atkins recognized the pitch to Jackson immediately, colliding with right guard Bryan Mattison, but keeping the offensive lineman on his inside shoulder. Atkins’ position enabled him to cut upfield and drag Steven Jackson down from behind for a one-yard loss. The Rams punt.
Nate Clements Tackle On Third Down
After the Bengals took a 3-0 lead during their opening possession, the Rams began their second series from their own 15-yard line. And within eight plays, moved the football to the Bengals 25-yard line setting up a third and one with 4:29 remaining in the first quarter.
This time the Rams didn’t bother establishing a tricky passing formation on third down, bringing a standard I-formation package with nine Bengals defenders in the box. And one defender not in the box lined up over wide receiver Danario Alexander was Nate Clements.
As quarterback Kellen Clemens received the snap, Alexander cut inside for an inside block leaving Clements alone. Steven Jackson received the football on a pitch to the right, following pulling guard Bryan Mattison who targeted Clements. Though the offensive lineman pushed Clements down, the Bengals cornerback locked onto Jackson’s feet in the process (and staying locked on) until Thomas Howard and Chris Crocker finished the tackle. If not for Clements preventing Jackson from gaining a head of steam, it’s very possible that a back as big as Jackson picks up the first down.
Compounding the issue for the Rams is that place kicker Josh Brown missed the ensuing 45-yard field goal attempt.
Jonathan Fanene Quarterback Sack In The Second
Sure the Bengals were still winning early in the second quarter, but the appearance by now was that it’s going to be a struggle. During the Rams first quarter possessions, they moved the ball relatively easy and the Bengals offense echoed a season long chorus titled, "Holy crap, we can’t score a touchdown in the red zone". And with 14:13 remaining in the second quarter, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed a 30-yard pass to St. Louis Rams cornerback Josh Gordy. Consecutive Steven Jackson runs for a combined seven yards followed, setting up a third and three with 12:49 remaining in the game.
Jonathan Fanene lined up at left defensive tackle against, yep you guess it, right guard Bryan Mattison. Fanene didn’t offer a swim move, an arm rip or a swim around the block. Fanene didn’t need to. He locked into the guard and drove him back into Kellen Clemens, forcing the Rams to punt following the quarterback sack.
Nate Clements Quarterback Sack In The Third
With the game tied at three the St. Louis Rams lined up at their own 34-yard line with 2:10 remaining in the third quarter with seven yards needed on third down.
Nate Clements lined up inside the slot receiver appearing as a cover corner just outside the left tackle. But Clements made no bones about it, he was coming. And no one in the entire city of St. Louis, much less inside the Edward Jones Dome anticipated Clements would blitz – otherwise Steven Jackson would have shifted to Clemens’ left. The Rams were forced to punt following Clements’ sack.
Reggie Nelson Pressure On Fourth Down
With the Bengals holding comfortably with a 20-6 lead and only 2:35 remaining in the game, the St. Louis Rams weren’t dead by any means. At Cincinnati’s 23-yard line on fourth and six, following a Geno Atkins quarterback sack, Kellen Clemens takes the snap and noticed a blur of dreads coming down on him. Safety Reggie Nelson blitzed through the right side, unaccounted for because there was more defenders than blockers.
Just before Nelson drilled the quarterback, Clemens aired the football into the end zone that fell harmlessly incomplete. Considering that six rows of fans were closer to the football than any eligible receiver, the Clemens was flagged for intentional ground and the Bengals resumed possession with 2:33 remaining in the game and a 13-point lead.
Now they were dead.
What is your top defensive play?
Geno Atkins Tackle On Third Down Forcing A Punt (34 votes)
Jonathan Fanene QB Sack In The Second Quarter (11 votes)
Reggie Nelson Pressure That Forced A Turnover On Downs (29 votes)
Nate Clements Tackle On Third Down Forcing A Punt (11 votes)
Nate Clements Quarterback Sack In The Third Quarter (57 votes)
142 total votes