The Cincinnati Bengals passing defense didn't have a great game against the Atlanta Falcons, but the rushing defense was far more superior Thursday evening -- when Atlanta was foolish enough to run the football that is. And it was mostly the defensive line that deserves the credit.
On second and three from the Falcons 28-yard line with 14:24 remaining in the second quarter, Matt Ryan hands off to Michael Turner on an off-tackle to the left. As Turner is stretching out the play to the left, Taylor Mays comes up from his safety position and puts a crushing hit on Atlanta's fullback Mike Cox.
The impact forced Michael Turner to cut upfield. [Note: We've criticized Taylor Mays for his reckless endangerment but this is an example where it greatly benefited the Bengals but went unnoticed because it was Atkins that made the tackle]
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins was using his deceptive strength to keep drive Justin Blalock back while both men were sliding to Atkins' right.
As Turner redirected due to the Mays collision to his left, Atkins easily shed off Blalock's block to make the tackle on Turner on the four-yard loss.
On first down from Atlanta's 45-yard line with 13:34 remaining in the first quarter, Michael Turner grabs the handoff for a run up the middle. Domata Peko and Todd McClure battled, with neither moving the other. Typically that's a win for the defense, clogging the point of attack to make it difficult for the running back to maneuver. As Turner is crossing the threshold of the line of scrimmage, Roddrick Muckelroy fought off the block from Justin Blalock and collided with Turner. By this time Domata Peko fought off the block and put the finishing tackle on Turner for a minimal two-yard gain.
There's 9:29 remaining in the first quarter, Atlanta is on their second possession of the game. On first second and two from the Bengals 40-yard line, Matt Ryan hands off to Michael Turner to the right. Nose tackle Domata Peko made contact with Falcons center Todd McClure, shadowing the offensive line's side to the their right (Peko's left).
Eventually McClure's slide was obstructed because Jamaal Anderson popped Tony Gonzalez down-block, which indirectly picked McClure from resuming his block on Peko. Now the defensive was free to roam and his awareness picked up the back and the point of attack.
Peko cut underneath lead-blocker Mike Cox with an unobstructed view at the emerging Turner through the lane. Peko made the stop for a one-yard loss.
One the following play, two yards needed for a third down, the Bengals blitzed sending Thomas Howard up the middle. Devon Still, who replaced Peko in nickel defense, looped around Howard's middle blitz, targeting a developing gap up the middle.
You see the running back Jacquizz Rodgers lining up for Still right? So did Cincinnati's defensive tackle. Instead Rodgers banked to his right helping to block Howard while Still momentarily lost his balance anticipating a big hit.
An out-of-control Devon Still was enough for Matt Ryan abandon the pocket and scramble to the right. Jamaal Anderson had already held contain so the quarterback couldn't escape with Anderson, Still, Michael Johnson and Thomas Howard within three yards of making the combined devastating hit. Ryan eventually angled his escape backwards, finding the running back Rodgers near the line of scrimmage. By the time reception was made, Reggie Nelson was burying Rodgers for a seven-yard loss. Falcons punt.