Despite generating eight quarterback sacks in the final two regular season games, the Cincinnati Bengals finished third in the NFL with a franchise-setting 51 quarterback sacks this season. Led by Geno Atkins (12.5) and Michael Johnson (11.5), the Bengals defensive front generated 42 of the team's 51 sacks, which is better than the complete sack totals of 25 other teams.
It's a major reason for Cincinnati's defensive successes during the season's final eight games, allowing only 282 yards per game to the opposing offense and 12.8 points allowed, generating at least four sacks in six contests.
And the Houston Texans are aware of this, writes Drew Dougherty of Houstontexans.com.
"They're really good," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "I think sixth in the league, giving up 12 points a game in the back half of the season. Boy, that's incredible in the National Football League. They've got an excellent front. They're playing extremely well. I guess you're sitting there holding people to 12 points a game, that's exceptional."
Texans Pro Bowl offensive tackle Duane Brown, who allowed four quarterback sacks and 11 pressures this season and the task of containing Michael Johnson this weekend, knows it's the biggest challenge facing Houston.
"I'm very familiar with them," left tackle Duane Brown said. "Most of them are the same guys they had last year. They're relentless guys, very strong. They're really good at pressing the pocket if they can't get to the quarterback. They present a huge challenge for us. The good thing about it is we're very familiar with them. We faced them twice last year so we know exactly what they bring to the table."
Offensive guard Wade Smith, who will square-up against the league's best defensive tackle, knows what's in-store against Geno Atkins.
"He's really strong," Smith said. "He plays through the whistle. He's deceptively quick. There aren't many guards I see him going against that he doesn't get push when he bull rushes."
The defensive line features three players that won defensive player of the week awards this season, with Michael Johnson (Week Three), Carlos Dunlap (Week 13) and Geno Atkins (Week 16) taking home the award.
Houston has allowed 13 quarterback sacks in the past four games.