For as long as I can remember, Paul Brown Stadium hasn't been that big of a home-field advantage for the Bengals. Prior to their current eight-game home winning streak, the Bengals were 43-35-1 (.563) at home during the Marvin Lewis era. Of the ten seasons prior to this year, the Bengals had a winning record at home in only half of those seasons and only once between '08-'12.
Things have changed.
Cincinnati has an active eight-game winning streak at home, dating back to last year and obviously undefeated at Paul Brown Stadium this season. They've scored 40 points or more in four straight, with a scoring differential of 174-71 during that span with an average final score of 43.5-17.8.
"It's our home; we have to protect our home," said cornerback Adam Jones via Bengals.com. "You don't want to get disrespected in your house, do you?"
"Look, I tell everybody it's hard to win in 'The Jungle,'" Wallace Gilberry said via ESPN.com. "It's hard to win because we're like a pack of lions. If you watch the Discovery Channel long enough, you know how lions hunt."
OK, I got a goose bump. So it's pride, then.
"We knew we had to come out and show them that we meant business from the first snap," defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "We showed them that, when you come to The Jungle, don't expect to win."
Cincinnati's defense has been a huge contributor. But they usually are in mostly every narrative discussing Cincinnati's successes. During the past three home games against the Browns, Colts and Vikings, Cincinnati's defense has allowed opposing offenses to convert only five of 37 combined third down opportunities.
"Third down, you have to tighten up the defense, play the sticks, and I think we pressured them on third," Bengals safety George Iloka said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "That’s what it’s all about, getting off on third."
Geoff Hobson writes:
Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger could combine for just one touchdown between them earlier this year and on Sunday the great Adrian Peterson could manage just 45 yards when seven of his 11 carries went for three yards or less.
The offense has been equally impressive.
In three of the past four home games, the offense has converted 50 percent of their third down conversions. On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati went 8 of 14 including 6 of 9 with seven yards to go or more.
Quarterback Andy Dalton has been terrific at home this season, tossing 18 touchdowns, only five picks while completing 64.3 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 105.1. But over the past four home games, Dalton has played to a level comparable to any elite quarterback in the NFL, completing 63.4 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns, three picks and a passer rating of 118.1.
Make no mistake. The offense has been the supporting cast with the defense playing the starring role, who have forced four turnovers with two resulting in points -- Vincent Rey's pick-six and Carlos Dunlap's fumble return to the four-yard line.
"Sometimes we get a bead on when they're about to snap it because it's real loud. All of those things add up. I credit the crowd," Vincent Rey said of third down. "Based on the formation, I was dropping into my zone, doing my job. Everybody else was doing their job and that allowed me to see him kind of get ready to release the ball and I just did what I'm coached to do and try and catch the ball."
That's the defense for you. The star of the show.