Bengals vs. Bills: Defense hasn't seen a rushing offense like Buffalo's yet

Jason Miller

The Bengals defense has been given many accolades this season against some of the league's best quarterbacks. Heading into Buffalo, the question is, how will they do against one of the league's best rushing offenses.

Mike Zimmer was a superstar this week, a game-ball recipient after the Bengals defense held New England's offense to only 248 yards and one of 12 on third down opportunities. It's the fourth straight game that the Bengals have beaten a Super Bowl winning quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger twice, Aaron Rodgers, and now Brady), and it wasn't just a meager performance of opportunity; it was a shutdown effort that broke Brady's streak of 52 touchdown passes (second-most in NFL history behind Drew Brees' active streak of 54 scores) and the Patriots streak of touchdowns that lasted much longer.

Now the Bengals defense gears up for a much different offense than what they've been accustomed to.

The Buffalo Bills utilize a two-back attack with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller that currently ranks third in the NFL, averaging 152.6 yards/game. Buffalo is currently ranked in the top-ten in rushing touchdowns and runs over 20 yards or more. Cincinnati hasn't faced an offense like Buffalo this year, save for the Green Bay Packers who are currently fifth in the NFL. But realistically, the Packers are completely built around the passing offense with a rushing offense that breaks big ones every so often as a compliment.

"They've got two really good backs with (C.J.) Spiller and (Fred) Jackson, with quickness and the ability to get the football outside, so we've got to be really conscious about leverage throughout the day on defense," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis earlier this week. Jackson is 13th in the NFL with 309 yards rushing and Spiller is tied for 16th with 296.

The following chart is Cincinnati's opponents running the football, where they currently rank and how they did against the Bengals defense.

OPP Rank (current) Att. Yards Avg. TDs
Bears 16th 28 81 2.9 1
Steelers 32nd 16 44 2.8 0
Packers 5th 30 182 6.1 1
Browns 24th 30 89 3.0 0
Patriots 14th 18 82 4.6 0

Impressively the Bills have run the ball well against four opponents that are ranked in the top-eight against the run this season.

The following chart is Buffalo's opponents, where their opponents rank defending the run and how the Bills did against those teams.

OPP Rank (current) Att. Yards Avg. TDs
Patriots 23rd 34 136 4.7 0
Panthers 7th 33 149 6.0 1
Jets 2nd 25 120 4.4 0
Ravens 6th 55 203 4.4 1
Browns 8th 31 155 4.6 3

That doesn't mean that Cincinnati shouldn't worry about the quarterback. True, the defense has played well against established quarterbacks with Super Bowl, if not Hall of Fame, accolades on their projected resumes. On the other hand, the Bengals lost to the Cleveland Browns and Brian Hoyer, who made only his third NFL start against the Bengals. Buffalo promoted practice squad quarterback Thad Lewis to the 53-man roster and named the starter earlier this week with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel sidelined.

"We can't let ourselves down like we did against the Browns," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "We've got to keep playing at a high level like we did at the Patriots. Do our jobs and we will be just fine.

Lewis will be making his second start in his career.

"We've got a little bit of tape on (Lewis) there but any quarterback we go against the key to the game is stopping the run, getting to the quarterback's feet, getting him on his back, putting pressure in his face," said Peko. "With a young quarterback like this that's inexperienced we get after him, get all these different looks we can confuse him. I don't even think we need to confuse him, we've just got to get after him, attack him and get him on his back. I think we'll be all right."

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