Two concerns developing with the Bengals defense

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals defense hasn't been bad overall. But there are two areas that are concerning.

Should we worry?

That's a question that's burdened my otherwise calm and logical demeanor. Getting too high for a win or low after a loss tends to be counter-productive, largely because those results will be specific for that weekend. And in the NFL, the logical and totally illogical belief is that, what we know today isn't the same tomorrow.

After the Jets, we had the greatest offense in the history of Earth. After the Ravens, Andy Dalton was the worst quarterback in the history of the Universe. After the Steelers, the officials hate us and Marvin Lewis is so terrible that even Dave Shula is repulsed.

Post-game reactions are even more extreme.

But I ask... should we worry?

Worry about what, you respond to the knock-knock joke.

Have the injuries sustained by the Bengals defense finally caught up with them? Is the defense on a downward trend?

Since week seven, the Bengals have lost their starter cornerback Leon Hall, all-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, their other starting cornerback Terence Newman (possibly until the postseason), and before that, Emmanuel Lamur, Taylor Mays, Rey Maualuga (for a few weeks), Devon Still (for a few weeks) and Robert Geathers.

It's not an excuse -- teams aren't awarded fictitious BCS marks from subjective voters. There's always a next man up philosophy in the NFL, or else you don't survive. What happens when there's no more men to step up?

In the past two weeks the Bengals defense has allowed 51 points (another touchdown via special teams), generated only three sacks in the past three games and even more concerning, have missed 30 tackles against the Colts and Steelers combined. Lack of a pass rush and failing to generate tackles have to be the two single greatest concerns because they were the most reliable aspects of Cincinnati's defense.

Against the Steelers, Carlos Dunlap recorded a hit on the quarterback and two total pressures (one of which was the aforementioned hit). Michael Johnson only had a hit. James Harrison had a pressure and Wallace Gilberry posted the Bengals lone sack. And the week before that, the Bengals only totaled seven pressures and three hits on Andrew Luck. What happened to the pass rush?

Against the Steelers, the Bengals missed 16 tackles, led by Dre Kirkpatrick (4), George Iloka (3) and James Harrison (3). Against the Colts, the Bengals missed 14 tackles, led by Adam Jones (3) and a score of other players (11) that missed only one. Said with complete confidence: If this trend continues, the defense is in trouble.

Now when you really look at it, the defense allowed a one-yard touchdown because Kevin Huber bobbled a snap at the one-yard line; though you'd love for the defense to keep them out regardless, it's a difficult proposition. And the 28 points allowed to the Indianapolis Colts could be disputed in that Cincinnati had already generated a significant lead, therefore were preventing the big pass and allowing everything underneath -- it just so happened that part two of that plan (aka, tackling the ball carrier) didn't go as planned.

It's tricky.

Am I reacting unfairly because the defense has been placed in difficult situations? Or because a significant lead reduced the aggressiveness into "don't let them make big plays" philosophy?

Probably.

However, those concerns have to be legitimate. Poor tackling is becoming a problem (especially with Adrian Peterson coming into town this weekend) and the lack of a pass rush is affecting the successes that the defense has enjoyed all season. If Cincinnati is going to make a run into the postseason, this has to be fixed.

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