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Bengals defense setting historic pace

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If the Bengals keep the trend that they're on, they could snap a 35-year old franchise record.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being ranked seventh in the NFL with 17.4 points allowed per game, the Cincinnati Bengals scoring defense is on pace to set a franchise record. At this rate, Cincinnati will allow 278 points on the season, six points better than the defense led by Howard Brinker's 4-3 alignment in 1978; a group that set the franchise mark for fewest points allowed (284) after the league expanded to a 16-game season. If we include squads that played 14-game schedules, Cincinnati's defense held opponents to under 17 points/game four times, led by the '76 group (15.0).

Oddly enough, the record-setting defense in '78 didn't help lift Cincinnati beyond a 4-12 record, largely suffocated by an inconsistent and ineffectual offense that turned it over 49 times -- in five games that year, the offense turned it over at least five times; twice the offense turned it over seven times or more. Ken Anderson completed 54.2 percent of his passes, while generating only 10 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and eight fumbles. Archie Griffin lost six fumbles. Pete Johnson and Deacon Turner lost it four times each. Head coach Bill "Tiger" Johnson eventually left after starting the season 0-5, replaced by Homer Rice who would only coach 27 games, amassing a .296 winning percentage.

Cincinnati's offense this year is not nearly as ineffective as the '78 group nor are they as turnover friendly. Andy Dalton and company have turned the ball over 11 times this year, setting a pace for an eventual 35 turnovers. True, only two teams have turned it over more (Giants, Jets), but the bulk of Cincinnati's give-aways were against the Packers and Bears. Cleveland and New England forced two each, but that's more consistent with league averages. Plus the talent level is far greater with this year's squad, with four players that have made the Pro Bowl (Dalton, Green, Gresham, Whitworth).

However, this defense is entirely capable of setting the franchise mark; maybe not the 15.0 points/game record for a 14-game schedule, but keeping pace isn't beyond expectations. On the remaining games left on Cincinnati's schedule, the Bengals only play two top-ten offenses (Detroit and San Diego) and two offenses that are in the top-ten in scoring (Indianapolis and Minnesota).