It's third-and-eight from the Bengals 19-yard line with 10:07 remaining in the second quarter. Baltimore is preparing for their ninth play of the possession already down by a touchdown. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco takes the shotgun snap, pump fakes and then scans. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins loops around Carlos Dunlap in an "X-stunt" -- Dunlap goes inside. Atkins was picked up by running back Justin Forsett, creating a favorable matchup. Cincinnati's secondary has the coverage, forcing Flacco's internal alarms to scream. He scrambles... Atkins shoves Forsett to the side. Flacco redirects inside, but Atkins tracks him down. Wallace Gilberry said, "I AM GOING TO ATTACK HELMETS!"
This was Atkins' first full quarterback sack of the season, five days before the one-year anniversary since his last... when he hurt his knee on Halloween night against the Miami Dolphins.
It wouldn't be proper to say that he's "back"... at least not from a logical state of mind. Atkins' quarterback hurries and pressures are roughly the same as any game this year and Pro Football Focus gave Atkins a -1.5 grade as a rush defender -- NOTE: Atkins has a negative score against the run in his last five games and his grade over the last three games is -6.2.
"He played pretty good in the run game; he had a couple good pressures. So he's coming along good," Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. "He's really starting to get back into the Geno we need to have around here. We need him playing at that level."
We're comfortable saying that Geno Atkins is gaining speed on this barren road that leads to "old Geno". At the end of the day, Atkins posted four tackles against the Ravens, including a forced fumble and a quarterback sack... all are season-highs. In the six games prior to Sunday's win over the Ravens, Atkins had eight tackles and 0.5 sacks... for the season. Despite the horrible PFF grades and the somewhat mediocre hurries/pressures, Atkins did finish a handful of plays, showing a bit more confidence in his surgically repaired knee.
We knew coming into this season that Atkins may need a full season to recover. It's requiring a bit of patience from fans to allow a recovering player to return to "full-strength". However, whereas Atkins was somewhat absent in previous games, he made an impact on Sunday. And that's a hell of a good step forward for Cincinnati's all-star defensive tackle.