Much of the Bengals' 5-0 start has been attributed to the offense, how improved Andy Dalton looks, the emergence of Tyler Eifert, and the return of the real Geno Atkins.
However, you can't overlook what linebacker Vincent Rey has done for the Bengals' defense. This has been a unit that's given up a lot of yards, but is allowing just 17.4 points per game, if you take away the two fumble-return touchdowns the offense has allowed. That would put them in the top five in scoring defense, and Rey has been a big contributor to that.
Through the first five weeks, Rey is third in the NFL with 49 total tackles and nine stops behind Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson for the top spot. 13 of them came during Cincinnati's overtime win over the Seahawks, but it was his key pass deflection in overtime that was his biggest play of the day.
With eight minutes left and Seattle facing a 2nd-and-8 from their own 22-yard line, Rey made a great play to break up a Russell Wilson pass to Luke Wilson that would have been close to a first down.
On the play, Wilson ran a quick curl route right at Rey and did a good job positioning himself between the ball and Rey.
It looks like the pass should have been easily completed with the 6'5" Wilson having good position on the 6'0" Rey, but a great diving effort over Wilson was just enough for Rey to bat it incomplete without drawing a penalty.
That would force a 3rd-and-long play that saw Wilson get sacked to force a Seattle punt before the Bengals drove for the game-winning field goal. That was only Rey's second pass deflection this season, but it may very well end up being the most important one he has this season.
Rey has also made plenty of other big plays simply by changing the play. Robert Klemko of The MMQB did a great piece on that and how the Bengals' trust in Rey to direct the defense has grown.
"You give the players three or four calls you’re going to make in that situation," Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther says. "Usually Vontaze does that stuff. But Rey is a smart guy, studies hard, takes great notes on the film. He really understand—and they all understand—what we’re trying to do."
At his current pace, Rey would finish the 2015 season with 157 tackles. Coming into the season, Rey had only 206 tackles in his first five NFL seasons. Before last season, Rey was mostly a special-teams ace and a backup linebacker who could play all three spots, but rarely saw significant snaps. That was until last year when Vontaze Burfict was lost to a concussion and later a knee injury that forced Rey to start in 13 games and finish the year with a career-high 121 tackles.
Oh, and he's going to be a free agent next offseason. It's safe to say someone is going to be paying Rey like he's never been paid before if he keeps at his current pace. Seeing him go from an undrafted free agent out of Duke to a key starter on a potential title contending team has been a great journey to watch unfold.