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Bengals defense playing like Mike Zimmer-led groups of past

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The Bengals defense held another team to just 10 points and looked like a Mike Zimmer-coached unit.

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Lost in the ugliness of Monday's loss to the Texans was the beauty of another great performance by the Bengals defense.

For the first seven weeks of this season, Paul Guenther's unit resembled Chuck Bresnahan's bend-but-don't-break units that were more focused on forcing turnovers than preventing big plays. Between Weeks 2-7, the defense was giving up an average of 395.6 yards per game, 117.8 of which were on the ground.

Over the last three weeks, the defense has allowed just 275 yards per game and just 89 rushing yards per contest. This unit now looks more like the ones Mike Zimmer had coached on an annual basis in the Queen City before he left to become Minnesota's head coach, where he's already built one of the league's best defenses.

In fact, entering Week 11, Cincinnati and Minnesota rank first and second respectively in opposing points per game allowed. The Bengals have surged to the top thanks to three-straight performances of just 10 points allowed. The biggest key to that is a variety of exotic and complex blitz packages that put offenses on their heels for four quarters.

On Monday night, we saw Guenther's unit getting pressure on Texans quarterbacks throughout the night en route to three sacks and five QB hits. The first sack came with a signature Zimmer move in sugaring the A gap. Linebackers Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur lined up in both A gaps to present the look of both blitzing.

Rey is lined up over the center and it's unclear if he's actually going to blitz or is just presenting that look. However, Hoyer makes an audible just before the snap, and Rey appears to do the same while giving Lamur a signal to drop back into coverage. That leaves center Ben Jones confused as to who he should block, and that one second of hesitation is enough for Rey to get by him and to Hoyer.

It was a beautifully designed and executed play by Rey and the rest of the defense. It's really hard to hold any offense to 10 points in today's offensive-driven NFL, and it's plays like this that helped the Bengals do just that against the Texans.

Making this defense even better is the fact they can simply line up and send four defensive linemen at teams and still get pressure. On this play, Domata Peko ends up sacking Hoyer, but the real credit goes to Pat Sims and Carlos Dunlap for collapsing the pocket and forcing Hoyer right into the waiting belly of the big Samoan.

Especially without Geno Atkins on the field, Sims and Peko make this easily one of the less scary four-man fronts the Bengals could use, and it still led to a sack.

The final sack from the Bengals against the Texans was a simple overload blitz to the right side that left A.J. Hawk with a clear path to T.J. Yates before taking him down.

In addition to Peko now having three sacks this year (tied for most in single season), these were also Rey's and Hawk's first sacks of the year, which helped the Bengals finish the game ranked sixth in total sacks this season with 26 through nine games, one year after finishing dead last with just 20 in 16 games.

Amazingly, the Bengals finished this game without Geno Atkins or Carlos Dunlap recording a sack, but they still had frequent pressure on Texans quarterbacks and kept their season average of nearly three sacks per game going. Seeing the defense continue to make big plays when their biggest playmakers are held in check is a very good sign going forward that this unit is catching up to how dominant the offense has been this season with the exception of this past week.