Since Vontaze Burfict returned to the Cincinnati Bengals' lineup against the Steelers just shy of a month ago, the defense hasn't given up 100 rushing yards against an offense in four games. Through Weeks 8-11 (three games because of the team's bye week), Cincinnati's defense averaged an allowance of just 10 points per game against the Steelers, Browns and Texans.
While the Bengals were at home once again, and were set to face a mediocre St. Louis Rams team, their star rookie running back gave cause for concern.
However, during the week, Cincinnati's defense made note of some comments made by Rams offensive players and took exception. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Domata Peko were especially vocal when talking about the issues.
"One of their centers was talking crap about us," Peko said after the game, via Bengals.com. "They were asking him 'what do you think about the Bengals' defensive line?' And he said something like 'I practice against Aaron Donald every day, so I'm not too worried about them.' To us, that's kind of a cheap shot at us because we have some of the best guys in the league in our locker room."
Dunlap corroborated the sentiment by calling the comments by St. Louis' players "bulletin board material", and saying it appeared everyone took things close to heart. Though Cincinnati had just one sack of Nick Foles on the afternoon, they constantly pressured him, forcing three interceptions. Carlos Dunlap had a sack negated due to a Dre Kirkpatrick defensive holding penalty, too. One of the three interceptions was a back-breaking pick-six by Leon Hall in the third quarter, which gave the Bengals' defense their first points of the season.
Beyond that, the defense held rookie running back and emerging star, Todd Gurley, to just 19 rushing yards on nine carries. With the quarterback issues the Rams have faced all season, it was obvious St. Louis wanted to try and ride Gurley to an improbable win at Paul Brown Stadium. That didn't happen and second-year back Tre Mason didn't fare any better with one carry for minus-two yards.
In speaking with the media after the 31-7 win over the Rams, Dre Kirkpatrick credited the home crowd as providers of energy to the defense. "Yes — those two losses, early on — back to back — we don’t want that feeling anymore. I realized today that when we come out with high energy, everyone feeds off of it. I told the defense, ‘You feel that? That energy?’ I feel like we need to come out like that for every game. That’s a championship trait."
For his sake, hopefully Rams starting center Tim Barnes wasn't the player making the comments to fuel the Bengals' defense. If he was the culprit, defensive tackle Geno Atkins was one of the Cincinnati defenders who quietly internalized them.
Geno. https://t.co/Dbk4pPb69m— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) November 29, 2015
Aside from shoddy tackling on first contact at times, the Bengals' defense came to play this Sunday. They looked inspired, aggressive and hungry for a win. While the offense was efficient on the day, the defense definitely did their part to get the Bengals a much-needed win 24 days after their last victory.