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Bengals’ run defense struggles in win over Browns

The Bengals struggled to stop the run against Cleveland, which has been a recurrent theme this year.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals may have gotten the win against the Cleveland Browns this week, but their run defense certainly wasn’t in top form.

The Bengals allowed backup quarterback Kevin Hogan to run all over, giving up 104 rushing yards and a touchdown to a rookie in his first ever NFL action. They also allowed Isaiah Crowell to run for 63 yards and a touchdown, and those two accounted for the majority of Cleveland’s 180 rushing yards.

Allowing this many rushing yards to a sub-par team like Cleveland is troubling, but it’s nothing new for the Bengals’ defense this season. Coming into this week, Cincinnati ranked 21st in the league in rushing yards allowed, as they’d given up 649 rushing yards through six weeks. That includes giving up over 100 rushing yards to each of the New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. Allowing big days for running backs is becoming a trend for the Bengals’ defense and an answer has yet to be found on why it continues to happen. Karlos Dansby has been a liability, proving he’s too slow to track down runners. Even Vontaze Burfict has missed numerous tackles on running plays after just four games this season. But, just about every member of the defense can be faulted for their work - or lack thereof - in shutting down the run game.

The yardage given up is certainly a concern for the Bengals, but Marvin Lewis mostly praised Kevin Hogan for his running ability.

“Obviously, on the quarterback read and the quarterback runs, we missed a couple of times and it was a little different, so credit them for coming out and our guys adjusting a little bit, and were able to slow it down after the drive in the third quarter,” Lewis said after the game.

He was later asked if Hogan’s performance was a surprise today, and said it was just a different look from what they were expecting.

“Part of it was a little bit different from what they were running with Terrelle Pryor,” Lewis said, potentially meaning Cody Kessler, who was playing quarterback for the Browns before leaving the game in the second quarter for a concussion evaluation. Kessler never returned while Hogan did an admirable job for a rookie in his first NFL action. “Credit the quarterback for doing a good job for reading it and doing it. He came off with some of their normal runs and his ability to read that out, so we had to adjust after he went in the game. He went in the game in the first quarter just as a sub and was able to run it downhill. It was just a little bit of a different element.”

Lewis wasn’t the only one who admitted that the Bengals were caught off guard by Hogan. Vincent Rey also acknowledged that the defense was shocked by Hogan’s running ability.

“We were expecting Pryor to line up at quarterback because Kessler was out, and we came out and saw No. 8 instead of No. 11. So we just said, ‘Let’s play our keys,’” Rey said. “But they had some new runs for us that we hadn’t seen yet. They did a good job making plays, so I took my hat off to them. We were trying to adjust as the game went on. We owned the fourth quarter.”

Rey was right about dominating the fourth quarter, as the defense allowed just 17 rushing yards in the fourth and no points.

“Sometimes they had three backs back there. It’s a lot of moving parts there. Everybody has a responsibility. Sometimes your job isn’t to tackle the ball carrier, it’s to be somewhere else. We’ve got to be more disciplined in that regard. They came out and showed us things we have not seen at all. I give them credit for that.”

Vontaze Burfict, who had 8 tackles on the day, 5 of which were solo tackles, was asked about the Bengals’ defensive performance as a whole, and was pretty positive about it. This, even though the defense gave up 362 yards, 180 of which came on the ground, and the majority of which came via a rookie quarterback seeing his first NFL action after being elevated from the practice squad just a few weeks ago.

“I feel like we played a pretty good game overall. It’s good that we got the win. We have to move on to the next and look at (the film) tomorrow to see what we can correct,” Burfict said.

While the Bengals got the win, the run defense could’ve been much better. The versatility of the Browns offense hurt, but a quarterback as far down the depth chart as Kevin Hogan should never have been able to run for as many yards as he did.

Next week, the Bengals will take on the Washington Redskins No. 11 rushing offense, a team that was one spot behind the Browns in total rushing yards this season going into Week 7. Hopefully the Bengals can stop Matt Jones and for that matter Kirk Cousins (who has only 49 rushing yards on the year, but 1,996 passing yards) when they head to London for the Bengals’ first international game.