Vontaze Burfict is back!
The Bengals linebacker recorded 3 tackles on Thursday night against the Dolphins and also had 1 pass defensed. With Burfict back inside Paul Brown Stadium, you could simply feel the difference and change in dynamic, whether watching in person or at home on TV.
Cincy Jungle’s Jason Marcum was at the game and caught this moment on film of Burfict being introduced before the game.
.@King55Tez is back!! https://t.co/kqUCbmaWUZ— Cincy Jungle (@CincyJungle) September 30, 2016
The Cincinnati defense had its best game of the season, and you can’t think it’s a coincidence that it was also Burfict’s first game back from suspension.
“It’s great to get the win,” Burfict said following the game. “At the end of the day, that’s all we wanted. It’s just good to go out there and compete, under the lights especially on a Thursday night and get the win, it’s great.”
Burfict clearly was excited to play on Thursday night, even forcing Vincent Rey to the sidelines at one point in the game when Rey tried to come sub in for Burfict. Beyond his playing ability, it’s undeniable that Burfict’s leadership and football IQ help the Bengals defense excel.
“I just try to be a leader. Like I said, I know the defense’s ins and outs,” Burfict said. “I just want everyone accountable, even myself. I felt like we played a good game overall. I’m still mad about the touchdown because I felt like they shouldn’t have scored on us. I think they had like 220 yards total and we were trying to keep them under 200 total.”
Burfict’s best play of the game came in the second quarter when Ryan Tannehill attempted a pass to wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Burfict batted it away and broke up the first play of a Dolphins’ three-and-out drive.
“I kind of figured he (Jarvis Landry) was going to try and do an option on me, and I’m actually not supposed to let him go inside, but I figured if I let him inside, I kind of beg the quarterback to throw it and I was kind of mad because I felt like I could have picked it. But I didn’t want to do too much this game, just get my legs up under me and my wind right,” Burfict said. “I think we had a 3-and-out on that drive, so it was just great to go out and get the win and compete with my teammates.”
Burfict didn’t play as many snaps as he’ll likely play in future weeks as the team was looking to get him acclimated to NFL speed. Being physically fit, as Burfict was throughout his suspension, isn’t the same as being ready to play NFL football for an entire game. Unsurprisingly, Burfict feels he could have played more on Thursday.
“I felt I could have done more, but the coaches had a plan for me and switched me in and out with Vinny (Rey) and Karlos (Dansby) and they did a good job of that. At the end of the game, I started to feel my wind catching up, but every game I’ll feel like I’ll get better and better and get my legs up under me.”
Burfict played 34 of a possible 45 defensive snaps on Thursday, which actually is quite a high percentage, without being too many snaps. Rey Maualuga had 23, Dansby had 22 and Rey totaled 15. The Bengals offense dominated the time of possession, controlling the ball for 38:02 minutes, so the defense was on the field less frequently than they’ve been in the rest of the Bengals games this season. For example, in Week 3 against the Broncos, Rey played 65 snaps, which was 97% of snaps taken on defense. That most the most defensive snaps any player took in Week 3 and nearly double of what Burfict played on Thursday.
“It was just good to get the rust off,” Burfict said. “It was just good to play a good game overall and at the end of the game, we got the win.”