After beginning the 2017 campaign 0-2 and not scoring an offensive touchdown, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Cincinnati Bengals fan who would believe this team would be 2-3 and a game out of first place in the AFC North following Week 5. Fortunately, that’s exactly where these Bengals are.
The Bengals played a pretty great game defensively against the Bills. The secondary in particular did a tremendous job covering Buffalo’s wideouts, who the Democrat and Chronicle’s Sal Maiorana isn’t impressed with after the job the Cincinnati defensive backs did to them.
“I’m confident in these guys,” coach Sean McDermott said, a statement that rings pretty hollow when “these guys” combined to catch three passes for 34 yards in Buffalo’s 20-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bills don’t have any big names at receiver now that they made the strange decision to trade their obvious best receiver in Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams. Still, three catches for 34 yards is impressive no matter who you face, especially in today’s pass-friendly NFL rule set.
The defense was especially good at wrapping ball carriers up and not missing tackles, something they’ve been great at this season, according to head coach Marvin Lewis.
“After looking at the tape of the game last evening and today, one of the areas I was probably most pleased about was that we continued to do a good job tackling on defense,” Lewis said at his Monday press conference. “That’s important, and we have to continue that. For the most part, the 11 guys on defense fit pretty well together. We had a couple breakdown plays — things that are very manageable and fixable — and we have to do that. Defensively, it was a good job. We stayed after the quarterback for most of the day. We had to get used to the speed of things early in the game, and then the guys adjusted and did a nice job as it went.
The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Dehner made the case for Cincinnati’s defense being the best in the NFL:
This season the defense, buffered by a rotating cast of rookies and first-time starters, enters the bye week among the best in the league. Pick your category.
Yards allowed per game: 2nd
Yards allowed per play: 1st
Third down efficiency: 6th
Percentage of drives ending in a punt: 1st
Sacks per pass play: 3rd
Points allowed per game: t-2nd
Guenther’s crew has allowed 1,314 yards through the first five games. That’s the fewest for the Bengals through five in the Marvin Lewis Era and lowest in franchise history since 1976. Also factor in two touchdowns and two field goals came when forced to start inside their own 25-yard line.
ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, the Bengals beat reporter, made some great observations about the team’s overall morale following the 0-2 skid:
“Bengals coach Marvin Lewis never lost the locker room after the team looked inept in the first two weeks, and that's paying dividends now. The Bengals have used a philosophy of playing almost every active player, which means rookies like defensive end Carl Lawson have gotten to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.”
It’s pretty atypical of the Cincinnati Bengals to reach through their entire roster for depth. The Bengals have had a deep roster at multiple positions for years, but younger players usually rode the bench for a while before really contributing.
It’s impossible to say if it’s a change of heart for Lewis or the pressure of a contract year forcing his hand, but it’s paying dividends in 2017.
Around the world of social media, there were some surprising stats brought to light along with a variety of takes.
Most surprising stat of the day. Fourth quarter comeback totals after today:— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) October 8, 2017
Andy Dalton 15
Aaron Rodgers 12#Bengals
6 sacks for #Bengals— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) October 9, 2017
3rd & 5
3rd & 6
2nd & 7
3rd & 7
3rd & 8
1st & 10