The Bengals allowed 92 yards rushing, 26 of which came on the first drive. Preston Brown returned to the lineup at linebacker for the Bengals which certainly helped, but Geno Atkins and Andrew Billings really upped their game from their respective defensive tackle positions.
On the play below, the Falcons are running a zone play to the right with right guard Brandon Fusco blocking Atkins, and Atkins is having none of it. Fusco gets no movement on Atkins who hold his ground in the B gap outside of the guard.
As running back Tevin Coleman cuts into the A gap inside of the guard, Atkins quickly sheds Fusco and makes the tackle for a short gain.
The Falcons are running zone to the right once again here with Fusco and center Alex Mack working a combo block. On this block, both will engage with Billings and based on how the defensive players move after the snap, one of them will stay on Billing and the other will work up Brown. T
he pair is initially able to push Billings back about a half of a yard, but as Mack releases for Brown, Billings makes short work of Fusco and grabs Coleman’s jersey, bringing him down with one hand.
The Falcons are running zone to the left here, and Billings is lined up in the A gap to the offense’s right. Mack gives Billings a quick shot on his way up to the linebacker, and Fusco attempts to reach him. Billings holds his gap and does not allow himself to be reached. With Mack at the second level, Billings is essentially playing both A gaps.
As Bengals defensive lineman Sam Hubbard (who is lined up as a defensive tackle on this play) defeats his block and shows in the B gap, Coleman cuts back, and Billings swallows him up.
This time the Falcons attempt to reach Atkins on the front side of the outside zone. On the snap, he pushes the right guard two yards into the backfield. As running back Ito Smith approaches, Atkins shows color in the B gap and forces Smith to cut back drastically.
In this clip, the Falcons are running zone to the right. Atkins is lined up on the backside and left tackle Jake Matthews attempts to get his head across Atkins’ body and cut him. Atkins dips his outside shoulder to prevent Matthews from crossing his body and tackles Coleman for a loss.
The return of Brown certainly helped the Bengals run defense and the coming return of Vontaze Burfict will benefit the defense as well, but they also got improved play from the interior defensive line. Atkins and Billings really stepped up their game as did Hubbard who saw a lot of time on the interior this week following Ryan Glasgow’s injury.