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Film room: The Bengals defensive reliance on turnovers continued against the Buccaneers

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It was turnover or bust for the Bengals defense against the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

If a defense has 4 interceptions in one game, it sounds like they had a pretty good day. Conversely, most would agree that a defense giving up 450 passing yards did not do well.

So what can we make of the Bengals defensive performance in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Since before defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was hired this offseason, head coach Marvin Lewis has emphasized that the defense needed to get more turnovers. Austin has been under fire from fans over the last few weeks, but has been steadfast about his commitment to getting turnovers defensively.

Trying to create turnovers can be a risky venture. Bengals players have missed tackles this season when trying to strip the ball rather than secure the tackle. Jumping a route can result in an interception or a long touchdown, and to some extent that is the cost of doing business.

These losses can be mitigated with film work and game planning, but there will always be some degree of risk associated with creating turnovers. Here are a few plays from Week 8 that show the good and the bad of the Bengals’ aggressive style.

After the Bengals turned the ball over on downs in their first possession, the Buccaneers marched down the field and were in scoring position. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans ran a vertical route from the slot on the bottom of the screen. Because the Bengals had two high safeties, Evans bent his route in to the middle, rather than running straight at Bengals safety Shawn Williams. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston seemingly did not make the same adjustment:

Williams was a bit closer to the line of scrimmage pre-snap than free safety Jessie Bates which may have given Winston the impression that Williams would role down. Williams, who had dropped a near pick earlier in the drive, backpedaled and read Winston’s throw, breaking on it for the interception.

Let’s Fast forward to the fourth quarter. The Bengals are holding on to a two-score lead with just over 10 minutes to play. A score every five minutes is certainly doable for the Buccaneers, but the Bengals still have the advantage. The one thing can not afford is to give up a quick touchdown.

Evans is the wide receiver at the bottom of the screen, and the Bengals are in Cover 2. On the snap, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick jams Evans and then allows him to work up to the safety, Williams, as Kirkpatrick correctly turns his attention to tight end Cameron Brate in the flat. Evans stems his route in making it appear to be a skinny post. Williams breaks on the route looking to make another interception. Evans then cuts directly up field, easily running past Williams. When he catches relief quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass, he has a 7-yard lead on Williams and takes it 72 yards for the touchdown:

This is a Cover 4 look with Bates as the safety at the top of the screen. Winston basically stares at Adam Humphries who is the slot receiver on the top of the screen. As a result, Bates sits in his initially alignment and jumps Humphries seam route as Winston releases the ball. This results in a pick-six that ends Winston’s day.

There was another time earlier in the game when Bates was slow to get out in Cover 4 because he was hard reading the quarterback. On this play DeSean Jackson is lined up at the bottom of the screen with William Jackson lined up over him. On the snap, Jackson works straight up field, quickly eating away William Jackson’s cushion. DeSean Jackson cuts to the post and because Bates was sitting hoping to make a play on an underneath pass he has seven yards on the rookie when he catches the pass. William Jackson is also out of position, and the play results in a 60-yard touchdown for the Buccaneers.

It is truly feast or famine for the Bengals defense whose desire to get turnovers seems to be at all costs. While the emphasis on turnovers is a good plan that will put them in position to win games, they must be smart about it. They must understand the situation and make the correct reads. The turnovers caused cannot be outweighed by the number of big plays allowed.