The Bengals are a mess, and much of that has to do with the defense.
While the offense certainly had its issues Sunday, the game was lost in the first half when the defense allowed the Saints to reel off 35 points, which is tied for the most allowed in one half in the Marvin Lewis era.
By the time the offense got the ball a third time in the first half, they had already scored once and drove deep into Saints territory another time before a false start forced a punt on 4th and 6, yet still trailed 21-7. The defense prevented this from ever being a real game, and the Bengals quickly crumbled because of yet another disastrous showing by Teryl Austin’s unit.
Does that mean the Bengals are ready to make a move at who is calling the defense? Lewis didn’t exactly shoot it down during the postgame media session.
I asked Marvin Lewis what has gone wrong with the defense. Several seconds of silence before he answered but he essentially said he wasn’t going to talk about it. Same thing when I asked if it was the scheme or at what point they’d consider a coaching change. Silence says a lot.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) November 11, 2018
Silence indeed says a lot, and the way Lewis answered the question, you have to think he’s at least going to consider a change on who calls the defense. This is also a similar reaction Lewis had before firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese last year.
Now, that doesn’t mean Austin needs to lose his job. Perhaps the Bengals will keep Austin and just let someone else call the defense. Lewis was a defensive coordinator with Baltimore and Washington before becoming head coach of the Bengals.
The Bengals also have Jim Haslett as the linebackers coach. He too has an extensive background as a defensive coordinator in this league. Both Haslett and Lewis had defenses that were far more competent than what we’ve seen from this unit in 2018.
Sure, injuries have impacted this unit, but they still have William Jackson, Preston Brown, Dre Kirkpatrick, Shawn Williams, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and an emerging star in Jessie Bates. There’s no excuse for this unit to be giving up 500+ total yards on a weekly basis, yet that’s exactly what they’re doing.
And frankly, this defense has been horrible even when guys like Vontaze Burfict, Darqueze Dennard, Carl Lawson and Nick Vigil were healthy, so really, there’s no excuse to be made for how bad this unit has been.
Austin cannot be allowed to call another game on defense, but given this franchise’s tendency to keep players and coaches past their expiration date, it won’t be a surprise if Austin still finishes the season calling what is shaping up to be one of the worst defenses in NFL history.