The Bengals played a close game on Sunday against the Panthers, but they were overwhelmed by the one-two punch of running back Christian McCaffrey and quarterback Cam Newton.
McCaffrey had a career day carrying the ball 28 times for 182 yards. Newton added another 36 yards and two touchdowns to the ground game.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin claimed responsibility for “one of the six worst rushing games in the 16 years of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis’ defenses,” per Geoff Hobson.
“They didn’t quit. They competed hard,” Austin said of his players. “It’s me. We’ve had no problem in terms of taking care of the run the first two weeks.”
The previous two weeks, the Bengals faced a Colts team and a Ravens team not known for running the ball well. This week, not only did they face a team with a good running back, but also the best rushing quarterback in the NFL. This two-headed monster presented some special problems for Austin’s defense.
“We ran across a unique run scheme. Obviously, I didn’t get it done for our guys. We have the guys we have,” Austin said. “They’re good enough to do it. We’ll make it work this week.”
While the Panthers offense is one-of-a-kind, the Bengals seemed quite unprepared, despite having 10 days to get ready for this game. It looked like the Bengals employed a strategy of waiting to see who was going to carry the ball before attacking.
This resulted in Panthers rushers getting several yards beyond the line of scrimmage before contact, which ended up hurting the Bengals, big time.
Another alarming result of the game is that the defensive line failed to generate any sort of pressure on either the passing game or the running game, even though the Panthers were missing three starters on their offensive line.
But Austin has been talking about creating more turnovers since he took the job in Cincinnati. In the first two games, the Bengals have had a positive turnover margin, and forced two game-clinching fumbles. However, the Bengals defense had no takeaways against the Panthers and ended the game with a -4 turnover differential.
This week, Austin will face a completely different threat against the Falcons with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley. Like he said, the Bengals have the guys to defend against the Falcons’ defense. It will just be a matter of coming into Atlanta prepared and executing the game plan with precision.