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Bengals vs. Bills film room: Defense shows improvement in Week 3

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The defense did not repeat their Week 2 mistakes

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals learned from their mistakes in Week 2. That much is evident from the film.

Against the 49ers, the linebackers played too slow and passive. The defensive ends and defensive backs lost contain multiple times and gave up huge plays in the run game.

Bills’ offensive coordinator Brian Daboll ran multiple jet sweeps and reverses to try to take advantage of the Bengals edges the way that the 49ers did a week ago.

This week, things went differently.

Livin’ on the Edge

The Bengals had two big problems defensively in Week 2. They were terrible on the edge and their linebacker play was bad overall.

This week they showed improvement in both of these areas.

In the clip above, Preston Brown does a great job of getting to the edge with speed. Although it is Sam Hubbard who ultimately makes the tackle, Brown takes away the edge, forcing the cut back.

If you are slow, you’d better play fast. Brown may not be the fastest linebacker in the NFL, but if he can make quick reads and sprint to where he needs to be with conviction he can be make a difference in this defense.

Another problem they had defensively in Week 2 was not giving rookie Germaine Pratt a chance. They addressed that issue this week as well.

In the clip above, Pratt does a great job of getting to the edge and physically engaging with the pulling guard. Once the running back cuts to the inside, Pratt disengages and gets involved in the tackle.

This is an excellent job by Pratt.

He brings more speed to the linebacker position than they currently have and demonstrates his ability to get off of blocks on this play. The Bengals need to continue to get him involved and prepare him to take a starting position.

Last week Carlos Dunlap faced a situation very similar to the one above. An h-back came across the formation as a lead blocker, but since Dunlap did not engage with the blocker, the ball carrier got to the edge.

Not this week.

On this play the Bills attempt to run a reverse, but Dunlap holds the edge and forces the cut back. He then fights past the blocker and makes a leaping tackle.

This is an excellent job by Dunlap, first executing his responsibility on the edge, then coming off to make the tackle.

The Bengals defensive backs struggled defending the run against the 49ers, but this group showed improvement against the Bills.

In the clip above, Shawn Williams steps up to be the force player on the jet sweep. Last week he had trouble with getting off of blocks and trying to run around them. This week he engages with the tight end’s block and is able to disengage and make the tackle as the ball carrier approaches.

Once again, Hubbard has turned to run down the line of scrimmage and gets involved in the tackle. This is an excellent job of containing the run by both players.

The clip above shows a great effort in run support by cornerbacks Tony McRae, Dre Kirkpatrick, and William Jackson.

Again, the Bills try a reverse to get the ball on the edge. McRae and Kirkpatrick fight through blocks to get to the ball carrier. McRae looks like he is being held, but he does not let that stop him. Jackson was in man coverage with the ball carrier on the other side of the formation and comes across with great speed to get involved in the play.

This is an excellent play by all three players and leads to a loss of three yards.

Tackling Pass-Catchers

Now let’s talk about last year. The Bengals defense was terrible in 2018 and one of their biggest issues was making tackles after the catch. When teams play zone coverage, they will give up underneath routes. That is okay as long as they funnel the ball and don’t allow for additional yardage after the catch.

The clip above is a great example of how this works.

The ball is completed underneath to Cole Beasley. Because the Bengals are playing zone, their defensive backs and linebackers have their eyes on the quarterback and see the ball thrown.

Jessie Bates III, Williams, and Vigil break on the receiver. Bates is the point player, and runs right at Beasley’s nose. Williams and Vigil are the hip players. Vigil runs to Beasley’s outside hip and Williams runs to his inside hip.

This is a perfect funnel. If the ball carrier cuts to the inside, Williams will make the tackle. If he cuts to the outside, Vigil will make the tackle. If he tries to run straight forward, Bates will make the tackle.

He has nowhere to go because these three players executed perfectly.

The clip above is not perfect execution, but gets the job done.

The ball is completed to the checkdown and Bates breaks on the ball carrier. The running back cuts in the opposite direction and starts running upfield. Vigil is a little late to the party, but because he is playing the outside hip and Bates is pursuing from the inside, the ball carrier has no where to go and they make the tackle.

Ideally Vigil would get there a little sooner to prevent additional yardage, but they were effective in preventing a big gain.

They have shown a major improvement from last year when the defense struggled to swarm to the football and make tackles after a pass was completed.