As the Cincinnati Bengals offense has had some issues getting going this season, one thing has remained the same from the 2021 season - their defense. Even in their losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, the defense played well enough to win both of those games.
Thursday night, they faced what was their toughest test yet, as the eighth-ranked Miami Dolphins came to town, riding a three-game winning streak. Some trash talk from Tyreek Hill brought some extra motivation, but this isn’t a unit that needs much help getting going. Through four games, the Bengals are yet to allow a second-half touchdown, as they continue to give the offense chance to find it’s footing.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the defense isn’t scheme or play calling, but it is their ability to stick together as a unit, even when things don’t go their way.
“It’s the people you have on your defense that matter, not the calls,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “This is a great group. When something goes wrong, there’s no finger pointing or blame. We just go to the next play.”
We saw what Hubbard speaks of on Thursday night, when a roughing penalty on Hubbard extended what would be Miami’s only touchdown drive of the night. After Tee Higgins hauled in a long touchdown pass, momentum was on Cincinnati’s side and stopping Miami on that drive could have drastically changed the outcome of the game. Instead, it remained a close game, but the defense didn’t flinch.
Lou Anarumo certainly had a plan for the high-flying Dolphin offense and even with Hill hauling in 10 receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown, his co-star in the arial assault, Jaylen Waddle was essentially a non factor. Cincinnati’s defense was able to weather Hill’s storm and embody the “bend, don’t break” philosophy. Stiffening up in the red zone and winning the battle on third down will win you a lot of games in the NFL, and the Bengal defense has done just that.
As the offensive line seems to be improving and Joe Burrow looking more and more comfortable in the pocket, it is only a matter of time before the Bengals’ offense gets rolling, but until they do, the defense will be there to answer the bell and give the team a chance to win.