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Kudos to Bengals "D"


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Link: SI Article[

Bungles no more

Cincy is 3-0 thanks in large part to its dominating D

The Cincinnati Bengals defense understands how this works. The broadcasters and talking heads coo over all those big plays and highlight-reel touchdowns that Carson Palmer and the offense produces, while the blue-collar, no-name bunch that sets them up gets ignored. But if you've been paying attention to the Bengals this season, especially now that they're off to their best start in 15 years, you can see this isn't a one-sided story of success. That defense, without question, is suddenly all grown up.

Cincinnati's 24-7 win over Chicago on Sunday was yet another example of this. The Bengals improved to 3-0 by forcing six turnovers, including five interceptions of rattled rookie quarterback Kyle Orton. That now gives Cincinnati 16 takeaways for the season. No other team in the league has more than nine. Moreover, that's nearly half as many turnovers as the Bengals generated all last season, when they finished with 36.

This is what the Bengals do to teams now: They suffocate them. They squelch their hopes early. I don't care if they've rocked two teams with limited offensive weapons (Cleveland and Chicago) and a third that is struggling to regain its confidence (Minnesota). There's obvious chemistry on this team, something they were clearly lacking last season. "We're just smarter on defense now," says defensive tackle John Thornton. "We made a lot of mistakes last season because we weren't communicating that well, but now we've really come together. We all understand where we're supposed to be and it shows."

That maturity has shown up in several areas. The Bengals lead the NFL in interceptions (12). After giving up 23.2 points a game last season, they're allowing just 9.3 this year. Still, their greatest improvement has come in run defense. After ranking 26th in the NFL in 2004 they're now ninth, giving up 92.7 yards per contest. Suddenly, the Bengals are no longer soft in the middle.

The reason for that is simple: They have an identity now. They have savvy veterans like Thornton and fellow defensive tackle Bryan Robinson, both of whom have played on playoff teams (Thornton in Tennessee, Robinson in Chicago). They have cornerbacks like Deltha O'Neal and Tory James, who have blossomed into big-play ball-hawks. They also have two rookies with bright futures -- linebackers Odell Thurman and David Pollack, both out of Georgia. These aren't big-name players, but the Bengals don't need stars on defense. They just need guys who can do their jobs.

What coach Marvin Lewis likes most about this defense is its collective spirit. "We've got a bunch of gym rats on that side of the ball now," Lewis says. "All those guys are high-energy, hard-working players who love playing the game. We needed players like that on defense because we had to have somebody who could match the enthusiasm that (Pro Bowl wide receiver) Chad Johnson gives our offense. We needed people to step up and become the face of our defense."

Lewis already thinks Thurman and Pollack will quickly become leaders. They have that vibe about them. They also represent the overall changes that Lewis has made to the team. These are his guys now. He's weeded out all the players who had been burned out by all those losing seasons of years past. He's also picked up players he thought could buy into the system he's been building for the last three years, one that's based on obsessive attention to detail. All that effort has slowly helped turn the Bengals defense -- and the team -- around.

It's important to mention that Lewis says his defense wasn't the only barrier preventing Cincinnati from maturing into a playoff team. He points out that the offense didn't help as much as it could in the past. "People talk about the defense, but turning the ball over gets you beat, too," Lewis says. "And we put our defense in some bad positions last year. Plus, numbers can be misleading. The first one that really matters is wins and losses. The second is points allowed. After that, then you can get into all the other stuff."

So far the Bengals defense is doing well with all the numbers. When you factor a potent offense, you get a formula any head coach would crave. The Bengals jump out to big leads and the defense clamps down. It's the kind of approach that will help Cincinnati contend for the AFC North crown. If people in Pittsburgh think that's crazy, think again. The Bengals have the coaching. They have the offense. And the more they keep winning, the more people will see how much of a difference defense is making for this team.

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I think the defensive breakout in regards to turnovers started last season with the increase in forced fumbles. I don't have any numbers infront of me but it seems like they were real good at getting the ball on the ground...not so good at recovering it. But unlike picking the ball off in bunches hitting and stripping is the type of thing that doesn't change.

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Dominant "D" is what they're referring to it as huh? That sort of makes Kazkal's sigline prothetic. (Damn. Where's spell check when I need it! :( )

Billy -

Did you mean "prophetic" or "prosthetic"?

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Not one mention of Madeiu, the most intense/high energy player on the D. He was a big reason they won last week. 8 tackles and an INT, and out-played his peer Mike Brown. You really appreciate Madeiu and Thurman when you watch them in-person, 2 future pro bowlers.

Madeiu is just starting to get back into things, he and Myles are the most underrated players on that team.

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Madeiu is just starting to get back into things, he and Myles are the most underrated players on that team.

Is it just me, or did Reggie obliterate someone on a punt return vs the Bears? :flex:

Along with Tab Perry, the kick coverage has been absolutely stellar!

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