The Cincinnati Bengals gave up yardage totals of 551, 576, and 509 over the span of three games leading to Head Coach Marvin Lewis making the decision to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin in the middle of the season. Austin, who had just been brought in this offseason, oversaw the first defense in NFL history to allow over 500 yards in three consecutive games.
So the Bengals were excited after they only allowed a Baltimore Ravens team with a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start to put up 403 yards of offense on them, including an astonishing 265 rushing yards, almost half of which came from Lamar Jackson, that aforementioned rookie.
Lewis took over the primary responsibilities of the defense in relief of Austin, but linebackers coach Jim Haslett and new special assistant Hue Jackson have also been tasked with helping the head coach divvy up the tasks at hand on the defensive side of the ball.
“They played hard. I thought that was important”, the head coach said of his defensive unit in a press conference yesterday. “I thought they played better. They did a good job in assignments. I thought that was much better. They understood the corrections and handled it well”.
Apparently, Lewis was a little rusty with the whole play-calling thing, as he was last a defensive coordinator back in 2002. He admitted that there were times during the game that he would press the wrong button when he was trying to communicate with the defense on the field.
Lost in all of this is the fact that the Bengals have gone from being a 4-1 team to now 5-5 and outside of the playoff seedings right now, the Ravens owning a tiebreaker over them after splitting the season series due to a superior winning percentage in conference games.
Now, in the Bengals’ defense, they have been playing an awful lot of football without some key players on the defensive side of the ball. Darqueze Dennard, their starting nickel back, had been out since he suffered an injury against the Steelers. Nick Vigil, also injured in that game, is still sidelined.
Vontaze Burfict is yet another Bengals defender who suffered an injury in that game. He returned this week, but came in and out of the game. Also missing was Preston Brown, so Cincinnati was down two of their starting linebackers for the game, and occasionally even all three.
Up next for the Bengals is an up-trending Cleveland Browns team that is coming off of a bye week, which will give them additional time to adjust to their new reality after firing both Jackson and Todd Haley. In the two games since their dismissals, their offensive production has improved.