Despite having one of the NFL’s worst-ranked defenses going into Sunday’s game vs. the Jaguars, as well as being down three opening-day starters(Thomas Howard, Nate Clements, Leon Hall), the Bengals rose up to the challenge and held the Jaguars in check for much of the game en route to a 27-10 victory. The story of the game was the pressure they were able to get on QB Blaine Gabbert, who they managed to sack six times and prevent him from ever fully taking advantage of a banged-up secondary.
The last time the Bengals had six or more sacks in two straight games was during the 2001 season. This season they’ve gotten six against both the Redskins and the Jaguars in back-to-back weeks, and now have 17 for the season. What’s even more impressive is that the Bengals are getting pressure from all over their defense. They blitzed 6 different players vs the Jaguars including both starting safeties and all 3 starting LBs. Its impossible to predict where Mike Zimmer where try to pressure from, and its clear the Bengals defense is one of, if not the hardest in the NFL to pass-protect against. Whether it’s the emerging Michael Johnson, a healthy Carlos Dunlap, or Geno Atkins‘ record-setting sack-rate(currently on pace for 20 sacks, an NFL-record for sacks by a DT in a season), the Bengals’ blitz has been something opposing teams have been able to beat consistently thus far.
Paul Dehner of CBS Sports did an in-depth look at just how well teams who have been amongst the NFL’s best in sacking the QB:
Taking a look at the teams to lead the NFL in sacks each of the past four seasons, those who led the league fared pretty well:
Year-Team: Sack ranking/Postseason
2011 Eagles: 1/No playoffs
2011 Vikings: 2/No playoffs
2011 Giants: T-3/Super Bowl champs
2011 Ravens: T-3/Lost in AFC title game
2010 Steelers: 1/Lost in Super Bowl
2010 Chargers: T-2/No playoffs
2010 Packers: T-2/Super Bowl champs
2010 Raiders: T-2/ No playoffs
2009 Vikings: 1/Lost in NFC title game
2009 Steelers: 2/No playoffs
2009 Eagles: T-3/Lost in first round
2009 49ers: T-3/No playoffs
2009 Dolphins: T-3/No playoffs
2008 Cowboys: 1/No playoffs
2008 Steelers: 2/Super Bowl champs
2008 Eagles: 3/Lost in NFC title game
- Each of the past four years, a team that finished in the top three of the sacks category advanced at least to a conference title game.
- Three of the past four Super Bowl champions finished in the top three of the category.
- Of the 16 teams over the past four years to finish in at least a tie for third in sacks seven of them advanced to their conference championship games.
- Granted, eight of the teams didn’t even make the playoffs, but obviously defense only represents a certain portion of the equation.
In a league dominated by great quarterbacks, derailing their timing becomes the most important determining factor in slowing the attack.
Barring injury, don’t expect to see tat level of production drop-off significantly, as DE/LB Dontay Moch just came off an NFL suspension Monday and the former 3rd-round pick out of the 2011 NFL Draft is expected to be a significant player ob passing-downs, a role he thrived in this preseason as he accounted for 3.5 sacks. Its hard to not see Moch being successful, given he was drafted by the Bengals right after A.J. Green and Andy Dalton.
The team also got a much-needed boost at linebacker with the performance of rookie Vontaze Burfict, who had eight tackles, two TFLs, a sack, one QB pressure, and a pass defensed. He’s filled in nicely for Thomas Howard at the weakside spot, and continues to solidify himself as one of the undrafted steals of the 2012 NFL Draft.