Bengals Must Produce Quarterback Pressure Down Stretch


Nov 6, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback

Brian Hoyer

(6) is sacked by Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle

Geno Atkins

(97) in the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ defense hasn’t looked like itself this year.  Pressuring the quarterback was always a staple of this defense in years past, but 2014 has been different.  The Bengals have struggled to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks, which has allowed the opposition to pick the Bengals apart.  Allowing opposing quarterbacks to stand comfortably in the pocket is often a death sentence, but as the Bengals possess a talented secondary, they’ve really wasted this potential advantage by asking them to do far to much.

Through fourteen weeks this year, the Bengals have produced a league worst 15 sacks.  This is a stark contrast to the past few years.  Here is how the Bengals’ defense has looked since 2011.

[table id=68 /]

The Bengals have been a different defense this year, though I would say they’ve continued in their typical “bend, but don’t break” fashion when considering the only mild jump in points allowed.  Nonetheless, the lack of pressure applied to opposing quarterbacks has clearly taken it’s toll, and it’s hardly surprising in a passing oriented league.  Last year, when the Bengals were applying increased pressure, they were able to overcome the likes of Ben Roethlisberger (once), Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers (once), and Andrew Luck.  This year, the Bengals have been beaten badly by Roethlisberger, Brady, and Luck and still must face Peyton Manning and then Roethlisberger once more.  This year’s struggle seems more than coincidence, it seems the quarterback pressure is the root cause issue.

With three weeks to go, first year coordinator Paul Guenther must find a way to get pressure onto the opposing quarterbacks.  This week, the Bengals face rookie Johnny Manziel, so pressure could easily swing the game as it so often does with rookie quarterbacks.  The Bengals will have to do so while also finding a way to contain Manziel who can change the game with his feet.  The Browns’ offensive line was weakened when they lost center Alex Mack for the year, but this made little difference in the teams’ first matchup.

In Week 16, the Bengals face Peyton Manning, so getting pressure will be extremely important.  But this will be a considerable task as the Broncos have allowed only one sack per game this year, which is a league low.  If the Bengals are unable to force quick throws where they can contain the amount of yards they give up, then Manning will likely continue doing what he’s been doing since going to Denver, dominating secondaries.

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Finally in Week 17, the Bengals will get the opportunity to redeem themselves after this past week’s big loss to the Steelers.  Ben Roethlisberger is having one of his best years in the NFL and he victimized the Bengals in Week 14.  If the Bengals are going to find a victory in Pittsburgh, which could be the deciding game for the AFC North crown, then finding a way to make “Big Ben” uncomfortable would go a long way towards this effort.

The Bengals have looked markedly different than they have in years past.  Before 2014, they were able to rely on their front four to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks while the rest of the defense contained the number of yards opposing teams managed to find.  Most fans expected some setbacks as Guenther was entering his first year as the head of the defense, but the severity of this defense’s fall is cause for concern.  As the head man in Cincinnati and a man who made his name on defense, Marvin Lewis would do well to intervene and find a way to right the ship for a few weeks.  If not, the Bengals may not see the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.