Cincinnati Bengals: Is Second Half Defense Cause for Concern?
Sep 27, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20) and Adam Jones (24) break up a pass intended for Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken (11) during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Baltimore Ravens 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
We grow up playing sports thinking that a win was a win. But as we get older, we soon find out that even when we win, there are improvements to focus on. This is the case with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cincinnati Bengals are 3-0 for the second straight year, leading the division over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and lowly Baltimore Ravens. The concern: Cincinnati’s defense. Although the Bengals’ defense has been stingy in the first half, it has significantly let up in the second half of each of the team’s first three games. So should Bengals fans be worried as the schedule gets tougher?
This Bengals defense has come up big in spots when it needed to most, which is always a positive. However, the defense coming up big in the fourth quarter only needs to happen when it lets up too much in the third quarter.
In week two, the Bengals led by eight points at halftime, started the second half uninspired and let the Chargers offense score, making the game close again.
The Bengals offense answered once in the third and then again in the fourth, bailing out the defense, but the defense then gave up a 40-yard touchdown pass and failed two-point conversion.
On the next possession the Bengals offense ran the ball three times to keep the clock running; it eventually punted back to San Diego, hoping the defense could hold the Chargers on one more drive. Luckily for Cincinnati, Vincent Rey picked off a pass near midfield, and Cincinnati came out on top.
The fact that the Ravens had a chance to win in Week 3 was not all on the defense. Baltimore strip-sacked Andy Dalton and returned it for a touchdown; Dalton threw a red zone pick on a forced pass to A.J. Green and poor coaching lost Cincinnati two opportunities to score.
Steve Smith’s domination in the Ravens’ passing game, however, was on the defense. Cincinnati gave up a huge 50-yard touchdown to Smith, missing three tackles and watching him gallop into the end zone. Furthermore, after the Bengals took back the lead, the defense faltered throughout the very next series, allowing 3 plays over 15 yards, allowing another eventual touchdown.
The Bengals led 14-0 at halftime and received the opening kickoff of the second half; the fact that Baltimore took the lead twice in the fourth quarter is absolutely unacceptable.
The Bengals cannot afford to fall apart against good teams, like the Seahawks, Chiefs, and Broncos, three tough teams Cincinnati still has yet to face this season. And although Cincinnati could catch a break if Ben Roethlisberger misses five weeks, the Bengals still needs to prove that they can beat the Steelers, even if Michael Vick suits up at quarterback.
This year’s defense is much better than last season’s travesty, but the defense still has some holes. Cincinnati hopes that a lockdown man-to-man corner will emerge, whether it be Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick or Darqueze Dennard; someone is going to have to shut down guys like Steve Smith going forward. Kirkpatrick will likely be that guy; he just needs more time to develop.
Overall, if the Bengals even want to be in the playoff conversation, let alone make a playoff run, they will need to improve on defense in the second half of football games.