Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (99) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Key to the Game #3: Don’t over-complicate on defense
The Bengals’ defense has been outstanding throughout 2015, shutting down some high-powered offenses en route to victory. Even last week, Cincinnati’s D got the job done. But there’s always room for improvement.
Likely playing without Adam Jones and Michael Johnson, the Bengals will have to change things up in what will likely be their most difficult matchup of the 2015 season. Aside from Jones, the Bengals’ corners have been pretty up-and-down. Dre Kirkpatrick had his best game of the season in Cincinnati’s loss, but he also cost the team with a huge pass interference penalty. The Bengals have struggled with blown assignments, missed tackles and mental errors that cost the team more than the box scores indicate.
While playing without Jones will be daunting for the Bengals’ defense, the absence of Michael Johnson will definitely make things even more difficult. Johnson’s likely replacement will match up with Jared Veldheer, the Cardinals’ best offensive linemen. Without Michael Johnson in 2014, the Bengals could not get to opposing quarterbacks. The pass rush will need to get to Carson Palmer on Sunday, especially since the Cardinals’ two starting offensive guards are doubtful heading into the weekend.
If there is a solace to the Bengals’ defensive issues, it is that the pressure of remaining unbeaten is long gone. The Bengals can now get back to playing football the way they want to without worrying about maintaining a perfect record. If Cincinnati can pull off a win, it will stay at least one game ahead of the Denver Broncos in the race for a first-round bye in the AFC, and it will extend the Bengals’ divisional lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers to three games.