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Bengals’ defense has to deliver Super Bowl-caliber performance

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CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 11: Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts after a defensive play against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 11: Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts after a defensive play against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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The Bengals will be depending on both offense and defense to dominate teams. But, the young corps of defenders will be under pressure.

Last season, the Bengals were on the losing end of nine games. It would be easy to assume that they got blown out of the battles they lost. But, there was only one loss that qualified as a knockout. The Week 6 loss at New England was a truly sobering beat down. Tom Brady and Gronk dropped a 35-17 decision on the Bengals and doubters began to slither from the woodwork. If Cincinnati is going to make a Super Bowl run, the defense has to play at that level.

In retrospect, playing the Patriots was a test. Unfortunately, the Bengals flunked the exam and exposed weaknesses that have to be corrected before the 2017 season gets underway.

The Bengals will have a fresh outlook and renewed passion, going into the new season. But, they have to meet the challenge head-on. Getting to the Super Bowl will take a determined effort from all hands. After coming to life in the second half of the 2016 campaign, the Bengals’ defense was a force. To make the Big Dance happen, the entire year has to become a lights out performance.

Where It’s Needed 

The defense ended the work year ranked at No. 17 in the league. But, when their showing against the run is singled out, they drop to 21st. They were able to save face against the pass. The Bengals fell into the stats-jungle at No. 11.

Yes, the Bengals defense will be better this year. There. It’s out of the way. This version of the Cincinnati D is much faster and seems to have a quiet hunger that’s being noticed by the coaches. But, that silent determination has to be transferred to the play on the field. 

With the newfound speed and veterans poised to have awesome years, this Bengals’ defense could rank as one of the best in franchise history. But, there can be no excuses. For every mistake, someone has to be held responsible. If that means calling each other out, then so be it. That’s something Bengals fans haven’t witnessed in years. When fingers get pointed, there has to be an answer waiting in the wings.

Leadership 

Adam Jones has a “C” on his uniform. But, this is the year he has to prove he’s worthy of the honor. Vontaze Burfict has been hampered by an injury and suspension, the last two seasons. Bengals fans are more than ready for him to don the captain cape again. Vincent Rey (29-years-old) is the only LB older than Burfict.

"“Ray was a leader and I always followed in his footsteps. I just have to do the same things,” Burfict said, per Bengals.com. “Be a role model, lead by example, make sure I’m in the playbook, make sure I’m helping young guys out. I think about it.  If Nick Vigil messes up, it’s on me. I have to make sure they’re always ready and on time.”"

Next: Best Backfield?

Burfict was a captain, during the 2014 campaign. He’s preparing for a Pro Bowl-type year. His passion and knowledge would be a perfect pairing for the position. His fire would definitely get the defense off to the start they need. But, it’s how you finish that counts.

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