The Cincinnati Bengals have been fantastic on defense all season this year. Heading into Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons, we knew they had a chance to continue their outstanding play, but they were even better than expected.
The Falcons were third in the NFL in rushing headed into Cincinnati. The Bengals held Atlanta’s rushing attack to 107 yards and 3.7 yards per attempt. Both are the second-worst totals for the year for an Atlanta team that was literally running over opponents leading up to Sunday afternoon.
The Bengals' defense held Atlanta’s offense to a season-low 214 total scrimmage yards. Marcus Mariota could only manage 124 passing yards despite throwing a 75-yard bomb to Damiere Byrd. Factoring in three sacks for negative 17 yards, the Falcons only recorded 107 air yards.
Simply put, Cincinnati’s defense was dominant, and much of the credit should go to defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and the players executing his game plan.
Jay Tufele showed that his fantastic first outing in a Bengals uniform was not a one-off. He had the same stat line this game as he did in Week 7 against the Saints; six tackles and one tackle for loss.
Bengals defense reigns as one of the top performing units in the league right now
Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson, and Joseph Ossai got in on the action with a sack each.
It was also great to see Akeem Davis-Gaither step up with Logan Wilson out. The third-year linebacker led the team in tackles with nine. It was an excellent showing from a player who doesn't usually get a lot of defensive reps sitting behind Wilson and Germaine Pratt.
We should not expect the defense to be able to perform like this every week. However, after seven games this year, we have an idea of where this Cincinnati defense's ceiling is at. They are a top-10 passing and a top-15 rushing defense that is giving up 18.9 points a game, good for seventh in the NFL.
Save for a few Eli Apple gaffes, the secondary has been excellent, giving up a third-best 56.9 completion percentage and allowing a fifth-best 5.9 yards per attempt.
Despite ceding 17 points to the Falcons, Cincinnati’s defense played exceedingly well in Week 8 and arguably ranks as a championship-level unit this season.
Hopefully, they can keep up this elite level of play throughout the rest of the season. If so, the Bengals will be much more difficult to defeat now that the offense seems to have found its stride.