The Cincinnati Bengals once again were stout offensively in a major win over the New York Jets in Week 8, but the quiet, yet dominant performance of the defense is what truly shined in the 49-9 dismantling.
Maybe it's because Mike Zimmer's unit is expected to be dominant in every scenario imaginable, but lost in the hype of three straight 300-yard games from quarterback Andy Dalton is a defensive unit that once again held an opponent without a touchdown.
It was just in late September the Bengals could not score a touchdown of their own against Cleveland, but a week after that the Cincinnati defense held New England in check as Tom Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in over 50 games.
For years the Cincinnati defense has been the model of consistency while the offense has sputtered. Zimmer's units went from trash-heap bargains who over-perform in his scheme to the current star-studded lineup built from the ground up.
There's one constant in Cincinnati, and it remains on the defensive side of the football.
The state of Cincinnati's defense was in question after it lost star corner Leon Hall, who ranks as the No. 5 corner in the NFL per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), to a torn Achilles last week.
Cincinnati's answer? A dominant showing in which Cincinnati bullied rookie quarterback Geno Smith on his way to just 159 passing yards and held the Jets as a whole to just 93 rushing yards, with no single running back surpassing the 20-yard mark.
With veteran safety Chris Crocker in the slot and Adam Jones on the outside, Cincinnati covered for Hall's absence in a big way, just as it did in 2011 on what still ended up being another elite unit.
Zimmer's defense even put up points of its own in the rout, as Crocker stepped in front of an errant Smith pass and returned it for a touchdown:
As did the aforementioned Jones:
The Cincinnati secondary won't get to feast on a rookie each week, but it does not need to—Cincinnati has allowed just one back to rush for 100 yards this season and one quarterback to throw for over 300.
It starts up front for Cincinnati with nose tackle Geno Atkins and ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson, a group slowly becoming household names, and all rank in the top 20 in PFF's rankings.
Then there's the heart and soul of the unit, former undrafted free-agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who leads the NFL in tackles and calls the plays for the unit. He's backed by the aforementioned scrappy secondary.
There's even the silent leadership of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. At 35 years old and the strong-side linebacker, Harrison does not regularly see the field, but his extremely high marks against the run have him ranked as PFF's No. 4 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL.
Overall, it was a case of no surprises on Sunday for Cincinnati against the Jets. The offense's ability to fire on all cylinders and make the team a complete package is great, but any time a defense can surrender a little over an average of 19 points per game, a team will contend for a postseason spot.
The spotlight is currently on the offense in Cincinnati, and rightfully so, but it's Burfict and the defense's continued workman-like approach that deserves more recognition.
Cincinnati fans are spoiled in the defensive department, and performances like Sunday's should not be overlooked.
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