Bengals’ defense tries for 2 in a row vs. Jaguars
CINCINNATI (AP) — After three straight horrid games, Bengals coordinator Paul Guenther let his defense have it.
He raised his voice, chewed them out, let them know that what was happening was unacceptable.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take that approach,” the first-year coordinator said. “In this case, that’s what was needed.”
For one week, anyway.
The Bengals (4-2-1) got back to stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback, resulting in a 27-24 victory over Baltimore last Sunday that moved Cincinnati back into first place in the AFC North.
They’d given up 505, 431 and 506 yards in the previous three games, resulting in two losses and a tie.
After Guenther scolded them, they held the Ravens under 300 yards and limited Joe Flacco to a passer rating of 43.1. They looked a lot more like the defense that finished No. 3 in the league last year.
“Obviously not winning for about a month, guys started second-guessing themselves,” safety George Iloka said. “But I was happy with the way we came out there against Baltimore. We came out there like we started the year.”
They want to keep it going against the young Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) and rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who has thrown 12 interceptions in 5 1/2 games. He’s on pace to tie Peyton Manning’s NFL rookie record for interceptions (28) set in 1998.
Bortles threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns and lost a fumble during a 27-13 loss in Miami last week.
“I will continue to learn from the things I do wrong and try and improve and do more of the right things,” Bortles said. “I think, like you said, it’s part of it. Guys are going to struggle at some point in their career, whether it’s their first year or tenth year.”
Cincinnati’s defense wants to extend Bortles’ struggles for one more week.
Here are some things to watch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium:
NO BURFICT: The Bengals’ defense will be missing its best player. Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict had his left knee cleaned out and will miss at least the next two games. When he’s been on the field, the defense has played better all-around. Linebacker Rey Maualuga also is sidelined with a strained left hamstring. Linebacker Vinnie Rey takes over as the leader.
“The next guy’s got to go in and perform and we can’t drop off at any level,” Guenther said. “Obviously Vontaze is a great player and we’re going to miss him because he’s one of the pillars of our defense.”
TRAP GAME: It’s the second of three straight home games for Cincinnati, sandwiched between AFC North rivals Baltimore and a game next Thursday night against Cleveland. The Jaguars shocked the Browns 24-6 in Cleveland two weeks ago. The Bengals want to make sure the Jaguars don’t get any thoughts of another upset.
“You want to keep them feeling that they’re in an adverse situation,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said.
STARTING FAST: The Bengals are 4-0 when they score first. They opened the game against the Ravens with Andy Dalton’s 1-yard touchdown sneak. During their 3-0 start to the season, the Bengals outscored opponents 44-3 in the first half. In the next three games, they were outscored 40-20 in the opening half.
“You want to start fast,” Dalton said. “If you can get that early lead, you’ve put yourselves in a good position. We’ve got to find ways to keep doing that.”
GROUND GAINS: After weeks of futility, Jacksonville has found a ground game. Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, a fifth-round draft pick last year, has carried 40 times for 235 yards and a touchdown in the past two games. He supplanted Toby Gerhart as the starter and provided a spark to what had been the league’s worst rushing attack.
“He’s getting more and more comfortable playing the position and understanding what it requires,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said.
DEFENSIVE HOLES: Already playing without linebacker Paul Posluszny and defensive end Andre Branch, the Jaguars will be without another defensive starter at Cincinnati. Cornerback Alan Ball was placed on injured reserve this week with a biceps injury. The Jaguars also will be without nickel cornerback Will Blackmon, who had surgery Tuesday to repair a broken index finger on his left hand. Those losses leave Jacksonville with a secondary that includes four second-year players.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville contributed to this report.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP—NFL