Bengals’ defense must be better

Published 1:47 am Thursday, September 15, 2016

CINCINNATI (AP) — No trying to put a positive spin on it. The Bengals’ defense got run over during a season-opening win over the Jets, and there’s an awful lot to fix heading into a matchup against a team that’s been known to run all over them.

The Steelers (1-0) had one of the best rushing games against the Bengals last season during their 18-16 playoff win at Paul Brown Stadium, piling up 167 yards.

Their rematch in Pittsburgh on Sunday will come down partly to how well Cincinnati’s defense handles DeAngelo Williams.

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“It’s the same old DeAngelo Williams,” said linebacker Karlos Dansby, who joined the Bengals as a free agent from Cleveland.

“Ain’t nothing changed. The man is consistent. He’s been explosive ever since he’s been in the league. I’ve had an opportunity to play against him a lot of times and I haven’t seen anything change.”

In the opener, it was the Bengals’ defense that looked very different.

The Jets ran 30 times for 152 yards, an average of 5.1 yards per carry. Matt Forte had 96 yards on 22 carries. During a 12-play drive that set up a field goal in the second half, the Jets ran nine times for 73 yards.

“We just gave up some runs that we don’t typically give up,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “Again, we had a lot of new guys playing. So some of those things are going to come.”

Last season, the Bengals finished seventh in run defense, allowing 92.3 yards per game. They held opponents under 100 yards rushing in 10 of their 16 regular-season games.

Guenther said there were problems with players staying in their assigned spots in the run defense, which created holes for Forte. During that second-half drive, the Jets had runs of 13, 16 and 16 yards. The showing left Cincinnati ranked No. 29 against the run.

“It’s nothing that we’re going to sit there and say, ‘Oh, we got overpowered here,”’ Guenther said. “It’s a quick fix, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Williams had a big game on Monday night during Pittsburgh’s 38-16 win at Washington.

He carried 26 times for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and had six catches for 28 yards. Given how the Bengals struggled to stop Forte, they expect the Steelers to try to test their run defense early.

“We’ve just got to have a great start to the game,” linebacker Rey Maualuga said. “We need all 11 people to do their job basically, first and foremost. Just do that and I think we’ll have a good chance of stopping them.”

Notes: TE Tyler Eifert said his surgically repaired left ankle is getting stronger every week. He hasn’t been cleared to practice. It’s uncertain how many more games he’ll miss. “It’s progressing well,” Eifert said. “No setbacks or nothing that’s made the process slow down. Each and every week it’s feeling better.” … DT Pat Sims (ankle) was held out of practice on Wednesday. LT Andrew Whitworth got to rest. DE Carlos Dunlap (shoulder) and CB Adam “Pacman” Jones (back) were limited. … CB Darqueze Dennard, who missed the Jets game with a sprained ankle, fully participated in practice for the first time, an indication he’ll be ready for Pittsburgh.