The Bengals should take the game tape from Sunday's 24-10 win over the Falcons and sell it as a "How to Tackle" instructional video.
"That's one thing that the coaches here stress – being physical and tackling," said Adam Jones. "Last week when the Falcons played New Orleans, the Saints missed a lot of tackles so that was a big emphasis."
According to ProFootballFocus.com, New Orleans whiffed on a mind-boggling 16 tackles in last week's game including six by safety Kenny Vaccaro. PFF credited Atlanta with 195 "yards after catch" in the passing game and 73 "yards after contact" in the running game, helping the Falcons set a franchise record with 568 yards of total offense and score a league-best 37 points.
"That is a good bunch of receivers and they're going to catch some balls, so when they catch it you have got to get them on the ground," said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
In Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium, I can recall Rey Maualuga missing a tackle on a swing pass to Steven Jackson that the veteran running back turned into a 7-yard gain, but that's about it. On the remaining 23 passes completed by Matt Ryan, the receivers were typically stopped in their tracks the instant the ball arrived.
"Coach (Guenther) put a lot of emphasis on running to the ball and gang tackling them," said Emmanuel Lamur. "We did a great job of that."
One week after posting an NFL-best 128.8 passer rating, Ryan managed a 48.6 rating against the Bengals. Since the start of last season, 8 of 9 quarterbacks to face the Bengals defense at Paul Brown Stadium in the regular season have posted passer ratings under 75 including Ben Roethlisberger (73.1), Aaron Rodgers (64.5), Tom Brady (52.2), and Joe Flacco (49.8).
"Me personally, I try to get those guys on my resume and as a defense we feel the same way," said Carlos Dunlap.
After converting 6-of-11 third down opportunities last week, the Falcons went 3-for-12 against the Bengals as Cincinnati's sure tackling led to several third-and-long situations. The average distance of Atlanta's 12 third down attempts was third-and-10.
"You tackle the catch when it's second-and-10 and now it's third-and-eight or third-and-six, as opposed to third-and-one," said Marvin Lewis. "That makes a huge difference throughout the course of a football game. Even the situation today in the fourth quarter where we've got the lead and we're tackling them and they're not able to get the ball out of bounds. Those are huge plays in the football game to keep the clock going. If we want to be a great defensive football team, we've got to continue to be a great tackling team."
"I want us to be 'smart bullies.'" said Guenther. "I know you've heard that saying, and what I mean is that we understand football, we understand how to attack offenses, and we frustrate the other team. It's like playing those guys at the YMCA in basketball that have knee braces on, but you can't beat 'em."
In four of the last five years, the Bengals finished in the NFL's Top 10 in yards and points allowed under Mike Zimmer, and the defense is off to a strong start under his replacement Guenther.
After scoring 16 points on opening day against the Bengals, Baltimore increased that to 26 this week in a win over Pittsburgh. Atlanta's point total dropped from 37 against the Saints to 10 against Cincinnati.
"They came in as the number one offense and we held them to 10 points and it probably should have been three," said Jones. "We all have stuff that we have to work on, but if we just keep getting better every week and guys stay healthy, we have a good chance to be in Arizona."
As in the site of Super Bowl XLIX.
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