No. 55 on Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley is one of Sunday's big matchups.
It's OK that Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has a long memory. He just wants his players to suffer some short-term memory loss when they tee it up against the Rams Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) at Paul Brown Stadium.
"It's just one game," said Guenther after practice this week. "Like I tell them, you can't hang on to the wins too long and you can't hang on to the losses too long. We've got to learn in that situation someone needs to step up and make a play."
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has been listening and forgetting.
"You can't dwell on it 24-7," Kirkpatrick said. "You take a little time. You think about it . . . You make the corrections you have to make . . . But this is a right-now league. It's all about what's happening right now."
What is happening right now is the potential return of cornerback Adam Jones to the patchwork secondary that ended the game last Sunday night should help erase the Arizona trip. He came back to practice Thursday for the first time in a week in limited fashion.
And a different game plan should also help shake it up. After giving up 57 yards to Cardinals sift master Carson Palmer in the final 38 seconds last Sunday in Arizona, the Bengals face a Rams offense that hasn't had a 200-yard passing day since the opener
Instead, the Bengals have to prepare for a stud rookie running back that is being compared to guys like Herschel Walker and Adrian Peterson. But the Bengals just don't want Todd Gurley to turn into Thomas Rawls, the Seattle rookie who authored the biggest rushing day against the Bengals this season with 169 yards on 23 carries back on Oct. 11.
"He's really good. I feel like when he came out he was the top back," Kirkpatrick said of the 6-1, 227-pound Gurley. "He's got explosive speed, strong, powerful, great vision. The guy is doing a great job leading his team and it's our job to stop that."
The numbers favor the Bengals. Three weeks after Rawls stunned them with a 69-yard touchdown run, WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict came off the physically unable to prepare list (PUP) to reverse the run. In the last four games he's teamed with middle linebacker Rey Maualuga to help the Bengals allow 4.1 yards per attempt and 87 rush yards per game, compared to the first six games of 4.9 and 109, respectively.
Meanwhile, Gurley is looking to regain his torrid pace of early in the season. After ripping off games of 128, 146, and 159, he has cooled off a tad averaging 83 in the last four games on 4.1 yards per carry as defenses stack the box and ignore the pass.
"They make a difference in there for us," said Guenther of his backer tag-team. "They have been around. They know it, they are big, physical guys who understand where to be and make the tackle."
And while the Rams are turning to quarterback Case Keenum in his second Rams start, St. Louis will test them with slippery wide receiver Tavon Austin in order to get the eighth guy out of the box that is geared to stop Gurley.
"Some teams are putting eight guys up in there. In my opinion you have to mix it up some," Guenther said. "They do things to test the linebackers with all the fake reverses and all that stuff. It's a little bit different of an offensive setup, so we have to do things with a lot more run volume than we've seen."
The Bengals got the opposite last week in Arizona. While the Rams average 174 yards passing per game, Palmer put up 171 in the third quarter. The killing play in the quarter was Kirkpatrick's missed tackle on a third-and-14 check-down off a blitz that would have forced a punt in a game Arizona led, 21-14. Instead, wide receiver J.J. Nelson rung up 36 yards to set up the score that made it, 28-14.
"We have to tackle the sight adjust," Guenther said of the blitz.
"Do we still have to talk about Sunday?" Kirkpatrick asked the day the Bengals returned to work this week. File it under Short Memory, Cornerbacks.
"For me personally, I feel like maybe for a week or so I got away from the small things," Kirkpatrick said. "Dig deep. Go over the things that got us here. Practicing hard. Extra communication. Re-channeling. Hitting the re-start button on yourself. Just getting back into all the details.
"After a loss, you dwell on them," Kirkpatrick said. "Maybe on the plane at night, watch film, see where your mental errors were. You take maybe four to five hours, meditate on them, try to figure out what you can get back right. But when the next day gets here, it's all about moving on."
In the third quarter Sunday night, Palmer went after a reduced secondary. It was already without Jones and then on the go-ahead touchdown, his backup, Darqueze Dennard suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
So for the last 25 minutes, Guenther put together a unit that had never been on the field together. He teamed Kirkpatrick with rookie clot corner Josh Shaw (four scrimmage snaps before Sunday) and put slot corner Leon Hall outside for the first time this season.
So in that last drive, Palmer knew exactly what to do.
"They put basically five receivers out on the field. (Andre) Ellington if you want to call him a runner," Guenther said. "We didn't get to the quarterback, we mixed some of the coverages in and the guy made some good throws . . . A couple of different thought processes go through your mind (on the last drive). You have some guys on the field that haven't played a bunch. Do you pressure them? Do you try to cover them? It didn't work out in our favor."
The Bengals offense got second-guessed on their last drive for throwing instead of running and not milking the clock. Guenther got second-guessed for not blitzing on the last three throws.
"You can second-guess me, but if they hit you on a (deep) ball in one-on-one coverage against a guy who hasn't played much why would you put that guy in that situation? " Guenther asked. "Trust me, I went through all the scenarios in my mind, and I was going through all the scenarios going into the series. We made the decision to play some coverage and hopefully get there with a four-guy rush and it didn't work out."
Guenther knows even without the blitz, they could have pulled it off. The first play in the drive had been run earlier in the game and they almost got their hand on it, but with Shaw in the game he wasn't playing as tightly. And on the next play, an 18-yarder to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Guenther was furious they didn't tackle him in bounds.
But if Guenther has a long memory, he also knows he needs a selective one to put together this week's game plan. And it should help there's a healthier secondary.
"I'm not down on our guys at all," Guenther said. "We had a bad quarter of football as a team. I thought we played really good in the first half, and I thought we played really good in the fourth quarter. We got some key stops. We got the ball back for our offense, and I give their offense credit. They are good and they made some plays at the end of the game, so I'm not down on our guys at all."