It's a Jungle out there and that's why Wallace Gilberry loves playing defense at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals have 18 of their 37 sacks at home with two games to play. In six home games this season the nickel package has been successful 75 percent of the time on third down. Gilberry, the team's versatile backup defensive lineman and unlikely sack leader with 7.5, has two PBS games with more than one sack.
"It's hard to win here," said Gilberry, off Thursday's practice field. "It's a jungle-type feeling with the crowd and the colors. It really feels like you're in the jungle."
With the way Bengals four-man pressures have slowed recently, the pass rush needs a healthy helping of home cooking this Sunday (1 p.m., tickets still available) at PBS against the Vikings. And Gilberry says the line has talked among itself and is committed to bringing the heat it had earlier in the season.
"The sense of urgency is back," Gilberry said.
The loss of two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and end/tackle Robert Geathers may be starting to catch up to the rotation. But the Bengals did have nine sacks in the first two games without Atkins and Geathers, compared to three in the last three games.
And in the last two games against fairly pedestrian offensive lines, the Bengals have had just one sack. According to Pro Football Focus, last week during the 30-20 loss in Pittsburgh the Bengals got pressure on Ben Roethlisberger 15.4 percent of the time on dropback passes against a guy getting pressure 33.9 percent of the time. Same thing with Andrew Luck of the Colts two weeks ago at PBS. Getting pressured 38 percent of the time before the game, he got it 18.8 percent while throwing four touchdown passes in Cincinnati's 42-28 victory.
Of course, Roethlisberger had it easy since he had only one drive where he didn't have the lead.
"We haven't been getting there as much and it's been self-inflicted," Gilberry said. "We're trying to do too much. We just have to get back to what we're used to doing. Having fun and getting back to flying around like we were today in practice. Myself included. We're trying to create ways to get there instead of just doing it. Pass rushing is an art. There's a method to the madness and we have to get back to the basics of it."
Left end Carlos Dunlap and SAM backer James Harrison showing up in sweats Thursday for the second straight practice as they nurse concussions isn't so fun. Dunlap, who got hit on the last play against Pittsburgh, is second on the club with seven sacks and since the loss of Atkins, Harrison, who missed most of last Sunday's game, has stepped in on some passing downs to reprise his Pro Bowl role in Pittsburgh.
Gilberry isn't so much looking for rotations but for that let-it-rip approach.
"At the end of the day if you're not having fun, then you're stiff," Gilberry said "If you're stiff, you're not getting off the ball. If you can't get off the ball, you can't get sacks. You have to load up and have some fun. It will come. We've talked about how we're going to come out."
Gilberry likes how the Bengals have responded since Sunday.
"I'm not saying we deserved it, but we needed it," he said. "Guys are back hungry. I'm not saying we weren't before, but the sense of urgency is back. We know the situation in front of us. We understand the situation we built for us and the good thing is we don't need any help. Just take care of business."
Gilberry has already played a Week 16 game at PBS where everything was on the line. Only he did it as a member of the Chiefs on Dec. 27, 2009, when the Bengals needed a win to clinch the AFC North. The Bengals won, 17-10, and Gilberry had Kansas City's lone sack on a day Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel threw for just 180 yards on 37 throws and got picked twice.
"It was right after Chris Henry's passing and I remember how emotional everyone was. It was a very emotional crowd," Gilberry said. "I did have a sack that day and I don't think Cassel did that great. Let's hope history repeats itself. I get another sack and Cassel doesn't play that great."
And the Bengals win the North.
INJURY ROUNDUP: The signs in Minnesota are pointing more and more to running back Adrian Peterson (foot, groin) playing Sunday and the Bengals really can't be surprised.
Even though Peterson didn't practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday, the optimism is high because Thursday was a treatment day for him and he's apparently responding well.
With Peterson headed to Canton, the Bengals must be one of the stops on the way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame because Roethlisberger and Tom Brady have already blown through here this year, not to mention cameos by Calvin Johnson in Detroit and Antonio Gates in San Diego.
The Bengals have won all those showdowns and in order to win this one they'll have to keep Peterson in check. It looks like the Vikings are also going to have Peterson's backup, Toby Gerhart (hamstring), after he went limited Thursday but probably not last week's running back hero Matt Asiata (ankle), sidelined the last two days.
It also looks like safety Harrison Smith (toe) is returning to the starting lineup. He was limited Thursday after he played his first game in two months last week.
While the Vikings are getting healthy, the Bengals may be not.
After losing punter Kevin Huber for the year to a broken jaw Sunday night, the Bengals are suddenly taking some shots to the head and it is putting some of their best players in question.
Left guard Andrew Whitworth didn't work Thursday after getting a concussion in Wednesday's workout and joined Dunlap and Harrison on the side. Another D-lineman also surfaced on Thursday's injury report when tackle Devon Still (back) didn't practice. For the second straight day, right guard Kevin Zeitler (foot) was limited. Cornerback Terence Newman (knee) looks to be out again this Sunday.
The availability of the players with concussion hinges on tests delivered by an independent neurologist according to NFL protocol.
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