Posted: 5:35 p.m.
Among the most interesting of head coach Marvin Lewis' observations Saturday after watching tape of Thursday night's win in New England concerned the rapid maturity of right tackle Anthony Collins and the fine play of starting cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall.
"The defense will only play as good as those two guys on the outside play," Lewis said.
And it's been very good. Joseph is particularly drawing raves for amping up his physical play and tackling.
"He tackled very well in his first two years in the NFL and he missed some tackles (last year)," Lewis said. "He's changed his body composition and he's kind of coming into his own."
Lewis thought the offensive line held up well against the Patriots' varying looks and physical play when they saw four different fronts in the first four series.
"The pockets were clean," Lewis said. "I thought the one pressure was a hug blitz and it wasn't their responsibilities. I think they've played two games well as a unit. We have to eliminate penalties. We have to be more consistent with our tracks, both them and the running backs, in the running game. But they faced a lot of blitzes (Thursday), a lot of pressure early in that game.
"There was a good opportunity for them to see both changes in personnel, changes in looks. A lot of adjustments had to be made mentally out there."
Collins has been called for holding on running plays in each of the first two games, but Lewis has been impressed with his play at the point of attack.
"Some of those wouldn't be called, some would," Lewis said. "In the preseason there becomes an emphasis on certain things. But he's at the point of attack, he's got his guy wrapped up pretty good and we just have to do a better job initially with the hands and placement of them.
"Anthony continues to answer the challenges and that's what you want. We felt like last year when we drafted him that he was a great young prospect. He played big-time football and that he'd come here and be able to play and make the transition. He's probably grown up as fast as any young guy I've ever been around. He's grown up. He's matured. He really comes to work every day like a professional."
Lewis isn't concerned that the Bengals have rolled up a lot of yards in the preseason and have just two touchdowns to show for it because of penalties and turnovers. He knows the turnovers need to be curtailed but he says the club is doing the most important thing and that's moving the ball.
The offseason emphasis on yards after the catch has paid off and has softened the blow of the scoreboard struggles. The Bengals already have seven pass plays of at least 20 yards in the first two games. That's already a third of the 21 they had in the 16-game regular season last year. And running back DeDe Dorsey's 45-yard run Thursday was one shy off Cedric Benson's team long rush last year.
Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, whose longest catch last year was a 26-yarder, already has one of 55 and another of 35, both of the YAC variety. Wide receiver Chris Henry, whose long was a 22-yarder last year, has a 24-yarder and 27-yarder in the preseason. Tight end Dan Coats fumbled away a 27-yarder Thursday. Last year, tight end Reggie Kelly's long was 31 yards.
"We put a point of emphasis the entire offseason," Lewis said of yards after catch. "We talked about straight-arming and making sure you run with the ball after the catch as runners and receivers. Ball security has to continue to be an emphasis."
The Ocho had a superb straight arm of Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi on his 35-yard run down the sideline Thursday.