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Numbers smile on defense


Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's men have been stingy on the scoreboard.

If numbers don't lie, then the 2016 NFL Record and Fact Book takes the stand and testifies that defense has been at the heart of the Bengals' resurgence into the NFL's tight circle of consistent winners during the last decade.

Among the 855-pound page treasure trove of anything NFL is the birth date of Paul Brown (Sept. 7, 1908), the list of the league's oldest starters in 2015 (the Bengals' 34-year-old Andrew Whitworth carried the day at left tackle), and the compilation of the won-loss record of all active quarterbacks with at least 10 starts (where Andy Dalton's .656 winning percentage trails only Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger).

The good book also charts trends of the last 10 seasons in the major offensive and defensive categories and while Dalton and perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green take their rightful spot among the offensive sultans of stats, the Bengals defense has been a consistent force since 2006 and a top five presence since 2012.

In that 10-year stretch the Bengals are tied for ninth place in the NFL with 85 victories with Atlanta and the Giants, and they're one of only five AFC teams with at least six post-season berths. In the last two seasons the Bengals have the NFL's second best winning percentage at .703, tied with Carolina behind the .750 trio of New England, Denver, and Arizona.  And since 2012, only Denver (.781), New England (.750), and Seattle (.719) have been better.

A steel-belted takeaway/giveaway ratio fueled by an opportunistic defense has mirrored the climb. They've racked up the second most turnovers by an AFC team since 2006 with a total of 278 that only trails the Patriots' 304. The plays have generated a plus-18 takeaway/giveaway ratio, fourth best in the AFC and seventh in the NFL in the last ten years.

And in the last two seasons the Bengals have allowed the league's fifth fewest points during the first two years under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Guenther took over for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer after he led Cincinnati to top ten overall rankings in 2012 and 2013 and in the last four seasons the Bengals have allowed the second fewest points behind only Seattle.

But The Book also reflects how Dalton and Green have paved the way on offense. Besides his 50 wins, Dalton has completed enough balls to Green that in the last four seasons Green is the NFL's fifth most prolific receiver with 5,114 yards, 633 yards shy of Calvin Johnson in Johnson's last four seasons and only 128 short of his 2011 draft soulmate Julio Jones.


No one in the NFL has more rushing touchdowns since 2014 than Jeremy Hill.

And since 2013, his 3,764 yards are still fifth most, just 19 yards short of Johnson. But no one is near Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown's 5,031 over the last three seasons. Denver's Demaryius Thomas is the closest at 4,353.

(Green, who has had at least 1,041 yards in every season, should overtake Brown in one category this year. According to Elias he needs 923 yards to pass Brown for the fifth most yards in the first six years of a career at 7,094. The top four of Randy Moss at 8,375), Torry Holt at 8,156), Jerry Rice at 7,866, and Calvin Johnson at 7,836 is miles away.

Bengals running back Jeremy Hill leads the NFL with 20 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons, one more than DeMarco Murray and four more than Marshawn Lynch and Lamar Miller.

A few more tidbits from the NFL Record and Fact Book, which put Broncos linebacker Von Miller on the cover before he put his signature on the game's latest richest contract:

_Safety Reggie Nelson is now in Oakland and the Bengals know they have to replace his instincts that netted him 17 interceptions since 2012, most in the NFL behind only Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman's 22. Since '14, Nelson's 12 picks lead the league with one more than Glover Quin.

_How tough is the AFC North?  In the last 10 years it is the only division where three teams have won at least three division titles with the Bengals and Ravens taking three each and the Steelers four. And Baltimore (.738) has the AFC's second best home record, Pittsburgh fourth best (.725), and Cincinnati seventh best at .618 since 2006.

_In the last ten years with post-season berths on the line, December has been kind to the Bengals. Since 2006 in the AFC, they have as many wins in the last month (26) as Baltimore and more than anybody but New England (39), San Diego (35), Pittsburgh (33), and Indianapolis (32).

_A good finish needs a good beginning and at 20-13, the Bengals are a solid put-it-in-the-fairway .606 in September since 2006.  Only New England (24), Denver (23), Baltimore (22), and Indianapolis (20) join them with 20 wins.


 A.J. Green looks to catch more history this year.

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