Cornerback Terence Newman with one of Sunday's team-high nine tackles.
Paul Brown Stadium may not be where quarterbacks go to die. But their stats usually get last rites before the Bengals finish off the decimal point.
Now stuff and mount the passer rating of Falcons Pro Bowler Matt Ryan next to the helmets of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Andrew Luck. In a building where the Bengals held four Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks to a combined rating of 56 last season, Ryan cha-chinged a 48.6 in the Bengals' 24-10 victory just a week after he led the NFL with 448 yards passing.
The Bengals have now won 10 straight at home to tie a franchise record and the common denominator is a suffocating defense that has held opposing passers to a rating of 57.1 in the streak. Even more improbable is they are allowing some of the league's best passers less than five yards per throw at 4.7 per attempt. And for the third straight PBS game they had three interceptions.
Tennessee's Jake Locker this Sunday at 1 p.m., one of the 2011 draft's underachieving first-rounders playing against one of those successful second-round quarterbacks, Andy Dalton.
In Paul Guenther's first two games as defensive coordinator, the Bengals haven't allowed a touchdown until the second half and in his first game at home his vaunted third-down package worked 75 percent of the time after last season it was successful 77 percent at PBS.
"You feel good when you come in and everybody is talking about their No. 1 offense and no one said anything this week about our defense or our defensive backs and you come in and play a pretty good game," said cornerback Adam Jones. "As a group, we played pretty well."
The Bengals cornerbacks showed on Sunday why Guenther calls them the best group in the NFL. Working against a corps that singed the Saints last week for 195 yards after the catch, the Bengals held the Falcons top four wide receivers to 170 yards total. Devin Hester, who had five catches for 99 yards last week, had just one catch for two yards. Roddy White, who lit the Bengals for 201 yards the last time they played in 2010, had 42 yards. The great Julio Jones, who had 116 yards last week, finished with 88 and didn't have his longest catch of 24 until 11:01 left in a 24-3 game.
They had three interceptions, two by third-year safety George Iloka doubling his total last year in 16 starts, and they got their hands on nine other balls. Cornerback Terence Newman had a team-high nine tackles to go with three passes defensed and cornerback Leon Hall added six more to spice his 24th career interception and a pass defensed.
Matty Ice might as well have been Matt Cassel throwing for 114 yards last year at PBS for the Vikings.
"That's how I've been taught since I've been here," Iloka said. "No deep throws. Let them catch everything up front. Tackle them and make them beat us."
Iloka beat the Falcons when he looked up at the goal line on an overthrown pass with 1:39 left in the third quarter and made a leaping grab intended for wide receiver Harry Douglas. Then in the last 35 seconds of the day, he caught Ryan's chuck of desperation.
"He threw it behind both of us. I just stopped," Iloka said of the first one. "I don't know who he was throwing to on the second one. But I knew I wanted it."
Ryan was a mess even though he got sacked only twice. The Bengals hit him seven other times with end Carlos Dunlap leading the way with a sack and five hits. He had people in his face on all three picks. As Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham said this week, because of the injury to rookie left tackle Jake Matthews, the Falcons' first-round pick, the Bengals were basically playing two guards playing tackle.
And Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry took advantage. Not to mention lineman Robert Geathers, who blitzed early a few times and put heat on Ryan as a linebacker.
"Paulie had a great game plan," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "Stop the run and get after Matty Ice early. Get him on his back. It seems like the better quarterbacks we play, or any quarterbacks, we get them on his back early and they tend to overthrow stuff and underthrow stuff did and he did that today."
They shut it down right away while waiting to get their three interceptions in the second half.
"We played Bengals football today," said Adam Jones, who described it thusly. "We dictated where we wanted the ball to go so the guys would have time to rush up front. I tip my hat to the coaches. They had a great game plan. We played good as group."
Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick advised them to be physical with Julio Jones, his teammate at Alabama and they got physical with everybody, and there were times it got chippy on the perimeter, especially with White.
"We stuck to our game plan. We don't change what we do," Adam Jones said. "We're going to send the pressure, give guys enough time to rush and cover in the back. It's going to be a physical game. I got two holding penalties today. It's going to be like that. I'm going to play as hard as I can play every down. Every now and then I'm going to get caught. One was a hold, the other I don't know. You've got to be physical."
And, as always, they had help from some of their 58,574 friends.
"Our 12th man is awesome," Peko said. "This is a hard place to win for other teams."
On Sunday, they watched some more stats stuffed and mounted on the striped wall.