Whitworth puts it on line(s)

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth has called it because he does it four times a year and has already done it three times this season.

Sunday's game against the Texans at Paul Brown Stadium (1 p.m.-WLW-AM 700) is a game to be decided in the trenches and not on the perimeter, he says. Much like those bloodbaths against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

"It's a trench game to be sure," Whitworth said during the week. "The real match of the game is not going to be one-on-one, but a match of the offensive and defensive lines on both sides. It's not going to be someone against someone else. It's going to be which unit plays longer and harder and more effective."

The Bengals became big admirers of the Texans last week while watching them on film. Not only have running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate traded 100-yard games, but Whitworth's foe most of the day Sunday, outside linebacker Connor Barwin, has stepped in seamlessly for injured sack ace Mario Williams and is coming of a Defensive Player of the Month performance that included a four-sack game against Jacksonville.

"They play with such great effort and attitude, they plug either guy back there and they run the ball. They plug in rushers and they're able to rush the passer," Whitworth said. "It's like playing Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Whoever plays best up front is going to win. What line is going to win."

Since the Bengals are used to playing the 3-4 defenses of the Steelers and the Ravens, Whitworth doesn't think they'll be as perplexed by what the Texans are doing as some other teams. After holding the Steelers without a sack last month, the Bengals gave up three to them last Sunday in Pittsburgh (all to outside linebacker James Harrison), but only when Pittsburgh was up by at least 21 points.

Harrison took advantage of breakdowns in communication and protection to get two of the sacks, and Whitworth gave up his first-ever sack to Harrison on the other one when he got stepped on.

"When you get down like that, it's a defensive coordinator's dream," Whitworth said. "It was a play-action and we didn't get the play-action because they were coming on a blitz. When you set for a play-action and it doesn't end up happening, it turns into a quick dropback. It's just a little different. I was falling when I went out to get him. I didn't get my balance quickly enough and I should have."

The 6-4, 264-pound Barwin is taller than Harrison and brings a different look for the 6-7, 335-pound Whitworth. Whitworth saw Barwin a little bit in the Texans win two years ago at PBS, when Barwin got his first NFL sack against right tackle Dennis Roland on his way to leading all rookie defensive ends with 4.5 sacks. He's now an outside backer in the 3-4 and Whitworth compares him to Green Bay's Clay Matthews.

"Plays hard, he's always going to be in the right place, be where he's supposed to be. Plays physical. That kind of guy," Whitworth said.

The Bengals know Barwin well as a University of Cincinnati product they coached at the Senior Bowl, where he became the first player to play on both offense and defense. A former basketball player before becoming a tight end, Barwin settled on defense his senior year and prepared for some of his NFL workouts with the help of former Bengals linebacker David Pollack.

Plus Clif Marshall, who helps out the Bengals in the weight room occasionally while running the Ignition workout facility in Mason, Ohio, trained Barwin for what turned out to be a breakthrough scouting combine for both back in '09.

Barwin finished in the top five in six categories among the defensive ends, including first in the two exercises that measure explosion, the vertical leap and broad jump. It put Barwin into the early second round and on the cover of Marshall's recruiting flyer and both of their careers have taken off.

"Looking for the next Connor Barwin," said Marshall last week, on the road recruiting big-time prospects to train for the upcoming combine. "He's a blue-collar guy. He had a chance to go train anywhere. Arizona, Florida. And he stayed in snowy, icy Cincinnati. It didn't matter. That's where he was comfortable because that's where he was working."

Marshall is intrigued by Barwin's matchup with Whitworth and was thinking about coming off the road and checking it out in person.

"Whit is the same kind of guy," Marshall said. "Blue collar all the way. That should be quite a battle with those two guys."

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