The Cincinnati Bengals defensive front teed-off on opposing quarterbacks like Tiger Woods at a driving range, posting 51 sacks during the regular season. The unit created a statistical threshold in the season finale against Baltimore by breaking the team’s season sack record of 48 set in 2001.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins led the way with 12 1/2 sacks, the most for a Bengals interior lineman in club history.
“It meant a lot for us to break the record,” Atkins said. “It means we’re working as a unit and everybody is involved in making plays. We have a lot of guys contributing and it has been a defensive team effort throughout the season.”
The 6-foot-1, 300-pound wrecking ball has been dominant rushing the passer, recording 20 sacks as a two-year starter. He’s totaled 116 tackles, 23 sacks and six forced fumbles in three seasons with the Bengals. Atkins is considered undersized by NFL standards but plays with great strength, quickness, power and leverage. He’s been a beast in the middle of a rambunctious defensive line.
Cincinnati may have rolled the dice selecting Atkins in fourth round of 2010 NFL draft out of the University of Georgia, but the gamble appears to be paying off with his game evolving.
“I reevaluate everything I’ve done after each season and think of the things I can do to get better,” he said. “It’s important for me to improve my game and still focus on the little thing I do well. I still watch film on guys like Warren Sapp and John Randle to see how they rushed the passer. I watch them to see how I can put it to use in my game rushing the passer.”
Atkins was elected to his second Pro Bowl this season and humbled by the fact, but he is eyeing a much bigger prize.
The Bengals are in the playoffs and will travel to Houston for a wild-card showdown with the Texans on Saturday. The two hooked up under the same scenario last season and Houston recorded a lopsided 31-10 victory. The outcome could be much different this go-round with Cincinnati going in on a high.
“It feels good to be recognized by your peers, coaches and fans, but I’m hoping we go to the Super Bowl,” Atkins said. “Everybody’s record is zero in the playoffs and I like our chances. We won seven of our last eight games and feel we have momentum in our court. We wanted to finish out the regular season strong and carry that momentum into the playoffs.
“We have a hard road ahead of us no matter who we play, but this team has heart and believe. We’re not going to make it easy for anyone and we’re ready to make that journey.”