Bengals defense better, but work to be done

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt both said they felt like the defense did a little better to avoid the tackling issues that haunted them in Week 4 at Tennessee, but turnovers covered up for some of the mistakes Sunday at Arizona.

Taylor-Britt’s pick-6 near the end of the first half proved to be the game-changing momentum swing after the Bengals offense had been stopped at the goal line on a fourth-and-1, as it put Cincinnati up 17-14 going into halftime. The Bengals scored the first drive of the second half to extend the lead, and then added two more turnovers and a red zone stop late in the third quarter to help seal a 34-20 win over the Cardinals.

The interception return for a touchdown marked Cam Taylor-Britt’s first regular-season pick of his career. He also had one at the end of the divisional round playoff win at Buffalo last year.

“It was huge, Cam stepping up,” Pratt said. “Cam has been stepping up all year. He was banged up last week but coming back to make the big play for us, we lean on Cam to bring the juice. His name is ‘Juice,’ so he brings the juice and that was a huge play for us.”

Bengals coach Zac Taylor just wants to see continued improvement all around as his team heads into Week 6 against Seattle, sitting at 2-3 and with a chance to get to .500 going into the bye next week.

Defensively, that means better tackling, as the Bengals still gave up 142 yards rushing a week after 12 missed tackles helped Tennessee top 200 yards rushing. Tackling hasn’t been an issue for this team in the past, but it’s been a concerning trend in 2023.

“We’re still missing too many tackles,” Pratt said. “That ain’t what I’m accustomed to seeing. They understand in our room that ain’t the way to go about it. We know we’ve got to get guys down. We’ve got to stop giving them yards after the (contact).”

Taylor said missed tackles can be corrected because it’s just making sure the players are more detailed with their technique, but it’s not entirely surprising to see early in the season. The Bengals don’t tackle in practices and there are usually only two periods during two days of training camp where they do work on that live.

That doesn’t make it acceptable, though. Taylor wants to see the defense taking guys to the ground on first contact.

On Sunday, that issue didn’t have a chance to snowball as much because the offense was taking care of business keeping the defense off the field for longer periods of time, and the defense seemed to pick up after Taylor-Britt’s pick.

Pratt had a key tackle on Josh Dobbs in a fourth-and-1 at the Cincinnati 16-yard line, which he credited to Nick Scott blowing up the play in coverage and Sam Hubbard eating up two blocks. The Bengals drove down the field for a touchdown on the ensuing drive to make it a 31-20 lead.

Then, the next play from scrimmage, Trey Hendrickson got a strip sack on Dobbs, which Hubbard recovered and that led to another three points, and Pratt sealed the game with an interception with about five minutes left.

“It just affects us,” Taylor-Britt said. “When someone touches the ball, it’s just kind of like hot potato at that point. Everybody wants it, everyone goes to get a touch on the ball.”

Taylor-Britt was pleased to get things going with his pick-6, especially after the unexpected disappointment of the offense not getting a score from the 1-yard line. He credited Mike Hilton for making his big play happen.

“It was actually because of Mike, honestly,” Taylor-Britt said. “He showed down and they see he was blitzing and they kind of made a little check, and the receiver ran a hitch route and he was trying to get it out hot, and Mike ended up coming back off of him, not blitzing, and people look at it always think Mike is coming so of course, they changed it, and it played out to our favor.”

But, the most important thing was contributing to a win, Taylor-Britt added.

When asked if the victory Sunday shifted the mood of the team, all he could say was “it was most definitely needed.” Pratt called it vital and something to build on this week.

“We just knew we had to get a win,” Pratt said. “We knew we hadn’t been playing like ourselves, getting that rhythm back that we needed, we needed to execute.”


Seahawks at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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