Missed tackles teach Bengals D a lesson

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
7:00
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- When members of the Cincinnati Bengals' defense showed up Wednesday morning to review film from last Sunday's game against the Colts, they were in for a surprise.

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer only wanted to show them eight plays from the game. That's it. Nothing more. Just eight simple plays out of the 58 they were on the field for.

Only, those eight plays weren't a highlight reel of well-executed stunts and blitzes. They didn't feature any forced turnovers or recovered, either. They were eight plays that told a story of ineptitude the likes of which the Bengals' defense had rarely seen all season. Mostly, the plays featured missed tackles from when the 42-28 win was well in hand. On two of them, defenders were seen grabbing at air and softly driving forearms and shoulders into pass-catchers who managed to eventually find the end zone.

[+] EnlargeIndianapolis' LaVon Brazill
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Bengals defense allowed four second half touchdowns to the Colts.
Let's just say this about the plays Zimmer showed: they didn't put him in the jolliest or most cheerful of holiday moods.

"No, he wasn't," safety George Iloka said, grinning.

Asked to rank Zimmer's anger on a scale from 1 to 100, safety Reggie Nelson replied: "It was off the charts."

Zimmer wasn't very happy. But neither were the Bengals themselves. That's why they believe that film session and the rest of this week's practices will end up serving as important lessons.

"Practice all week, we're going to be a little more focused," Iloka said. "We have to go out there and play better for things to be how we want them to be."

The Bengals want the regular season to end with the overall team sporting a 12-4 record, the No. 2 AFC playoff seed, a first-round bye and a home-field postseason advantage. As a defense, they want to continue generating turnovers, shutting down the run and holding quarterbacks under 300 yards passing. Only two passers -- one of them being the Colts' Andrew Luck -- have gone beyond that mark in 13 games this season.

If Cincinnati's defenders can get back to 60 minutes of fundamentals, but keep the intimidating and physical style that made them a top-10 unit through much of the season, then they ought to accomplish all of that.

"We lost a little bit of [our edge] during the second half last week, so we've got to get it back," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "That's an important thing; to understand that when you have a game in control, keep control of it. That needs to transcend the group."

Cornerback Adam Jones had already digested that understanding on Monday, one day after the second-half collapse.

"Those guys should have scored seven points," Jones said of the Colts. "I'm not saying anything about their offense. They've got a good team and everything, but we gave them 21 points. We'll fix it, though.

"It's good when you win by 14 or 21 points. You can go back and fix those mistakes and it wasn't a loss."

Cincinnati will be hoping to get another big win Sunday night when it travels to Pittsburgh in a game that could come down to defense. Like all AFC North tilts, this one is expected to be a physical battle, even if the Steelers are all but eliminated from postseason contention.

Even the NFL's leading tackler wasn't immune to the missed tackles bug that spread around Cincinnati's defense last week.

"We take a big emphasis on tackling," Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. "Especially me, I hate missing tackles. I think I missed two tackles last game. For me, I realized I need to bend my knees more in practice or wrap up in practice."

Speaking of bugs, Burfict didn't get a chance to work on his form tackling Thursday thanks to an illness that had him and two others sidelined. Linebacker James Harrison and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis also missed the workout.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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