His­tory on the line: Por­ous Ben­gals to try to stop Saints

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JOE KAY

CINCIN­NATI

The Steel­ers piled up

481 yards against Cincin­nati’s his­tor­i­cally bad de­fense.

The Chiefs and the Buccaneers each went well over 500 yards the next two weeks, putting the Ben­gals on the cusp of NFL his­tory.

No de­fense has al­lowed three straight 500-yard games. In or­der to avoid the ig­nominy, the Ben­gals (5-3) are go­ing to have to stop an of­fense that’s been light­ing it up.

Hello, Drew Brees.

The Saints (7-1) have won seven straight and are com­ing off a 45-35 win that sent the Rams to their first loss. New Or­leans piled up 487 yards be­hind Brees, who leads the NFL in com­ple­tion rate (76.3 per­cent) and passer rat­ing (120.6). He’s been sacked a league-low nine times.

If the Ben­gals fail to get a hand on him, it could be his­tory.

“They go as Brees goes,” de­fen­sive end Car­los Dun­lap said. “We’ve got to find a way to slow down that fu­ture Hall of Famer.”

The big­gest chal­lenge for the Saints will be keeping the mo­men­tum in their only road game dur­ing a four-week span.

They re­turn home to play the Ea­gles and Falcons the next two weeks.

Al­though the Ben­gals have given up the most yards in the NFL, the de­fense has scored four touch­downs on in­ter­cep­tion and fum­ble re­turns, play­ing a big fac­tor in three of their wins.

The Saints can’t af­ford to get off to a bad start that gives the Ben­gals the ad­van­tage. Also, it would help if the Saints ti­died up their de­fense a bit.

While the Ben­gals are his­tor­i­cally bad – on pace to give up more than 7,000 yards – the Saints are also strug­gling on de­fense. They rank 25th over­all, in­clud­ing sec­ond-

THEY GO AS BREES GOES. WE’VE GOT TO FIND A WAY TO SLOW DOWN THAT FU­TURE HALL OF FAMER.

Ben­gals de­fen­sive end Car­los Dun­lap

worst in pass de­fense. They’ve been among the worst at stop­ping op­po­nents in­side the 20-yard line. The Rams over­came an 18-point half­time deficit and tied it 35-35 in the fourth quar­ter.

New Or­leans would like fewer shootouts in the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

“There’s a ton of things we have to im­prove on and we need to im­prove on, or it’s go­ing to hurt us later,” coach Sean Pay­ton said.

Some things to watch Sun­day at Paul Brown Sta­dium: The new guy’s hurt: New Or­leans signed for­mer Cow­boys re­ceiver Dez Bryant on Wed­nes­day. It’s un­clear if he’ll play this week af­ter suf­fer­ing an in­jury Fri­day dur­ing his sec­ond prac­tice with the team. He’s listed as ques­tion­able for Sun­day’s game with an an­kle in­jury. Thomas’ time: While Bryant’s ar­rival gets at­ten­tion, Michael Thomas re­mains the Saints’ big­gest threat. He set a fran­chise record last week with 211 yards re­ceiv­ing, in­clud­ing his 72-yard touch­down late in the fourth quar­ter. With half the sea­son still re­main­ing, Thomas has 70 catches for 880 yards and five TDs. Big­gest blemish: The Saints’ most glar­ing prob­lems on de­fense have come near the goal line. New Or­leans’ op­po­nents have scored touch­downs on 20 of 28 drives (71.4 per­cent). That ranks 28th of 32 teams in de­fen­sive red zone ef­fi­ciency.

“You can’t find any team hav­ing suc­cess later in the sea­son with the num­bers that we cur­rently have,” Pay­ton said. “We’ve got to find a way to im­prove that.”

The Ben­gals lead the league in scor­ing touch­downs once they get in­side the 20-yard line, reach­ing the end zone on 20 of their 26 such pos­ses­sions. They’ve scored touch­downs on eight of their past nine trips in­side the 20.

Oh, that his­tory: No NFL team has given up three straight 500-yard games. The 1963 Jets gave up three 500-yard games within a four-game span – 510 to the Charg­ers, 505 to the Raiders, 317 to the Bron­cos and 528 to the Charg­ers again. In its past three games, Cincin­nati has al­lowed 481 to the Steel­ers, 551 to the Chiefs and 576 to the Buccaneers.

“We’re un­der­achiev­ing right now,” Dun­lap said. “We’re play­ing well enough to win some games, which is why we’re 5-3. If we work on the neg­a­tives, we can be that elite de­fense and that elite team.” Miss­ing Green: A.J. Green caught a 13-yard touch­down pass with 7 sec­onds left for a win in At­lanta. He had two catches that moved the Ben­gals into range for their win­ning field goal against Tampa Bay be­fore they headed into their bye last week. He also hurt a toe on his right foot on the fi­nal catch and is side­lined in­def­i­nitely, cost­ing Cincin­nati its most de­pend­able re­ceiver.

AP writ­ers Brett Mar­tel in Metairie, Louisiana, and Joe Reedy in Los An­ge­les con­trib­uted to this re­port.

FRANK VICTORES AP

Ben­gals coach Marvin Lewis has seen his de­fense give up more than 500 yards in each of the last two games.

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