CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is pulling motivation from wherever he can find it this week.
His goal is to get his players to realize the full potential of how good they really can be.
One of the motivational tactics he employed during meetings Monday was to try to convince them they were in the very same Week 2 scenario as they were last year. When his defenders prepare for this Sunday's home game against the San Diego Chargers, Guenther wants them to reflect upon how they prepared for the Atlanta Falcons entering the same week a season ago.
"I told them if you want to know what I wanted our defense looking like, it would be that game," Guenther said. "How we flew to the ball, we mixed our looks up, we stopped the run, we got after the passer. That's what I want it eventually to look like every Sunday."
The Bengals beat the Falcons, 24-10.
Ahead of that game, the Bengals were riding high after another season-opening win, this time when they knocked off the Ravens on the road. They returned to Cincinnati for the home opener a week later against a Falcons team that had just come off a clutch Week 1 win against their division-rival Saints. That opener was decided by an overtime field goal, and included a 448-yard passing performance from Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Ahead of this year's Week 2 game, the Bengals are also 1-0 after an impressive dismantling of the Raiders in Oakland. For their next game, they face a Chargers team that is fresh off a come-from-behind, 33-28 win against the Lions. Similar to Ryan last year, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers comes to Cincinnati after a 400-yard passing day.
"Rivers is a hell of a player," Guenther said. "I've got a lot of respect for him. He's tough, he's competitive, he don't take no [stuff]. He's like a linebacker."
One positive for the Bengals is that in six games they have never allowed Rivers to put together a 400-yard passing day. The most he has in one game against them was the 338 yards that came in Rivers' first meeting with the Bengals in 2006. Those yards were part of a shootout San Diego won, 49-41.
In his past four meetings against the Bengals -- including the 2013 wild-card round playoff win in Cincinnati -- Rivers has only three touchdown passes and three interceptions. He's been sacked eight times and averaged just 229 yards. In those same four games, only once have the Chargers rushed for more than 100 yards. Their 196 came in that lone playoff game the Bengals entered highly favored to win.
Had it not been for that playoff game, a case could be made that the hounding, aggressive, run-stopping, pass-rushing defense Guenther wants appeared in Cincinnati's most recent meetings with the Chargers. That playoff game was the only one of the Bengals' past four meetings with San Diego that they lost.
Against the Falcons last season, the Bengals were dictating what Ryan (24-for-44, 231 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, two sacks) was able to do.
Like the Falcons last season, this year's Chargers have the NFL's top-ranked offense through Week 1. Gunther told his players that Monday.
"You've got to find different ways to get the guys on the edge of their seats a little bit," he said. "We say, 'Go home and study.' This is the No. 1 offense coming in, so it's a good challenge. We'll see where we are."