CINCINNATI -- As Week 4 begins with the Cincinnati Bengals off, the team still sits atop the rankings in one of the NFL's most important statistical categories.
They lead the league in scoring defense.
They are near the top of the list in several other defensive categories, too, but scoring defense shows how well a team prevents another team from getting in the end zone, and even getting in field position to make a field goal. Through three games, the Bengals have been the best at denying their opponents' scoring opportunities.
After their first three games, against the Ravens, Falcons and Titans, the Bengals have allowed an average 11.0 points per game. That is nearly 16 points below the average of 26.7 the Bengals have scored this season. When you combine their scoring offense and scoring defense numbers, you see the Bengals have a league-leading plus-15.7 point margin. The Falcons, who won a game 56-14 last week against Tampa Bay, rank second with a plus-10.3 average point margin.
"Look at the points," Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said last week. "That's the mark of a good defense."
Last season, the Bengals' third-ranked total defense ranked fifth in the league in scoring defense, allowing an average of 19.1 points per game. The unit also was impressive on third down, ranking second behind the Lions in percentage of third-down stops.
Those two areas will be important next week when Cincinnati travels to New England for the Week 5 Sunday night game. The Bengals' next contest will come nearly a year to the day when they held future Hall of Famer Tom Brady and his Patriots offense to just six points in Cincinnati's 13-6 win at Paul Brown Stadium. It was the first time in 53 games that Brady did not complete a touchdown pass.
What led to that performance for the Bengals? Great third-down play -- the Patriots were 1-for-12 against the Bengals on third down.