Bengals' Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap lead the way in 'gut check' week

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CINCINNATI -- Just when it seemed like every possible way to sack a quarterback had been done, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins made up a new one.

Atkins shoved Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod into quarterback Ryan Tannehill, effectively sacking Tannehill with his own teammate. With the dirty work taken care of, all Atkins had to do was gently tap Tannehill to make sure he was ruled down.

"That was crazy!" said Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. "He tackled the quarterback with the lineman. That was insane. I was like, front and center. I was coming around the corner and saw Geno just manhandle the guy."

Maybe the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict gave the defense a spark. Or perhaps it was one of those nights where things just clicked en route to a 22-7 win.

Whatever it was, one week after allowing four touchdown passes to the Denver Broncos, the Bengals held the Dolphins to just 2-of-11 on third down, held them to just 222 net yards, forced a fumble, had a pick, and had five sacks.

"I feel like we pulled together after they got that explosive play," Dunlap said. "Usually guys start pointing fingers … but we pulled together, we didn't let them get anything else … we made a statement after that."

The Bengals won't be able to make those kind of nights consistently happen. Better teams and better offenses lie ahead when they travel to face the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots.

But, as Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said, it was "gut check" week, and the defense responded when it mattered, more than doubling the season sack total after entering this week with just four sacks.

Outside of one broken play where Tannehill found Kenny Stills deep for a 74-yard touchdown, the Bengals' defense was effective against Miami. And particularly effective was their key stops on third down.

"I think that showed the resiliency of our team," said Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey. "We didn't back down. Nobody's thinking back to last week on Sunday. We're thinking ‘every game's a new game; let's buckle down, let's be resilient (and) let's pound the rock. Let's focus.'

Here's some of the biggest Bengals plays that occurred on third down vs. the Dolphins:

  • Second quarter: Third-and-6 at Miami's 47 -- Bengals linebacker Karlos Dansby stops running back Isaiah Pead, forcing him down after only a gain of two yards to force a punt. The Bengals score a field goal on the next drive.

  • Second quarter: Third-and-4 at Miami's 33 -- Bengals defensive end Dunlap swats the ball out of Tannehill's hands. Domata Peko scoops it up. The Bengals kick a field goal on the next drive. "I just came around the edge and I saw the quarterback trying to throw. I was close enough to get a hand on it," Dunlap ssaid.

  • Third quarter: Third-and-5 at Cincinnati's 36: Atkins and Michael Johnson combine for another Tannehill sack for a loss of nine yards and a punt. The Bengals kick a field goal on the next drive.

  • Fourth quarter: Third-and-5 at Miami's 21: Dunlap tips Tannehill's pass at the line of scrimmage to force an incompletion.

  • Cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris also had a fourth quarter interception on first-and-10 at Cincinnati's 39-yard line.

"Our defensive line, we feed off them," Lewis-Harris said. "They came, they showed up. We've got a great group of guys up there and they made it easy for us in the back end."