Bengals' struggling defense won't get break with Saints next

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals defense is last in total yards and passing yards allowed, 26th in run defense, 20th in total sacks and 30th in points allowed. Midway through the season, their only positive defensive statistics are pass deflections (third in the league) and interceptions (tied for sixth).

They are also on pace to break the 2012 Saints record for most yards allowed in a season. They've given up an average of 536 yards and 35.6 points in the past three games. Their total defense is last in the NFL, and they rank 29th in scoring defense.

None of that bodes well with a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees coming to town this Sunday.

"Obviously he's one of the best to ever do it. Five hundred-plus touchdowns and however many thousand yards (and) he's almost 40 years old," Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap said.

The Saints offense ranks in the top 10 in almost every significant category and, in addition to Brees, features two capable running backs in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.

"They do a great job of putting pressure on in all areas, and they run the football effectively," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "They have a couple of great running backs in Ingram and Kamara. The quarterback delivers the football to all areas of the field."

Kamara, who has 490 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, along with 427 receiving yards and three touchdowns, poses one of the biggest challenges to a Bengals defense that has struggled against the run. Both Dunlap and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick pointed out how he excels in the screen game.

"Quick passing game, short passing game, screens, get the ball to Kamara in space, get the ball to Michael Thomas. They get it to their weapons and they do a really good job of doing that," Dunlap said.

Added Kirkpatrick: "(In 2014) it was mostly Mark Ingram running the ball, but now they've got (Kamara) doing all these crazy screens and getting one-on-ones with a back, running the ball, the guy can still run the ball, so they do a lot of different things. ... He's shifty. He's not a guy that will easily go down."

Dunlap said one strength of the Saints offense rests with their offensive line and ability to get the ball out so fast. That means the Bengals have to force some turnovers, as well as score early and often on offense, to keep up.

"(Brees) gets it out fast, they throw screens. They max protect a little bit, they change up the protection, so they do a variety of different things to keep guys off him and keep guys out of his face, because we all know he's about Geno (Atkins) height," Dunlap said.

Kirkpatrick knows how big of a challenge this game will be, especially in light of the bad showing on defense lately. He didn't know how many yards they were on pace to give up, but he didn't need to know. He's seen the results.

"My mindset going into this game is that we sucked the last time we played against the No. 1 team in the league (the Chiefs)," he said. "Very disappointing to the fans, to ourselves. We've got to play with more heart, and I feel like this is a good opportunity. We can definitely get another chance to redeem ourselves against the No. 1 contenders in the NFL. It's going to be very exciting and it's definitely a challenge for us."

He added: "We've got to go out there and prove it first. We can talk about it all day, but ... we've got to go out there and win this game. It's a big game for us. We've got another opportunity to play against the No. 1 team in the league and we've got to be able to show up."