Bengals know better run defense needed

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) carries the ball in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals.Photo: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Marvin Lewis: "This is a different style of offense and attack and you've got to adjust and morph."

In going 2-0, the Cincinnati Bengals showcased a somewhat competent run defense while forcing Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco to attempt at least 50 passes.

While not flawless, the ability to come up with big defensive plays can mask deficiencies that cause opponents to march down the field with ease.

Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers was a completely different story for Cincinnati's run defense and it was compounded by an inability to make any big defensive plays.

Heading into the Week 4 matchup at Atlanta, the Bengals will be watching film of the wreckage of a run defense that allowed the Panthers to run wild to the tune of 230 yards on 41 carries, while being unable to overcome the double teaming of defensive linemen.

It was the sixth time since head coach Marvin Lewis took over in 2003 the Bengals displayed such a porous run defense.

The tone was set early on Carolina's first touchdown drive, which saw them gain the last 64 yards on the grounded, aided by a 45-yard run by Christian McCaffrey.

"This is a different style of offense and attack and you've got to adjust and morph and play it and make sure we stay sound in it and play it all the time," Lewis said. "You've got all three options and we have to do a good job throughout the football game. We had moments where we played it perfectly. Then we had others where we didn't."

Among the moments where they didn't play it close to perfect was when McCaffrey, who burst up the middle and was aided by a missed tackle by safety Shawn Williams.

"I think they did some things creative and we just didn't stop the run on our part," Williams said. "We have to go back and look at the film and figure out how we can fix that because you know, it's a copycat league. Those same plays will come up later. We just got to put it to bed."

Week 3 can be summed up as a day of almost. The Bengals almost made the tackles. They almost made a few big plays with defensive end Carlos Dunlap being unable to complete a strip sack and a few potential interceptions dropped.

Almost didn't cut it against one of the more mobile quarterbacks in Cam Newton and the Bengals are about to run into the fire by facing Atlanta followed by 3-0 Miami, Kansas City and Pittsburgh.

"They didn't quit; they competed hard," said first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin of his turnover-focused defense, which didn't force a takeaway at Carolina after getting five in the first two weeks.

"It's me. We've had no problem in terms of taking care of the run the first two weeks. We ran across a unique run scheme. Obviously, I didn't get it done for our guys. We have the guys we have. They're good enough to do it. We'll make it work this week."

SERIES HISTORY: 14th regular-season meeting. Bengals lead series, 8-5. Cincinnati lost three consecutive games to the Falcons before gaining 170 yards on the ground in a 24-10 home win in Week 2 of the 2014 season. It was the third-fewest points allowed in the series. The Bengals have lost in their last three visits to Atlanta, since a 16-10 win during Week 10 of the 1987 season. Cincinnati is 3-3 all-time in Atlanta.