Bengals look to improve defense during bye week

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium.Photo Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals are on a bye this week so their defense won’t get scored on for a change.

Probably.

Marvin Lewis’ club enters its break second in the AFC North with a 5-3 mark. The Bengals have split their last two games, allowing 45 points in the first and blowing a big lead before pulling out a 37-34 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

“We were fortunate to win the football game,” Lewis said during his Monday press conference. “We had people who did some good things, but we didn’t play well enough around the board, particularly on defense. The opportunity for us to evaluate comes at a good time, and to have the guys understand their responsibilities. (The bye week) will be a good time for that.”

After having its way with Buccaneers starting quarterback Jameis Winston — picking off four passes and returning one for a touchdown — the Bengals defense was shredded by backup Ryan Fitzpatrick. He finished 11 of 15 for 194 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 154.9. He tied the game with a two-point conversion before Randy Bullock’s 44-yarder won it as time ran out.

The Bengals are allowing an NFL-worst 447.8 yards per game. They’re fourth from the bottom in points allowed (29.6).

Lewis said on Monday he believes his players are good enough to make corrections and move forward.

“It’s not the complexity that’s causing issues — that would be an excuse,” Lewis said. “This is the NFL. There are things that will change, and you have to apply them to the opponent all of the time. You have to also understand fundamentals and what your responsibilities are. Then you need to be smart enough to apply it to the opponent you’re playing.”

The first half hasn’t been all negative for the Bengals, who are close behind the 4-2-1 Steelers. Running back Joe Mixon is eighth in the NFL with 509 yards, including 123 on Sunday. Wide receiver A.J. Green has 45 catches for 687 yards and Tyler Boyd has 49 for 620.

This success is due in part to the Bengals’ improving offensive line.

“They continue to keep getting better as they play together,” Lewis said. “We still have some occasional miscommunications or bad plays, but I think as a group they’re collectively getting it, they’re understanding it, and they’re coming up with some personality. We’re going to need it.”

–RB Joe Mixon rushed 21 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Tampa Bay.

–WR Tyler Boyd caught nine passes for 138 yards and one touchdown in Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay.

–QB Andy Dalton was 21 of 34 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers.

–S Jessie Bates intercepted the third pass of his rookie season on Sunday. He returned this one 23 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

–WR A.J. Green caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s win.

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