CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 28: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Bengals looking for answers on defense after ‘disappointing’ effort

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis called Sunday’s game “disappointing,” despite the win, but take away the two long touchdowns his defense gave up and he probably would have been a little more satisfied with the result.

The Bengals (5-3) have an extra week to figure out what went wrong in a game they led Tampa Bay by as many as 21 points but needed a last-second field goal to win, 37-34 . They have a bye this week before hosting the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 11.

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Tampa Bay’s two quarterbacks combined to pass for 450 yards, but 132 of those came on two plays. DeSean Jackson caught a 60-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and Mike Evans hauled one in for a 72-yard score in the fourth quarter.

“When you strike up the band like that, it’s hard,” Lewis said. “That’s supposed to be us ringing that gong, not the other team.”

Lewis said players understand their responsibilities but it’s a matter of doing it “during the heat of the battle all the time.”

Changing the structure or simplifying the system isn’t going to fix that.

“It’s not complications that are causing the issues,” Lewis said. “That would be an excuse. This is the NFL. There are going to be things that have to change all the time. You have to apply it to the opponent all the time, but you’ve got to understand also the fundamental of what you’re responsibility is and be smart enough to apply it to the opponent you are playing.”

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The Bengals changed things up Sunday. They had their cornerbacks stay on receivers, rather than stick to their side of the field as they had through the first seven games under defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

However, it wasn’t much of a surprise to Tampa Bay as one of the players mentioned the change last week to a reporter.

“There was some good stuff in it,” Austin said Monday when asked about the change. “There was some not so good stuff in it. That’s something that will be week to week, and hopefully the next time we do that our corners won’t tell you guys.”

Lewis seemed more upset that information had gotten out, bringing it up when asked if the big plays were a miscommunication issue.

“We gave up bad plays,” he said. “We are not going to discuss it, we are not going to divulge it. And mum will be the word tomorrow around here (during open locker room). I’m not going to have somebody explaining it.”

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Austin said part of the defense’s struggles are a credit to the explosive offenses in the league this season.

Tampa Bay leads the league in total yards of offense and passing yards, and it won’t get much easier with Drew Brees coming to town next.

“It’s a tough job,” Austin said. “I think that scoring is up, yards are up around the league. The biggest thing that we can do to help ourselves is eliminate the big plays. Look at it, on two plays we gave up 132 pass yards. You take those two plays out. You turn the ball over like we did. We will still give up 300-plus yards, maybe 350, maybe 370, but it would be a pretty good defensive outing. That is the nature of it now. The NFL wants more yards, more scoring, they are getting it. A lot of it has to do with there are a lot of good quarterbacks, lot of good receivers, it’s been opened up. It’s like fast break basketball, that makes it tough.”

The Bengals’ defense now ranks last in the league with 447.8 yards allowed per game, and only three teams are giving up more points as Cincinnati has surrendered 29.6 points per game.

Lewis said the “players are good enough to make the correction and move forward,” but Austin will spend part of the bye week trying to figure out why there are inconsistencies in his defense and how to help the players make corrections.

“We are going to look at whatever we got to do,” Austin said. “Whether it is structure or personnel, whatever it is that we have to do to get better that’s what we are going to do. I don’t think that anything is off the table in this league because the bottom line is you are judged by wins and losses. At the end of the year if you don’t win enough games they will talk about how we could have won a couple extra games not how many yards we gave up.”

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