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The Bengals (4-3) scored a season-low number of points and surrendered 551 yards of offense in a 45-10 loss at Kansas City (6-1) on Sunday Night Football, and Lewis said early mistakes led to the demise – especially the inability to get stops on defense.
“It is a fixable issue,” Lewis said during his Monday afternoon press conference at Paul Brown Stadium. “You correct with people there, you correct with the person at the point or you’ve got to correct with new people. You have to go and make the tackle and do a better job. I wish there was a magic word or button to press, but there is none.”
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When linebacker Vontaze Burfict – a guy who is supposed to bring energy and intensity to the defense – is even struggling as badly as he did, you know something is wrong. He missed at least four tackles and finished with only two before exiting with a hip injury in the third quarter.
And Burfict certainly wasn’t the only one.
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Part of the struggles on defense is a credit to the talent of Kansas City’s offense, but Cincinnati had opportunities and let them slip away.
“They’ve got some good people in open field but you have to get guys to the ball and be there to finish the play,” Lewis said. “We had some unblocked guys at the point of attack and we don’t make tackles and plays, which leads to gains that make the scope of down and distance a lot different. That’s the No. 1 attribute of playing defense is being able to tackle. It’s 1 and 2, and they’ve got to get it done.”
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Getting the defense off the field on third down has been a problem all season, and Kansas City took advantage to convert nine of 12 third-down plays.
Lewis wouldn’t answer whether that is getting frustrating but said it’s the same point of emphasis every week.
“We have to keep doing a better job of coaching it, we have to keep doing a better job of executing, and when we get to the point of the tackle, we have to make the tackle,” Lewis said. “We have to get the quarterback on the ground, we have to get the ball carrier on the ground, whatever it may be. We have to get to the right spots in pass coverage, we have to get the correct leverages, and we have to do a better job of executing each particular assignment on each and every single snap.”
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Even the pass rush hasn’t been what Cincinnati expected the past few weeks, despite a defensive line that features sack leaders like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
However, Lewis said a lot of that has to do with the types of quarterbacks and offenses the Bengals have faced.
Patrick Mahomes has been the least sacked quarterback all season, and the Bengals got to him twice. He was averaging one sack per game and runs an offense that can move quickly with screen passes, vertical passes and run options.
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“The ball is coming out a lot of times quickly, and we understand that, so it means you really have to do a better job of rushing a little differently and try to get some push and try to get some tipped balls back in the face of the quarterback,” Lewis said. “We have to be more effective rushing the passer, there’s no question about that.”