Bengals 'D' rolling late in the season

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Bengals have caused a lot of frustration for opposing quarterbacks recently.

One of the things that the Cincinnati Bengals have going for them in their bid to upset the Houston Texans is one of the best pass defenses in the NFL.

Cincinnati has yielded the fifth-lowest Total QBR (41.8) to opponents and has given up a league-low 10 pass plays of at least 30 yards.

Bengals Pass Defense
When Sending 4 or Fewer Rushers

The Bengals defense has been able to create havoc with a standard four-man pass rush, especially in the second half of the season.

It had an NFL-high 37 sacks when sending such pressure, and allowed only eight touchdown passes, tied for second-fewest in the league.

The Bengals held opposing quarterbacks to a 30.0 Total QBR when sending four or fewer pass rushers over the last eight games of the season, second only to the Broncos over that stretch (19.8).

Among the highlights were the game that started the run of success, a Week 10 win over the Giants in which they shut down Eli Manning, and the game that put the Bengals in the playoffs- a Week 16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers a game in which they held Ben Roethlisberger to a 7.1 Total QBR.

The Bengals intercepted Manning and Roethlisberger twice each and managed seven sacks (three vs Manning, four against Roethlisberger) when sending their standard rush.

The two players who were able to cause trouble more in the second half of the season were Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap, who combined for 10 1/2 sacks in the Bengals last eight games after netting only two in the first eight games.

The quarterback they’ll be facing, Matt Schaub has struggled late in the season against four or fewer pass rushers, throwing only one touchdown pass against standard pressure over his last four games.

Matt Schaub's Passing
Against 4 or Fewer Pass Rushers

Schaub’s Total QBR against such pressure has seen a significant drop as well, playing a key role in the Texans’ three losses in those contests.

Additionally, though we cited long pass plays as being something in which the Bengals excelled at defending, their biggest improvement was on short throws-- ones that traveled 10 yards in the air or fewer.

Vontaze Burfict and Manny Lawson are among those who have cut off the success opponents were having earlier in the year.

The Bengals allowed touchdowns on such throws in seven of their first eight games this season, including three to Peyton Manning in Week 9. But in the last eight games, they allowed only one touchdown on 209 such throws.

Mark Simon also contributed research to this post