Run defense fails Bengals in Dallas

Paul Dehner Jr.
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ARLINGTON, Texas — There were no secrets. There was no hiding truth. Sunday’s game against the Cowboys would be decided by the Bengals' run defense, an area the Bengals' unit prides itself on.

They were thoroughly and uncharacteristically manhandled. And that’s all that mattered.

Ezekiel Elliott ran 15 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns. In all, Dallas racked up 184 yards on the ground behind its signature offensive line.

“They got us today,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. “They were better than us today. Toward the end of the game when we made some adjustments and stoning them but it was too late for that.”

Far too late. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on the first three drives on the day. On those they ran 15 times for 115 yards and two scores while passing 11 times for 124 yards and another.

On the sideline between each drive, the defensive bench became a beehive of players and coaches looking at tablets, mimicking technique and pointing out adjustments, more frustrating and animated with each failure.

The Dallas offensive line earned praise all week from the Bengals' locker room, and it continued after the loss.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) tosses the ball to Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) in the third quarter during the NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Dallas Cowboys won 28-14.

“They were better than I thought. I take my hat off to them. Now I see why he has a hundred million dollars on his line. Those guys block their asses off,” Bengals defensive back Adam Jones said.

Even with the best offensive line, the defensive front is supposed to be a strength of this Bengals team. Carlos Dunlap said on two touchdowns he got caught playing undisciplined and the gap he missed allowed the easy scores. On the notable play in the red zone, Dak Prescott faked the handoff and ran untouched around the right side.

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“It took us by surprise on a couple things and everybody got out there and wanted to make a football play instead of making our plays,” Dunlap said. “I had two big ones. I wasn’t disciplined. I can’t do that. I left my guys hanging today on a couple plays and they turned into touchdowns. We have to stay true to our assignment and alignment and make our plays.”

If any hope existed for a comeback in the second half, Elliott and the Cowboys eliminated it on the first play of the second half. Michael Johnson said it was a split belly run up the middle the Cowboys hadn’t run to that point in the game. It went 60 yards for a touchdown. Game over.

“They were saving that one,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “I know they had to draw that one up, in the dirt almost. That was the perfect call, at the perfect time and they made a play. They caught us in the defensive look they hope to catch us in.”

The defense has now allowed at least 124 yards rushing in three of the first five games. Even with the return of Vontaze Burfict at linebacker, the same issues followed the Bengals from earlier failures.

The frustrated group didn’t have much else to offer that wasn’t said on the field.

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“No excuses today,” Johnson said. “They did a better job than us. Of course, we have to do better. And we will do better. That was unlike us.”

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