I know it’s been hard for you, Bengals fans. Your spirits were lifted after your team snuck past those darn Steelers and sauntered into the playoffs. Somewhere beneath the completely warranted skepticism and reluctance to become emotionally attached to a self-combusting entity, there was a real belief that your beloved Bengals could rally against a limping Houston squad and win a playoff game for the first time since starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict was three months old.
Last week, the Bengals bumbled their way to a 24-17 win in an ugly game that featured second-stringers putting some good tape on their highlight reel. A.J. Green had two targets, the offense managed just nine first downs, and Geno Atkins had only three tackles. It would be an injustice for the final regular season When Geno Attacks to chronicle a relatively meaningless game, so instead I summoned the courage to relive the last meaningful moments of the Steelers&rsquo
- Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects
It has become commonplace to peruse the box score after a Bengals game and see the destruction our favorite punishing defensive tackle, Geno Atkins, has imposed. He's put up some eye-popping numbers at times this season (6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 FF at Kansas City) as well as stat lines that did no justice to his dominance (3 tackles, 1 sack vs Oakland). Last Thursday, in perhaps the least impressive 21-point victory in recent memory, Atkins put up the dreaded bagel: zero tackles, zero sacks, zero forced fumbles—straight goose eggs across the board. It was the first game that Atkins did not register a statistic since Week 14 in 2010, his rookie season.
So maybe you thought there would be a chance that this space would be empty this week, that with no statistics, there would be nothing to say. Well you would be wrong. That’s what Geno WANTS you to think. With a season-on-the-line game coming up against the Steelers, why show them more than he needs to?
And have we not learned anything from the myth of Geno Söze? Just because Atkins does not exist in the box score does not mean that teams did not (or should not) fear his presence.
In reality, though, it was not Geno’s best game, largely because it did not need to be. He didn't play as many snaps as usual (only 43/56). And when he was on the field, he was asked to control the middle and contain Bryce Brown more than he was asked to rush the passer. But when he did get that chance, he made an impact despite what the box score suggests.
Don’t believe me? Well, I give you this week in "When Geno Attacks."
3rd quarter, 1st and 10, 12:19 remaining
Following a silly Carlos Dunlap penalty (proving the popular notion that Dunlap may not have the sharpest football mind), the Eagles had a first and 10 near midfield. At this point, the Bengals were down by three and looking vulnerable against a depleted Eagles squad. That’s when our hero decides that it’s time to make a play.
Last Sunday’s trip to San Diego yielded a modest statistical line for the one-man wrecking crew who is quickly become something of a cult hero among students of game tape and statistical nerds alike: Mr. Geno Atkins. His line against the Chargers—3 total tackles, 1 solo, half a sack, and one quarterback hit for good measure—was not quite the gaudy production that has become routine for Geno. An uneducated fan would be curious and tempted to question why Atkins w