Why Cincinnati Bengals DC Lou Anarumo Isn’t Sweating Giving Up 206 Rushing Yards in the Opener

Defending the run won't getting any easier this week for the Cincinnati Bengals with the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson coming to town.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo likes to say he doesn’t care about yards because the only stat that matters is points, but giving up 200 yards on the ground in the season opener is tough to dismiss.

Especially when the points allowed were up 20% from the 20.1 the Bengals averaged in 2022.

How Did the Cincinnati Bengals Allow 206 Rushing Yards?

The Cleveland Browns had 40 carries for 206 yards in their 24-3 dismantling on Sunday, the second-highest number the Cincinnati defense has allowed since the start of the 2021 season.

But while the total was tough to take, Anarumo said the overall performance was not as bad as 206 would suggest.

“You’re never gonna say [we] did well when they get that many yards,” Anarumo said. “They had 40 attempts. We had 25 runs that were four yards or less, and they had 10 runs that gained zero yards or less. They didn’t have any over 20.

“We had some cut-back issues that we could be better at, and you had the quarterback draw,” he added, referring to Deshaun Watson’s 13-yard touchdown run, which Anarumo put on his own shoulders for his zero blitz call.

That drive also started with an end around with wide receiver Elijah Moore that the Bengals stretched out and defended well for what should have been no gain. But Moore was able to reverse field and make something out of nothing for a 19-yard gain.

Chubb finished with 106 yards on 19 carries for his sixth 100-yard effort in 10 games against Cincinnati.

“Nick Chubb is a great back. He got his yards,” Anarumo said. “We can certainly be better there.”

Since the start of 2021, the Browns have had three of the four highest rushing totals against Anarumo’s defense. In addition to the 206 yards on Sunday, they had 205 in the 2021 finale at Cleveland when the Bengals rested all of their starters and 172 in last year’s Monday night loss, also at FirstEnergy Stadium.

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Going back farther to when the Anarumo era began, it’s the Ravens — Sunday’s opponent for the home opener — that have the two largest rushing totals against the Bengals, including the 404-yard, “Oh, he broke his ankles” disaster in 2020 that broke the Cincinnati franchise record by nearly 100 yards (the Chiefs had the previous high with a 313-yard performance in 1969).

Many of Cincinnati’s defensive players that were on the field that day are no longer with the team. But the Ravens, who accounted for the bulk of those rushing yards, will be back Sunday. Lamar Jackson had 97 yards that day (47 on the highlight run above), while Gus Edwards added 60 and Justice Hill contributed 21.

And while Anarumo and the Bengals have been much better against Baltimore’s rushing attack recently, the Ravens come to town with a new wrinkle in offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

One difference that showed itself in their season-opening win against the Houston Texans was a lack of designed runs for Jackson, who only had one for one yard on a 3rd-and-1 sneak.

“There was a lot of designed runs for him in the game; he just handed it off based on the read and things like that,” Anarumo said. “They’ve got it. They’ve had it. We have a feeling of what those will be, but you just never know until you get into the game.”

The Ravens lost starting tailback J.K. Dobbins, who led them with 160 yards in that 404-yard game in 2020, to a season-ending Achilles injury last week, leaving even more questions for Anarumo about what the Baltimore rushing attack will look like on Sunday.

“It’s still a lot of unknowns there,” Anarumo added. “Todd has done what he’s done in the league for a while. He’s done what he’s done in Georgia. I know Coach [John] Harbaugh still has his hard feelings on what he likes to do, I’m assuming. The O-line coach is still there, so they still have all those runs that I’m quite sure that Lamar likes to run. So, we’ve got to prepare for it all.”

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