Bengals defensive coordinator disappointed in penalties
CINCINNATI (AP) - The Bengals' defense spent a lot of time self-destructing before holding on for a 34-23 win at Indianapolis in their opener.
Safety Shawn Williams lowered his shoulder and hit Andrew Luck in the head as he was tackled, drawing an ejection.
End Carlos Dunlap went for Luck's legs and got a penalty for roughing the passer. He was flagged again when he landed hard on the quarterback after taking him down.
Fixing the egregious penalties is at the top of their list as they get ready to host Baltimore (1-0) on Thursday night.
"You're just trying to do your job, get after the quarterback," Williams said, referring to the penalties on him and Dunlap. "Like me, he has to find a way to do what's within the rules."
The Bengals (1-0) hired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin in the offseason after Paul Guenther left for the Raiders. Austin has emphasized getting turnovers, and the defense won the game with one.
Luck was trying to lead the Colts to a winning touchdown when safety Clayton Fejedelem stripped tight end Jack Doyle of the ball near the Cincinnati 15-yard line and returned the fumble for a touchdown with 24 seconds left.
The defense had a few glaring shortcomings. Luck completed 39 of 53 passes for 319 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception, and the Colts had 380 yards overall.
The three penalties were the most glaring issues.
Williams' hit on Luck's head in the first quarter cost the Bengals their veteran safety and moved the Colts to the 9-yard line. They had to settle for a field goal.
Dunlap's first roughing-the-passer penalty with 27 seconds left in the first half moved the Colts in range for another field goal. His second roughing penalty resulted in a fumble being negated.
"The penalties were the disappointing thing," Austin said.
The NFL has emphasized that it won't accept actions such as Williams hitting Luck in the head.
"I levelled my shoulder," Williams said. "The contact with his head was incidental. There's nothing I can do about that. I don't know what he's going to do as a runner. I know he's going to try and get the first down and my job is to stop him."
Dunlap's first penalty was for going after Luck's legs, which also is a point of emphasis in protecting quarterbacks. The second one violated a new rule that says defenders can't land on the quarterback with their full weight as they tackle them.
Dunlap landed on top of Luck and caused a fumble that the Bengals recovered, but it was negated by the penalty.
"Yeah, I was upset," Dunlap said. "I mean, I tried to do the next-best thing and keep all my weight from taking him to the ground. Like, I rolled off right away and I tried to let the referee know that I'm not trying to be malicious and drive him into the ground."
Cornerback William Jackson also got an unnecessary roughness penalty while trying to prevent T.Y. Hilton's touchdown catch. Overall, Cincinnati was penalized eight times for 94 yards.
2-0 STARTS UNDER LEWIS ARE RARE: The Bengals haven't won their first two games since 2015, when they went 12-4 and won the AFC North. They've opened 2-0 four times during Marvin Lewis' 15 previous seasons — 2005, 2006, 2014 and 2015. They reached the playoffs in three of those seasons and lost in the first round. Last year, the Bengals dropped their first three games.