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Bengals rush faces unusual test

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CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals’ pass rush produced 11 sacks through four games, which is tied for sixth in the NFL. But, a unique challenge awaits them Sunday afternoon when the Seattle Seahawks and dynamic quarterback Russell Wilson invade Paul Brown Stadium.

It’s no secret that Wilson’s ability to extend plays with his feet is a nightmare for opposing defenses.

“It is back-breaking,” said Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry of Wilson, who is averaging 5.2 yards per rush this season.

The fourth-year quarterback led Seattle to back-to-back Super Bowls. This year, he’s been running more out of necessity.

Wilson has been sacked 18 times through four games, putting him on pace to challenge the NFL’s single-season mark.

Therein lies the subplot to this Sunday’s game: One of the worst pass protections in the league vs. one of its best pass rushes.

“You have to stay poised, knowing he can get out of the pocket at any time,” said Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. “We have to get all 11 guys to the ball. It’ll be a big test.”

In Sunday’s 36-21 win over Kansas City, the Bengals sacked Alex Smith five times and hurried him on 10 other occasions.

Cincinnati has an experienced defense led by tackle Geno Atkins and end Carlos Dunlap, who have combined for six and a half sacks.

While Wilson can often break a defense’s back when he gets outside the pocket, he also assumes a great deal of risk.

In Monday night’s controversial loss to the Lions, Wilson fumbled three times and lost two. Last season, he fumbled 11 times and somehow the Seahawks managed to recover them all.

For his career, Wilson has averaged six yards per rush totaling more than 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“He’s not the tallest quarterback in the league, we all know that,” said Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry. “It’s his deal to get outside the pocket and look downfield to make those plays. That’s the norm for him.”

Wilson also passed for 979 yards and five touchdowns through four weeks. His throwing ability might get a little lost amid the hype over his elusiveness.

“He’s got a very strong arm and he’s an accurate passer,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.

That could describe the play of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who passed for 1,187 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception. He’s completing better than 67 percent of his passes including the first 10 attempts in last week’s win over Kansas City.

“He’s been extremely consistent, he’s been accurate with the ball, they give him a lot of chances to put the ball down the field and he’s made a lot of big plays and his receivers have come through for him,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “They’ve had extraordinary protection, too. They’ve kept people off balance throughout. They’re just off to a terrific start.”

If Cincinnati is going to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 1988, the year of its last Super Bowl appearance, it will need to contain Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch, who is likely to return this week.

“The Seahawks are a well-coached group,” said Lewis. “We have a great challenge coming in here this weekend. They play smart, aggressive football.”

SERIES HISTORY: Cincinnati leads 10-9, including 1-0 in the postseason. The Seahawks haven’t played at Paul Brown Stadium since 2003, a 27-24 Bengals’ victory in Marvin Lewis’ first season at the helm.


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