|Jason Bridge/US Presswire|
Geno Atkins has flown under the radar this season. Unless, of course, you're an offensive lineman tasked with stopping the behemoth. Atkins haunts the dreams of those men.
The Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle notched another 2.5 sacks in Sunday's 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. That makes 13 on the year for Atkins, setting a single-season franchise sack record for interior linemen.
Perhaps because the Bengals operate out of sleepy Cincinnati instead of Florham Park, Atkins has gone largely unnoticed. He'll make his second Pro Bowl appearance next month (he was an injury replacement last season), but you won't find Atkins peddling Subway sandwiches or going through the motions on-camera for another semi-creepy Papa John's ad.
Atkins simply goes to work. He has been a special player for a Bengals team that appeared lost at sea during a 3-5 start. Cincinnati is 6-1 since with a defense that went from allowing 27.3 points per game in its first eight contests to just 12.1 down the stretch.
Sunday's win over the Steelers was all about the Bengals' defense, which currently is fourth in the NFL in sacks. Atkins is the heart and soul of this group, but he isn't a household name. Taking his act into the playoffs might help.
Carson Palmer knows Geno Atkins
Let's start with Atkins' physical build. When someone says "defensive tackle," it's easy to let your mind wander to the image of some mammoth, space-eating blob. The NFL has its share of fat men in the middle, but Atkins belongs to a sleeker set of interior linemen who lean on speed and power. He's big -- 6-foot-1, 300 pounds -- but plays light on his feet, gets under blockers and closes in on quarterbacks with darting quickness.
The Bengals aren't known as a blitzing team. Cincinnati relies almost exclusively on its four-man front to collapse the pocket. Atkins doesn't see action on every down. The Bengals have waves of linemen -- Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Robert Geathers and Michael Johnson -- who are used in various combinations. Atkins simply is the most explosive of the group. Take a look at this sack on Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer back in Week 12.
Palmer barely comes out of his three-step drop. As he turns, Atkins is on him like a nightmare.
Joe Flacco knows Geno Atkins
Atkins is no stranger inside the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens should know better than to leave him one-on-one with Bobbie Williams on this play back in Week 1. Atkins dominates these situations. He slips past Williams and is left untouched by Bernard Pierce, the rookie runner playing in his first NFL game. This play was over before it began.
Flacco is 5 inches taller than Atkins, but he has no shot. Pierce, thinking he has slipped open for the dumpoff, turns just in time to see his quarterback drilled to the turf.
Big Ben definitely knows Geno Atkins
Atkins was strong against the Pittsburgh run -- shoving blockers off him and sinking men into the pocket -- but his finest work came on third down. Atkins has a knack for drive-killing sacks, exampled by this brutal takedown of Ben Roethlisberger.
Wish granted, Big Ben.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.