FRISCO, Texas – There's plenty of talk this week that the Bengal boast the best defense the Cowboys have played this season.
It's rare you'll hear football players admit those kinds of things, but the Cowboys will say this – Cincinnati is plenty experienced. Five straight years' worth of playoff games will do that for a team.
"I played them last year before I got traded here, and them boys was really good," said Brice Butler. "So I'm expecting them to be the same way. They're a playoff team – they've been there, I think four years in a row. They're going to be ready, they know what it takes to win games and they're in a tough division."
The Bengals' run of success has certainly contribute to the AFC North's fearsome reputation in recent years. As one might expect, the ultra-physical wildcard game between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh has been mentioned plenty of times this week.
Last January, the Bengals imploded in an 18-16 wildcard loss to the Steelers in a game that could only be described as a street fight. The two combined for six turnovers and 18 total penalties – including two personal fouls that moved Pittsburgh into field goal position on the game-deciding drive.
That, as well as their typical physicality, as earned them a reputation, to hear it from some players.
"I've been telling guys 'They're going to be ready to play, they're a really edgy team. They're going to try to get you after the whistle to make you kind of lose your cool a little bit,'" Butler said. "You've just got to be ready for it and go out and execute."
Jason Witten agreed with Butler's assessment, and he made sure to praise the Bengals' personnel and their system. With a talented front four that includes Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, he said the Bengals don't need added pressure to affect the offense – which means the Cowboys will have to be mindful of the rest of the defense.
"They allow themselves to play coverage because their front four gets a lot of sacks," he said. "Then, of course, they're good on the backend. There are four first-rounders back there and linebackers that are kind of old school, tough linebackers. It's a good system and they're chippy."
There's that word again – something to be mindful of on Sunday evening. Considering that he drew a penalty for taunting last week against San Francisco, Butler said he's can't let the Bengals get the best of him from a mental standpoint.
"You just have to worry about yourself and try not to let the emotions get the best of you," he said. "I'm going to try my hardest not to get any penalties this week."
Added Witten: "We have a lot of confidence and we pride ourselves in being able to play that well. This is pro football. Any of that other stuff doesn't matter. We understand and have a lot of respect for them and their ability to execute more than anything else."