LOS ANGELES — The AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals topped the 30-point mark seven times this season.
During quarterback Joe Burrow's final two starts of the season, the Bengals combined for 75 points and 971 passing yards.
In the playoffs, when it seemingly gets tougher to score, they've still averaged 24 points as quarterback Joe Burrow has thrown for an average of 280 yards per game.
Those numbers only make the Broncos' performance against the Bengals look more impressive.
In a Week 15 meeting in Denver, the Broncos held the Bengals to 15 points — their lowest output of the season — and 157 passing yards. Tyler Boyd scored on a 56-yard pass late in the third quarter, but the Broncos otherwise limited the Bengals to nine points and 101 passing yards on 10 drives, excluding a late kneel down.
The Broncos were unable to capitalize and earn a victory, but the performance against the potential Super Bowl champion stresses the effectiveness of Denver's defense.
For safety Justin Simmons, that's both encouraging and frustrating.
"Definitely optimism, because we knew how good of a team we were," Simmons said this week at Radio Row in Los Angeles. "It's just, you have those games where it's a one-score game and you just couldn't find a way to close it out. Those five, six, seven plays throughout a game that really make a difference, those are the plays we're going to have to find a way to win those when it comes down to it."
With Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett now in Denver, there's hope that the Broncos' offense can make enough plays to help out its talented defense. But if the scoring output increases, the defense cannot take a step back. That's a point that General Manager George Paton stressed in January — and it's one Simmons believes, as well.
"It's going to be extremely crucial," Simmons said of maintaining the standard of play. "If anything, [when the] offense gets going, we're just going to have to be better. Once we're able to score more points, whatever that looks like, we're going to have to be able to go out there and stop teams giving their best shot. We're going to get their best plays, we're going to get their best drives. We're going to have to go out there and get those stops. There's at least three games last year, four-minute situations where defense couldn't get off the field. … Those are the types of things from a defensive standpoint, you want to get into the big game and you want to get into the postseason, you've got to be able to make those stops and win those games. That's going to be on my big goal sheet moving forward for the upcoming year."
As Simmons looks back at the team's performance against the Bengals, it can serve as motivation to maintain the standard from a year ago.
"You look back and you think about when you played Cincinnati — and we played them at home — and how close we were," Simmons said. "[T]hat's definitely something to build off of and can't take steps backwards, so that's a big goal."