July 30, 2014

Five Keys: Week One Postmortem

Yesterday I provided my five keys to an upset Bengals win in Baltimore.  Here’s how they did on each:

 1.  Score First:  Didn’t Happen

I opined that the best way to keep the crowd subdued was to get an early lead—even if only 3 points, and that going down by 2 scores or more would get brutal fast.  The Bengals were unlucky with the coin toss as Baltimore got the ball to start the game, and proceeded to shred the Bengals defense on the drive to take a quick 7-0 lead.  It was 10-0 minutes later.  The Bengals did claw back into it, closing to 17-13 at one point early in the 3rd quarter, but the 2-score margin quickly returned, causing the team into hurry-up mode, where mistakes, turnovers, and ugliness quickly ensued.

2.  Play Disciplined Defense:  Didn’t Happen

I really hate to expound on this.  Anyone who watched the game could see that the defense was out of position regularly, over-pursued run fakes, was late on misdirection plays and often lost track of tight ends.  Tackling was generally solid aside from some notable exceptions, but the secondary as a whole looked undisciplined and unprepared for the onslaught they got.  Leon Hall and Taylor Mays looked especially bad in the back end, and Rey Maualuga and Devon Still were particularly noticeable in their poor play up front.

3.  Win the Turnover Battle:  Didn’t Happen

The Bengals had 2 costly turnovers that led to 14 Ravens points and essentially put the game away in the third quarter.  A pick-six by Ed Reed was followed up moments later with an Andy Dalton fumble—both inside Bengal territory.  The Ravens committed no turnovers, despite multiple near-miss interceptions as Bengal defenders got their hands on the ball, but couldn’t bring it in.  A minus-2 differential in Baltimore, in your own territory is ugly for anybody—The Bengals, the Patriots, the Steelers—I don’t care who.  They couldn’t let this happen and they did.

4.  Spread ‘em Out:  Happened!

The Bengals actually did a fairly decent job of trying to beat the Ravens to the edge and spread them out.  Jay Gruden had the Bengals in 3 and 4 receiver sets regularly, and overall BJGE and Chris Pressley were adequate in blitz pick-up (with a few notable exceptions).  The quick-outs and bubble screens to Andrew Hawkins were especially effective.  It’s comforting to know that Gruden sees Hawkins’ ability and is designing plays to take advantage of it.  There just weren’t enough of these opportunities after halftime to make a game of it.

5.  Long Sustained Drives:  Sort of?

When they weren’t fumbling or throwing picks, the Bengals did put together three 12-play scoring drives, and had a 5 minute time of possession edge on the Ravens.  Ultimately it didn’t matter with the other issues.

Final Analysis:  This was a good old fashioned whoopin’, but was a competitive game mid-way through the third quarter.  The Bengals were toe-to-toe with the Ravens for 2 ½ quarters on the road on MNF despite the defense playing like garbage.  Next week they must regroup and beat a Browns team that gave Philadelphia all they could handle.