Well, despite the ongoing defensive deficiencies (and boy are there), the Bengals did manage to win the game on Sunday, and that feels a heck of a lot better than last week.
Still, there are glaring problems on the defense. Ironically, the defense was supposed to carry the offense, but Sunday it was the offense staying working hard to stay one step ahead because the defense was Swiss cheese.
Next up is the Redskins and RGIII, who can make any defense look foolish. Coach Zimmer’s got his work cut out.
In the meantime, let’s review the five keys to victory from last week, and see how our Queen City Cats did:
1. Contain Richardson: Didn’t Happen
The rookie running back out of Alabama had his coming out party, with 109 yards rushing on 19 carries (5.73 average) with a 32-yard scoring run in which he outran the entire defense to the edge. He also picked up 4 catches for 36 yards, including another brilliant touchdown in which he juked or bowled over 4 Bengal defenders on his way to pay dirt. The Bengals were fairly good at bottling him up on the straight, off-tackle runs, but breakdowns and poor tackling haunted the defense. Richardson is the real deal and will be a player to reckon with in the battle of Ohio. More importantly for now, Zimmer needs to find out how to fix this fast.
2. Contain Cribbs: Happened!
The Bengals special team coverage units were solid all game. Cribbs never got a return past the 37 yard line despite multiple returns. There still isn’t a lot of depth to Mike Nugent’s kick-offs, but the coverage teams were filling the lanes and tackling well. Cribbs never got an opportunity to give the Browns a score or a short field. Unfortunately, they didn’t really need it most of the game.
3. Pressure Weeden: Didn’t Happen
Despite the rookie QB’s ugly performance in week one, the Bengal secondary was loose in coverage, and the front seven barely got to Weeden, even when blitzing. The defense registered just two sacks (one each for Michael Johnson and Vincent Rey). For most of the game Weeden had a pretty clean pocket and was able to find open receivers before the rush got to him. The Bengals clearly miss Carlos Dunlap and Dontay Moch. The problem just got even worse thanks to an apparent season-ending injury to DE Jamaal Anderson. The Bengals will be working out free agent DE’s today.
4. Call the Law: Happened! (sort of)
The Bengals did get BJGE plenty of opportunities with the ball, and he acquitted himself well overall. His 3.5 yard per carry average is very Benson-like, but he didn’t have the same number of negative plays we’ve been accustomed to from Cedric. Aside from a few carries where the Browns ran a run-blitz, he was able to get 4 yards or more on the ground, and he was again able to pick up a big 3rd-and-short off the right side. He also did well in blitz pick-up and had 3 catches for 30 yards. I was hoping for a bigger day from BJGE, but it was solid and workmanlike nonetheless.
5. Exploit Haden’s Absence: Happened!
Both Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown were down for the Browns, and Andy Dalton certainly took advantage. Dalton finished 24 of 31 (77%) for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 10-yarder to A.J. Green, a 44-yarder to Brandon Tate, and a 50 yarder to Andrew Hawkins. Armon Binns also had a solid game with 5 catches for 66 yards, and Jermaine Gresham had a big 3rd down completion at the end of the game. There was also a big P.I. Call Marvin Jones collected that helped set up a scoring drive. Throughout the contest, the overmatched back-up Cleveland DB’s gave plenty of cushion to Cincy receivers, and it paid off for Dalton.
Scenario Review: The game played out pretty much as I anticipated. It was no blow out, and the Browns couldn’t pull off the upset. The Bengals looked like the better team, but thanks to defensive breakdowns and boneheaded plays, Cleveland was right in it until the end–just enough to keep you nervous. One thing I didn’t anticipate was another putrid performance by the defense. Right now, it’s straight-up fugly.
My Prediction: Bengals 23, Browns 13
Actual Score: Bengals 34, Browns 27
Ultimately, the offense did their job, and the special teams more than did theirs (Adam Jones’s punt return TD was the difference). The defense is holding this team back.