No matter how it may be achieved, victory in the NFL is hard to come by, and each one is sweet. Such was the case last Sunday as our Queen City Cats, 3.5 point underdogs, went into FedEx field with its 80,000 screaming RGIII fanatics. The 38-31 triumph was a heck of a game to watch, and it showed some exception growth for the team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Let’s review my five keys and see how we did.
- Score Early/Get Ahead: Happened!
This was needed in my view to keep those 80,000 fans at bay. Having personally been to FedEx field, I can tell you it gets very loud. They love their Skins in DC, and it’s a challenging place to play. Add to that it was their home opener, and the success Robert Griffin III has had so far, it could have gotten downright electric, and the Bengals proved in week one that they aren’t ready for that kind of environment. The Bengals needed to get up early and take the crowd out quickly, and they succeeded as Mohammed Sanu hooked up with A.J. Green on the first play from scrimmage for a 73-yard touchdown. It immediately put the fans on notice. An ugly interception in the end zone tied the game right back up, but by the end of the second quarter, the Bengals were in command and dominating at 24-10 in front of quiet bleachers. Of course, the Redskins made a huge push to get back into the game (twice) in the second half, and the crowd certainly rallied, but the Bengals were the better team and the fans knew it and sat on their hands a lot.
In our poll, 15% of readers felt this was the most important key to the game.
2. Contain RGIII: Happened!
The young Heisman-winner from Baylor is a dynamic talent, and may ultimately be even more of a double-threat than Michael Vick or Cam Newton, so determining if he was, in fact, “contained” may be a relative term to say the least. Griffin III finished with 221 yards passing and a passing touchdown, plus 85 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown. Those are outstanding numbers for any quarterback. In addition, he led two comebacks from 14 or more points down, showing poise and leadership. The guy is a playmaker and another next generation star at QB. Nonetheless, I think we can give the Bengals defense a purple heart for a gutty performance. Griffin III averaged only 7 yards per carry, which is good considering what he’s been doing so far this year, and he was sacked a whopping five times with even more pressures and hits. Some of the hits were pretty brutal looking too. He had 3 fumbles, one of which was recovered by Carlos Dunlap that set up a Bengals touchdown. While its clear the defense is still struggling in many areas, I think they handled the RGIII onslaught fairly well overall.
In our poll, 50% of readers felt this was the most important key to the game.
3. Stop the Run: Didn’t Happen.
Besides RGIII’s 85 rushing yards, Alfred Morris got 78 yards on 17 carries (4.58 yards per pop), scatback Brandon Backs got 29 on three carries, and Evan Royster got 21 yards on just 2 carries. Add that up and it’s a whopping 213 yards on just 34 carries, a 6.26 YPC average. Not good. We knew the Skins were going to want to run it after they saw the Baltimore and Cleveland tape, and they seemed to have little difficulty getting yards. Rey Maualuga continues to struggle in the middle. It’s a real problem that needs immediate attention. Maurice Jones-Drew, our next challenge, has to be liking what he’s seeing.
In our poll, 15% of readers felt this would be the most important key to the game.
4. Unleash the Passing Game: Happened!
Boy did it ever! The Bengals were outstanding through the air this week, and Jay Gruden’s game plan was a masterpiece of creativity. It started with Sanu’s beautiful bomb to A.J. Green on the first snap, and finished with a career day from Andy Dalton. The Red Rifle matched his career high for TD’s with 3, (to three different receivers) plus 328 yards and another career high in passer rating at 132.9. A.J. Green had a career best in receiving yards with 189 (leading all NFL receivers for the week), and Baby Hawk got another long touchdown. Jermaine Gresham and Armon Binns got scores, and even rookie Orson Charles had a big catch. The Washington secondary was torched by these guys all day. Dalton continues to prove he’s for real, and no one seems to care about the #2 receiver position anymore, because we have lots of solid contributors.
In our poll, 50% of our readers saw this as the most important key of the game.
5. Take Advantage of Redskin Injuries: Didn’t Happen
I wouldn’t say the Bengals really took advantage here. The offensive line gave up two sacks, which is not spectacular, but better than the previous two weeks so a case could be made that they benefited, but the running game was ineffective despite Washington missing front seven starters Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. The Redskins are missing Pierre Garcon in the passing game, but again that wasn’t something the Bengals could really exploit—just benefit from. The running game continues to be an issue on offense, though as more teams adjust to our new-look passing game, the backs may find more room to run.
In our poll, no one thought this would be the most important key to the game. Good call guys!
My Prediction: Bengals 30, Redskins 27
Actual Score: Bengals 38, Redskins 31
The offense continues to progress and impress, and the special teams are solid. The defense may have taken a slight step forward, but that’s debatable. They are still this team’s Achilles Heel. To be fair, they only surrendered 24 points (7 of their 31 came on a pick six), and they did generate 6 QB sacks. Having Dunlap back certainly helped, and Michael Johnson stepped up. The weakness of the defense remains with Rey Maualuga in the middle, and in the secondary.