August 22, 2014

Five Keys: Week Four Postmortem

Sunday’s win in Jacksonville was the most convincing yet for the Bengals, and to me it showed a great deal of growth for the club.  Despite being down four cornerbacks and facing perhaps the best running back in football, the Bengals completely shut down the Jaguars in Jacksonville.  3-1 sure feels good.

Let’s see how the Bengals did with the five keys this week:

1.  Stop MJD:  Happened!

This one seems obvious, and judging by the fact that 73.3% of you agreed, it must have been high on Mike Zimmer’s priority list.  Despite the Bengal defensive front being shredded by Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, and RG3, they held Maurice Jones-Drew to just 38 yards on 13 carries (a 2.9 average).  It looked like the rush defense of early 2011 out there, with Vontaze Burfict looking particularly stout up front.   This was by far the most important aspect of the defensive game plan, and the players responded well.

2.  Pressure Gabbert:  Happened!

The Jags had to know the Bengals would look to stop the run and dare second-year QB Blaine Gabbert to throw it.  Bob Bratkowski’s offense attempted to do just that but found very little success.  The Bengals generated a whopping 6 sacks for the second week in a row, and they now lead the NFL with 17 through 4 games.  Domata Peko sacked Gabbert on Jacksonville’s first offensive snap, and Geno Atkins did so on their last.  Burfict got his first NFL sack, and the great pressure from the front seven should only improve with the return of Dontay Moch off his 4-game suspension this week.  Our readers saw this as the second most important key at 13.3% of the vote.

3.  Steady as she goes, offense:  Happened!

The Bengal offense generated 27 points on Sunday with A.J. Green having another stellar outing.  In truth, the Bengals could’ve scored even more, but had issues on 3rd down (2 for 11), and a turnover on the goal line stopped a few drives.   Andy Dalton had 244 yards passing and two touchdowns through the air (plus a rushing score), and A.J. had 117 yards and a touchdown.  BJGE got 82 yards rushing, Jermaine Gresham had a solid game, and Baby Hawk bailed them out again.  No catches for Binns and Tate was an unpleasant surprise, but there isn’t much to complain about here overall.  We got one vote for this one from the readers.

4.  Limit Mistakes:  Didn’t Happen

Andy Dalton threw an interception on his first pass of the game, and BJGE fumbled on the goal line.  Luckily for the Bengals, those mistakes didn’t hurt them, as Kyle Bosworth fumbled the interception right back to the Bengals, and the 27 points put up by the offense were more than enough.  The Law Firm is going to have to work on ball security.  That was a touchdown wiped off the board.  Dalton’s pick can be partially excused as it was tipped off of Pressley’s hands, but the game ended with the Bengals having a -1 turnover differential.  Against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and the AFC elite, a -1 differential will usually mean defeat.  This key did not receive any votes—perhaps you felt the Bengals could overcome mistakes against this team—just as they did.

4.  Finish Strong:  Happened!

To me, this one was the most underrated key of the week, getting just one vote.  I was surprised considering how the Bengals failed to finish strong in Washington, allowing the Skins to come back from 24-10 and 38-24.  This week, the Bengals did much better.  Once Dalton hit Chris Pressley for the 10-7 advantage, the Bengals shut the door on the Jags, and never let up.  It was a great effort overall by the defense that will hopefully continue.  The game ended the way you like to see it:  With the Bengals having a comfortable lead, running out the clock inside the opponent’s red zone.

 Overall, a great week.  Who Dey!