September 1, 2014

Winning In The Trenches

After getting whacked in the knee by my comrade DonnieRedboy yesterday (you’re still my bro, though!), I got to thinking about his comment that Dalton’s play in San Diego. He said: “The first thing that went wrong in SD was Dalton. He was not playing like the top caliber QB that he has been.” True, he did not look as sharp as he had in the previous three wins. That’s mainly on him, but not entirely.

Some of it was on the offensive line.

Part of the reason the Bengals were able to dominate in three straight wins was because they owned the trenches. To demonstrate the point. I put together the following table showing the current rankings by Football Outsiders for the offensive and defensive lines for the Bengals, their previous four victims, and the upcoming Cowboys.

TEAM PASS BLOCK RUN BLOCK PASS DEFENSE RUN DEFENSE
Bengals 19th 8th 1st 24th
Giants 1st 2nd 9th 27th
Chiefs 21st 22nd 12th 19th
Raiders 10th 30th 31st 15th
Chargers 27th 17th 21st 7th
Cowboys 13th 24th 7th 20th

The Giants are sloppy against the run anyway, but their pass defense was off against the Bengals. They had the last bye week of the season the week after that game, and they played like the bye was the only thing on their minds. The Chiefs’ line is mediocre at best, and the Raider’s line — like the rest of the team — is just not good.

So after three straight games of owning the trenches, the Bengals finally faced a stout D-line that plugs the gaps. In fact, the Chargers’ D-line is the best run-blocking team that the Bengals have faced this year. And the O-line, playing on the West Coast against an opponent that was fighting for their season, had their hands full for much of the game.

A disruptive D-line is a thing of beauty… unless your team is facing one. They can make even elite quarterbacks look pedestrian when they generate pressure. (Isn’t that why we all love Geno?)

Looking ahead to the Cowboys…

That stats say that Dalton will feel some heat. Now, the Bengals’ O-line has been playing above their 19th ranking since Trevor Robinson took over at center, so that matchup won’t be as lopsided as it looks. But there should be plenty of opportunity to get BJGE that fourth straight 100+ yard game. I expect that using the run and the threat of A.J. Green to open up the middle of the field will be the plan for Jay Gruden.

The biggest mismatch in the trenches will be Zimmer’s pass rush. Look for Romo to be moving out of the pocket a lot, designed or not. So pursuit is vital. Romo is dangerous outside the pocket. He and Dez Bryant or Jason Witten will make a few plays that way. But all in all, Dalton should have a better day in the pocket, giving the Bengals a bit of an advantage. And winning in the trenches is the surest way to a W. I’ll take the Bengals in a tight one for a fifth straight win.