Bengals blitzing changed complexion of game, win 27-20

I can't think of a better way for the Bengals to start their season. They beat a division rival -- one that most pundits predict would win the division. The Bengals defense had a goal line stand that could have ripple effects throughout the season. The Ravens did not allow a single point. The Bengals finished with a +5 turnover differential. That's such an insane number when you think about it.

This win was earned. Not given. The Ravens were hitting the Bengals hard on the chin. The Bengals stood up, brushed off their uniform and went back to work. When Ed Reed smoked T.J. Houshmandzadeh, he bounced back up. Shayne Graham had a gusty performances by a place kicker. While even hurt, he didn't shy away from making a tackle on kick returns. When most of the team went down to cramps, backups came in and the drum never missed a beat. It was the first game of the year and the Bengals did everything they could to win.

The Bengals played with workman like ethic. They weren't the finesse team they're associated as. They stuck to the run when the run wasn't working. Bengals defensive coordinator, Chuck Bresnahan called his best game yet. He attacked the Ravens offense and the Bengals defense came away as kings of victors.

The confidence of this defense will have ripple effects throughout the season. The goal line stand, the six turnovers, the secondary's tremendous effort to disrupt receptions -- how many hits, strips and deflections did the cornerbacks have? -- were nothing short of inspiring. If there's concern on offense, so be it. But that concern should be minor against the major effort and payoff from the defense.

Let's talk football. Let's talk blitz.

I charted the amount of times that the Bengals blitzed on passing plays -- I scratched out rush plays to emphasis a point that the Bengals blitz against the pass was the biggest factor in Monday's game. My definition on whether it's a blitz or not, is if there's five or more rushers. I counted 17 blitzes; Lemar Marshall blitzed 10 times; Ahmad Brooks blitzed five times; Caleb Miller blitzed four times; Landon Johnson and Dexter Jackson blitzed three times; Nedu Ndukwe blitzed twice; Deltha O'Neal and Madieu Williams one each.

Ravens quarterbacks went five of 16 on passing plays (again, that I charge, which is sooo unofficial) for 49 yards. Geathers intercepted a pass, Brooks recorded a sack and forced fumble and McNair lost the bar of soap once on his own. Three passes were tipped at the line of scrimmage by Geathers, Marshall and Miller. I counted five passes that were either thrown too high or overthrown. In all, Ravens quarterbacks finished with a 14.8 passer rating on 16 pass attempts. (Remember, this is not official and not perfect)

My Chart.

Num. Situation Blitzed Result
1 1-10-BAL17 Brooks McNair rollout right. Incomplete.
2 2-10-BAL17 Marshall and Jackson Jackson made first contact and Marshall wrapped up McNair who still threw but the pass was swatted by Geathers.
3 3-3-BAL45 Marshall and Landon McNair overthrew #85-Mason. Ravens punt.
4 1-10-BAL46 Marshall and Brooks (delayed) Brooks delay blitz allows him to freely sack McNair who fumbled the ball. Geathers recovered.
5 1-10-BAL45 Jackson Pass quickly completed to #37-McClain who fumbled (3-yard reception, BTW). Forced fumble accredited to Marshall -- although Hall had a big part in it also.
6 1-10-BAL38 Brooks McNair completes 12-yard pass to #85-Mason. Peko also knocked McNair down.
7 1-10-CIN25 Marshall and Miller McNair completes 19-yard pass to #87-Williams. Blitz had no effect.
8 2-10-CIN18 Marshall and Miller Incomplete pass to #87-Williams. Ball was thrown very high. Great play by O'Neal to prevent the pass and touchdown.
9 1-10-BAL39 Brooks McNair, incomplete quick slant pass to #85-Mason. Incomplete the result of great Hall play stripping the ball.
10 3-7-BAL42 Miller, Williams, Landon (delayed) Geathers pressured McNair to step up while throwing losing the handle on the football. Landon snagged the ball out of the air and ran for a touchdown.
11 3-2-BAL49 Marshall Pass was thrown high and incomplete.
12 1-10-CIN46 Marshall and Ndukwe Marshall had McNair wrapped who flipped the desperate pass to #37-McClain. Ironically, #37-McClain was the one blocking Marshall. 5-yard gain.
13 3-1-BAL35 Marshall and O'Neal (not sure) while Geathers dropped into coverage Pass was thrown high which was tipped by #85-Mason and intercepted by Geathers.
14 1-10-BAL36 Brooks and Marshall (delayed) McNair fell backwards to avoid a crushing blow by Marshall. Pass complete to #86-Heap for 10 yards.
15 2-7-BAL49 Jackson Marshall tipped the pass at the line of scrimmage.
16 3-7-BAL49 Marshall and Ndukwe Pass over thrown to #87-Williams.
17 3-3-CIN17 Miller and Landon Miller blitzed but found the great wall of China. So instead of blitzing, Miller watched Boller and put up his hand at the pass. Tipped and incomplete.

Let's talk Bengals rush defense. The Bengals haven't always employed the greatest rush defense. No, seriously. How many times can we recall the amount of holes that were measured in acres? In four full seasons (Marvin Lewis era) preceding Monday Night, the Bengals rush defense allowed 7,993 yards rushing -- 124.9 yards per games over a four year period. Fairly speaking, the Bengals rush defense has also improved. While they gave up 128.8 (2004) and 138.6 (2003) yards per game in Lewis' first two seasons, the Bengals rush defense has allowed, between 2005 and 2006, 3,713 total yards rushing (116.0 yards per game).

Against the Ravens Monday Night, the Bengals rush defense allowed 107 yards rushing (4.28 yards per rush). However...

Bengals rush defense against two Musa Smith attempts on the Ravens first touchdown drive.

  • Musa Smith, with 13:28 left in the second quarter, picked up 17 yards. Myers, at the point of attack, was turned inside while Justin Smith -- double-teamed -- was pushed into the linebacker level. The pulling right guard took Landon Johnson out who shed into the backfield while Dexter Jackson slipped taking himself out of the play. Caleb Miller, also taking himself out of the play, took a false first step to the left too late to recover. This was the game Jonathan Ogden went out for the game.
  • On the Musa Smith touchdown run: The play called went behind the right guard with the left guard pulling. Geathers stayed home on the outside and took on the tackle's block out. Peko was double-teamed by the right guard and center, who chipped off onto the backside blocking Thornton. The pulling right guard took out Caleb. Smith was barely touched.

Take out those 23 yards by Musa Smith, on that single drive, and the Ravens numbers depreciate -- dropping yards per rush to 3.65. Why those two? The 17-yard rush was the Ravens longest and the 6-yard rush was their only offensive touchdown.

Remember the hit: On the failed field goal attempt that was returned, Shayne Graham left the field injured and went into the lockerroom. It wasn't a Raven that knocked him down either. It was Andrew Whitworth. I'm sure a bouquet of flowers will be on Graham's plastic football holder sometime this week. Or, being football players, they may tape up Graham to the goalpost simply for being the smallest guy. No, wait, that's Manning. Thank god we don't play for that guy.

Deltha O'Neal is back. There's no doubt now. None. O'Neal is the leader of the cornerbacks squad and he's back.

The Ravens set up at the Cincinnati 18-yard line, on 2nd-and-10 with :13 left in the half. Caleb Miller and Lemar Marshall haunted the line of scrimmage and blitzed McNair dropping back from shotgun. McNair passed the football to the right, about 2-yards short of the goalline. The Ravens wide receiver (#87-Williams) boxed out O'Neal -- think big man, in the paint, in basketball. The pass went high giving O'Neal a chance to jump around the receiver and swat the pass away. Incomplete. With only :06 left on the clock, the Ravens kicked a field goal heading into the locker room with the Bengals leading 12-10. O'Neal's play saved the Bengals four points and a halftime lead.

The Ravens set up 3rd-and-2 at their own 49-yard line. With 6:13 left in the game, Ravens' quarterback, Steve McNair, tried to fire off a pass to escape pressure attempting a pass to #87-Williams. Like the play above, the pass was high and O'Neal was boxed out. Instead of jumping around, O'Neal slapped the ball out of the receiver's hands from behind causing just enough disruption for the incomplete. Ravens punt.

Rudi struggled, but one run made his day great. First, let's get the obvious out of the way. Rudi Johnson gritted out a tough performance against a powerful rush defense with linemen hurt. Alex Stepanovich wasn't that great relieving Eric Ghiaciuc, but serviceable. Stacy Andrews is hardly comparable to the fleet-footed Eric Steinbach. And our best lineman, Willie Anderson was out most of the game subbed by Scott Kooistra.

Rudi Johnson's day shows his struggles. Of his 18 rush attempts, 11 went for two yards or less. Four rush attempts went for negative yardage. And the obvious fumble lost could have proven disastrous. To say Rudi struggled today, is an understatement. But a lot of factors went against Rudi today also -- blaming him is only one-third of the total blame that should be cast.

But he had two runs that multiplied momentum by 100%. On the very next play following Geathers unbelievable interception, Palmer handed off to Rudi on a run that went between Bobbie Williams and Scott Kooistra with Reggie Kelly doing what he does best. Kooistra and Kelly teamed up to take out the right side of the line. Williams turned his guy inside while Jeremi Johnson just POPPED #57-Scott (he was on one knee) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh blocked #21-McAllister out of the play. Once Rudi's engine gets going, it's hard to stop. Ray Lewis was the first Ravens defender to make contact nine yards past the line of scrimmage. No, Lewis didn't bring him down. Rudi dragged Lewis and #26-Landry another six yards while shoving off a lazy Ed Reed attempted tackle.

On the next play, Palmer took a two step drop and swung a pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Chad Johnson successfully blocked #22-Rolle springing enough room for T.J. to score. Touchdown. And the receivers are blocking!

On the two-point conversion, following an Ed Reed interference giving the Bengals a retry, Rudi took the handoff and strung the rush out to the left. Andrew Whitworth buried, I mean pancaked (with explanation points) his guy on the end allowing Jeremi Johnson to seal any stragglers. Two-point conversion, very successful. Very easy.

Defense: Landon Johnson finished with 11 tackles with two fumble recoveries and a touchdown. Robert Geathers' interception completely changed the complexion of the game and, in my honest opinion, gave the Bengals the energy for the win. He also recovered a fumble. Lemar Marshall (three QB hits) and Ahmad Brooks disrupted the quarterbacks with relentless blitzing. Deltha O'Neal single-handedly prevented a touchdown and forced the Ravens to punt on a third-down play. Madieu Williams and Dexter Jackson combined for 17 tackles while Leon Hall stripped two passes contributing four tackles. Michael Myers intercepted a pass that sealed the victory.

Knowing all that, who do you say was the best defender?

Bengals offense lacks time-consuming mentality. If there's one thing about this Bengals offense I can't stand, it's that they never consume any time. For the past two years, it's been my contention that some of the defensive struggles could be attached to the quickness the Bengals run their offense. It's also a benefit to the offense because their quickness, tires out and confuses opposing defenses. So I understand the use of it. But I also think it wears out our defense just as much. Especially if the offense quickly turns over.

For example, Monday Night, the Bengals offense really struggled in the third quarter. After a nine-play, 12-yard drive that took 5:20 off the clock resulting in a punt, the Bengals offense went three-and-out on three successive drives (1:34, 1:55, 1:01). The defense gutted it out though. We're not saying one bad thing about them today.

The Bengals were on the short-side of time of possession (27:39-32:21) including quarters of 7:35, 7:20, 6:54 and 5:50.

Did not play: Jonathan Fanene and Levi Jones -- think he'll say something?

Inside the numbers.
Bengals rush offense: 23 attempts for 55 yards. Take out the 15-yard rush attempt by Rudi Johnson, and the Bengals are averaging 1.8 yards per rush.

Bengals coverage teams: The Ravens recorded 245 return yards on punt and kickoff return.

Kyle Larson is getting better and better each season. On seven punts (I know, seven?!!), Larson averaged 44.9 yards per punt -- including a 54-yard punt -- six of which were returned (that's another strike against punt coverage teams).

Dropping the ball. I suppose that's a phrase that has two meanings. And whether or not a receiver should have caught a pass can speak against the receiver or the quarterback, sometimes, is a line too hard to define. There were plenty of plays that should have been receptions on passes that went incomplete -- either by drops or miscommunication. So let's examine that.

On 2nd-and-4, at the Bengals 27-yard line, Palmer threw a pass a little high to Chad Johnson. Granted, the pass was high and difficult for most receivers. But Chad makes leaping catches out of the air in a lot circumstances. I won't blame Chad for a high pass, but he's caught those before.

On the next play, one down more with the same yardage, Palmer threw a short pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh to the left. The pass went through his hands. Incomplete. Standard drop. Bengals punt.

On first-and-ten at the Cincinnat-25 (2:31 left in the first), Palmer threw a swing pass to Rudi to the left. Palmer's pass was slightly overthrown. At the same time, I wrote in my notebook, "Rudi's alligator arms".

On a critical 3rd-and-4 at the Baltimore 22-yard line with 1:12 left in the first half, Palmer dropped back and threw to Tab Perry expecting to run an out route. He curled instead. Miscommunication. Incomplete.

Did Mike Tirico have an orgasm? On Geathers' interception, Mike Tirico made a noise that I've only heard in adult movies. It was so disturbing that I had to take a quick shower while the officials reviewed the play.

Another Tirico note: Quickly, football 101. When a wide receiver lines up left and comes around take a quarterback handoff, that's called an "End Around". Not a reverse. If Chad took the handoff and handed the ball to T.J. Houshmandzadeh running back around, then that would be a "Reverse". Note the terminology. You're not reversing if you're a wide receiver flanking out taking a handout coming around. TMQ made the easy reference. One handoff is an "End Around". Two handoffs is a "Reverse". There, class is over. Now you know.

Hello, you created a penalty for the man quarterbacking tonight! Bengals had the ball, third-and-5 at the Cincinnati 33 with 11:22 left in the game. #92-Ngata broke through the line of scrimmage on a passing play and dove into Palmer's legs just below the knees. Now, my understanding is that it's a penalty anytime you hit the quarterback around and below the knees. Nothing. Palmer even looked back surprised the play was considered clean.

My Players of the Game

Offense: The Bengals duo receivers. Chad Johnson scored the game's first touchdown on a deep 39-yard over-the-shoulder pass putting the Bengals up 6-0. T.J. Houshmandzadeh scored the game's last touchdown on a 7-yard swing pass from Palmer.

Defense: No way I'm picking one. This defense, as a whole, won this game.

Special Teams: Kyle Larson made good kicks, Shayne Graham kicked two field goals and Herana-Daze Jones made three special teams tackles.

Note: Yea, I just usually mention all players if no one stands out. I'm a coward.

Third Downs (Bengals convert 3/13, Ravens convert 2/13)

Bengals Sit. Result   Ravens Sit. Result
1 3-4-CIN-27 Palmer throws behind T.J. (slightly) and T.J. doesn't come up with the ball. Punt.   1 3-10-BAL17 McNair completes 21-yard pass to Williams. First down.
2 3-4-BAL35 Palmer throws behind Tab Perry. Missed Field Goal.   2 3-3-BAL45 Incomplete pass to Mason. Punt.
3 3-4-BAL5 Palmer throws incomplete to Perry. Field Goal.   3 3-8-BAL22 McNair incomplete pass to Clayton. Punt.
4 3-11-CIN24 Palmer throws incomplete to T.J. Punt.   4 3-15-BAL32 McNair incomplete pass to Todd Heap. Punt.
5 3-3-CIN27 Palmer completes 5-yard pass to Chad. First down.   5 3-7-BAL42 Fumble, Landon TOUCHDOWN!
6 3-6-BAL35 Palmer completes pass to T.J. for one yard. Punt.   6 3-2-BAL49 McNair incomplete to Clayton. Punt.
7 3-4-BAL22 Palmer incompletes to Tab Perry. Wrong page. Field Goal.   7 3-3-CIN39 Smith fumbles, recovered by Brown. Believe it or not, first down.
8 3-3-CIN29 Palmer completed 9-yard pass to Coats. First Down.   8 3-4-CIN5 McNair incomplete to Clayton. Field Goal.
9 3-1-CIN49 Palmer, sneaks. First Down.   9 3-1-BAL35 McNair, interception to Robert Geathers.
10 3-12-CIN47 Palmer, sacked. Punt   10 3-7-BAL49 McNair, incomplete pass to Williams. Punt.
11 3-8-CIN22 Palmer completes 4-yard pass to T.J. Punt.   11 3-3-CIN17 Boller, incomplete pass to Williams. Converted 4th down.
12 3-8-CIN13 Palmer, incomplete to Tab Perry   12 3-G-CIN2 1.99-yard gain. First down, played on fourth down after #40-defensive holding.
13 3-5-CIN33 Palmer, incomplete to Kenny Watson.   13 3-2-CIN2 Michael Myers interception.

Scoring

  • Palmer completes 39-yard pass to Chad Johnson for touchdown. Missed PAT (6-0)
  • Shayne Graham kicks 23-yard field goal. (9-0)
  • Musa Smith 6-yard run (9-7)
  • Shayne Graham kicks 40-yard field (12-7)
  • Matt Stover kicks a 36 yard field goal (12-10)
  • Landon Johnson recovers McNair fumble and returns it 34 yards. (19-10)
  • Matt Stover kicks 23-yard field goal (19-13)
  • Ed Reed returns 63-yard punt for touchdown (19-20)
  • Palmer completes 7-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- Rudi scores two-point conversion. (27-20)

Penalties (5 penalties, 41 yards)

  • Reggie Kelly holding -- holding Suggs.
  • 12-men on the field -- picked up.
  • Madieu Williams, illegal contact.
  • Andrew Whitworth, holding.
  • Nate Lawrie, personal foul face mask
  • Madieu Williams, defensive holding

Starters

POS. Week #1
QB Palmer
RB R. Johnson
FB Ben Coats (as 2nd TE)
WR C. Johnson
WR Houshmandzadeh
TE Kelly
LT Whitworth
LG Andrews
C Ghiaciuc
RG Williams
RT Anderson
   
POS Week #1
LE Geathers
DT Peko
DT Thornton
RE Smith
WB L. Johnson
MB Brooks
SB Marshall
SS Jackson
FS Williams
CB Hall
CB O'Neal
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