If there were keys to the game for the Bengals to win their first game of the year -- and they will win their first game of the year -- then let's start in the trenches. Our offensive line has had its problems, but sometimes they're getting criticized for protection issues when in fact, it's either the protection scheme (like flowing away from an unblocking blitzing linebacker) or the supporting players that are simply outmatched. With all the blitzing schemes with sack-happy linebackers we've seen, it's now time that the Bengals offensive line meet a group of basic defensive packages that tailor around Mario Williams.
Williams has six sacks this season (tied for sixth in the NFL). However, all six sacks have come in three games (two against the Steelers, two against the Colts, two against the Dolphins). He was shutout against the Lions, Titans and Jaguars.
The guys at Battle Red Blog say that Williams mostly lines up at right defensive end, but he does move around a bit. With Levi Jones slower than ever, age and failing knees a factor, I would suggest that a major key for the Bengals protection schemes is to assign the running back to chip and/or help block Williams. In fact, I'd be willing to suggest that the running back stay in on passing plays -- especially long third-to-go conversion attempts -- to give Ryan Fitzpatrick more time for longer patterns to develop.
A few notes on sacks.
There are 14 players in the NFL with five sacks or more. The Bengals have faced seven of them -- DeMarcus Ware (9), James Harrison (8.5), LaMarr Woodley (7.5), Albert Haynesworth (6.0), Fred Robbins (5.5), Shaun Ellis (5.0), Justin Tuck (5.0).
The Bengals have faced five of the seven best sacking defenses -- Steelers 25 sacks (1st in NFL), New York Giants 21 sacks (t-2nd in NFL), Dallas Cowboys 20 sacks (t-4 in NFL), New York Jets 20 sacks (t-4 in NFL), Tennessee Titans 18 sacks (t-6th).
There are 10 players in the NFL that have more sacks than the Bengals do as a team (5).
The Bengals have allowed a sack in every game this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked 12 times in the past two games.
Last season, the Bengals protection was tremendous, only allowing 17 sacks all season. In five games, Palmer wasn't sacked. In 13 games, Palmer was sacked one time or less. Only twice was Palmer sacked three times or more. This season, Bengals quarterbacks have been sacked three times or more in four games. Only once have our quarterbacks been sacked one time or less (Titans).