Joe Goodberry, Jason Garrison and I recently sat down together (on the Internet) and had another one of our Cincy Jungle round table to have a little chat about the Bengals playoff matchup in Houston against the Texans on Saturday night. We talked about important matchups in the game as well as concerns with stopping the run. All questions were asked by Jason.
So, without further delay.
In your opinion, what is the most important matchup of this game?
Joe Goodberry: A.J. Green versus Jonathan Joseph. Two players that are physically at the top of their positions. Both had Pro Bowl years and Green himself carries the weight of the Bengals offense on his shoulders. Motioning Green, putting him in the slot and using other receivers to rub Joseph off Green will be important. Then look for more double coverages against Green.
Josh Kirkendall: That was a good match-up the first time around.
Joe: Really good. I think it was very even and you could see them feeling each other out for the first time. Look for adjustments on both sides this game.
Josh: I'm going with the Texans offensive line and Bengals defensive front seven. Pass rush will be critical, sure, but the Bengals have to make the Texans one-dimensional and put the game on T.J. Yates -- minus the fourth quarter soft coverage.
Jason Garrison: I would say that the most important matchup is between the Bengals defensive front seven against the Texans running backs, Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The pass rush will be important, but they have to take Foster and Tate out of the game first.
Josh: Agreed. Texans offensive line is a talented group and the Bengals did a good job of that the first time around. Take out Tate's 44-yard run and he only averages 3.7 yard/rush for the game. Foster averaged 2.7 yards/rush also. Then the Bengals sacked Yates five times, three of which came in the fourth quarter.
Joe: Yeah, despite Josh mentioning "Soft coverage" in the 4th quarter, I thought the Bengals went after Yates and applied pressure.
Josh: But they can't apply the fourth quarter like they did and let Yates run wild. That 17-yard gain on third and 15 late in the game was a killer.
Joe: And I remember that play. Brandon Johnson missed a sack. Can't miss easy opportunities.
Josh: Exactly. And no second chances. I know the Bengals didn't, but that was a game they had won and let it go.
The Bengals only allowed one team (the Broncos) to rush for more than 100 yards against them in the first eight games of the season. They went 6-2 in those games. They allowed 100 yards rushing in six of the final eight games of the season and ended up losing five of those games. Do you think that is a result of a second-half defensive letdown or do you think it's a result of facing better teams with better running backs?
Josh: Well, the loss of Pat Sims hurt. But better running backs, not sure about that. The Bengals limited Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Jackson, Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch, not exactly bad running backs. Rey Maualuga was hurt also, maybe that contributed -- or maybe his overall disappointment?
Joe: All of the above? They can't run on offense, they haven't played with a substantial lead, they've played Pro Bowl running backs with bad weather. This is the time of year when teams run the ball more. It's definitely a concern.
Jason: Not only was Rey Maualuga hurt, I think he's been the defense's version of Jerome Simpson. He's amazing one week and then disappears the next week.
Joe: He just seems so unsure of himself and his responsibilities.
Jason: But he had his best game of the season against the Texans in Week 14 and if Geno Atkins could hold on to that fumble recovery, the Bengals win and go to the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
Josh: That all being said, the Bengals rush defense is still 10th in the league and 6th on lowest yards/run allowed.
Joe: They were first through 8 games, right? On the YPC stats.
Jason: That run defense will need to show up tomorrow. When it all comes down to it, if the Bengals let the Texans run the ball effectively, their chances of winning drop dramatically.
Josh: Point is that they haven't fallen off terribly. No doubt they've fallen from any elite discussions, but they're still above average.
Josh: An interesting thought. Name the opposing running backs beside Ray Rice that's surprassed 100 yards against the Bengals defense.
Jason: Willis McGahee
Josh: So that's two all season?
Josh: Most Hillis got against the Bengals was 65 yards.
Joe: Take away quarterback and wide receiver rush yards, the Bengals stats look better.
Jason: Yeah, I think those two may be the only individual running backs that ran for over 100 yards. Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson had over 100 total yards but not just on the ground.
Josh: That being said, along with 1,224 yards rushing, Arian Foster has 53 receptions and 617 yards receiving. He was the Texans second leading receiver behind Owen Daniels.
Against the Bengals, Foster had 74 yards from scrimmage. We shut him down once before, they'll have to put together another encore performance.
Joe: Chances are against them. He's too good to hold down forever.
Jason:: Yeah they will. They need to be aware of where he is at all times and not just when he is running the ball.
Joe: Wish the Bengals had the same type of weapon out of the backfield.
Josh: Still Foster isn't the greatest key. He had 267 yards rushing against the Panthers and the Colts in week 15 and 16 combined. The Texans lost both games. It's definitely the new age of football where three of the league's top five rushing offenses failed to make the playoffs.
Jason: Well it's a passing league, without question. There were three 5,000-yard passers and all three of them are in the playoffs and all three of those teams have mediocre to poor running games.
I'm talking about the Lions, Saints and Patriots, of course.
Josh: Except for the Saints -- they have the league's sixth best rushing offense. But the point is given.
Joe: Yup. Even teams like the Ravens where RB>QB. They know they need to be a passing team.
Saints have the leagues best offense.