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The Cincinnati Bengals opened the scoring last Sunday with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Mohamed Sanu to A.J. Green. Now we know why it worked.
The shocking decision by Cincinnati's offense to throw the football out of a wildcat formation with Mohamed Sanu as the quarterback, not only surprised most of us. It shocked the Washington Redskins, especially defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
“The rule was, at the time — and I take the blame for that one: we didn’t practice it all week – but [inside linebacker] London [Fletcher] was trying to check to it when they came out in it, and the rule is, the safety has the quarterback. He keeps an eye on him, he doesn’t cover him, just keeps an eye on him. And the corner’s got the wideout, so we just got misaligned.”
The misalignment had cornerback DeAngelo Hall on quarterback Andy Dalton and safety DeJon Gomes on A.J. Green, who had lined up in the slot. According to Mike Jones with the Washington Post, Hall tried to "signal to Gomes for the two to switch coverage assignments. But Gomes apparently didn't hear or understand Hall."
It's not just the alignment either. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden concluded that their coverage scheme against the wildcat formation would be Cover 0, which is a man coverage without any help over the top.
“We had a pretty good indication that they were gonna be in Cover-0 when we went wildcat with whoever we had back there other than a quarterback, whether it’s a running back or wide receiver,” Gruden told Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week. “It took a little bit of time, but the free safety came out of the middle of the field, and came in the box, and we knew we had A.J. one-on-one against a safety."
And what happened, happened.
What could be an interesting byproduct of this play is the amount of time opposing defenses will be forced to review and practice Cincinnati's wildcat formation, taking time away that could be used against Cincinnati's more conventional offense.