Every week, in every NFL game, facets of strategy emerge as surprising impacts to the end result. When previewing the match-up some of the keys to a victory are obvious, while other lay in the weeds out of plain sight. It's always fun to see what actually matters towards the result, and it becomes even more interesting when the score is a 30-0 blowout.
It may surprise some that only one of our five keys to a Bengals victory over the Browns revolved around Johnny Manziel, and even that lone point involved others in the Cleveland offensive arsenal. While JFF was a major part of the storyline, there were other factors that played into the score that shone on the scoreboard as the time read zero.
Get Giovani Bernard Heavily Involved, Even As A "Backup":
How Bengals Fared: Above Average
Synopsis: There is no doubt that it was the "Jeremy Hill Show" on Sunday, with others co-starring in supporting sketches. A good share of Bernard's 79 rushing yards came in the final quarter, but he was a great supporting piece throughout the entire game. His 103 total yards from scrimmage showcased his versatility but also showed how the two second round running backs should be used and how effective they are when the implemented plan allows them to both do their thing.
Emmanuel Lamur, The Spy?:
How Bengals Fared: Above Average
Synopsis: This was actually an important facet to the game, but Lamur wasn't necessarily the guy that was the one shadowing Manziel all afternoon. As was also predicted in last week's Five Keys, Reggie Nelson was a nominee for the task and you saw him do so on certain occasions. Beyond that, the defensive line remained disciplined and no one on the defensive unit let Manziel pull a Houdini. So, while Lamur wasn't directly responsible a team of Bengals never allowed "Crazy Legs Johnny" to revert back to his Texas A&M days--in the most complimentary way of speaking.
Bengals force Browns to go three and out on opening possession. Reggie Nelson stuffed him short of the first. https://t.co/pgy0TzyiSN— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
Andy Dalton With Strong Play In The Elements:
Importance: Low To Medium
How Bengals Fared: Poorly
Synopsis: On almost any other Sunday, i.e. one where the team doesn't rush for an absurd 244 yards, Andy Dalton's play would have likely crippled the team. Just 117 yards through the air and an interception that should have been a touchdown pass to Ryan Hewitt isn't the type of stuff that Bengals fans want to see in the two-plus weeks that are left in the 2014 season. It didn't make a huge difference simply because of the well-above-average performance in the running game, but on almost any other week it would have been huge.
Learn From Defensive Mistakes Against Read-Option Versus Panthers:
Importance: Extremely High
How Bengals Fared: Excellent
Synopsis: Credit Paul Guenther and the preparation he had his defensive players take on going into this week. Sometimes going up against a rookie is one of the easiest things for a team to study for, while other times it's a nightmare because of limited tape. It honestly felt like the Bengals' defensive front was in the Browns' huddle and even when things seemed to play out right for Manziel and Co., the secondary seemed to swoop in and make a big play. Johnny Football didn't even have 100 TOTAL yards on the day, barely cracking ten yards on the ground. Even when the Browns called a read-option, the Bengals blew it up.
Wallace Gilberry with a sack on 2nd and 6 with 1:10 remaining in the first. Gilberry offers the JPP money s... https://t.co/wjQs46sT4u— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
Excellence On Third Down From The Offense:
How The Bengals Fared: Good To Excellent
Synopsis: The league's tops for efficiency on third down appears to be just under 49 percent, so the Bengals' 50 percent on the day was solid. One could theoretically lump in the perfect rate on fourth down conversions (two-for-two) into this area, where success in it made life difficult for the Browns. The Bengals' offensive dominance on third down began early on and cooled off once they grabbed a big lead. It's particularly interesting how well the Bengals did here, given the "meh" day from their quarterback.