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Bengals Checklist On Five Keys To Victory Versus Buccaneers

We re-examine the previous week's five keys to victory and see how the team did in those areas. How did the Bengals fare this week?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, I put together a "Five Keys to Victory" list in the days before the Bengals kickoff their next contest. In case you haven't read it, I lay out five specific areas/concepts that the Bengals will need to achieve in order to come out victorious. In a brief moment of self-pride, most of the keys I lay out truly end up mattering in the game.

While the five keys to victory are important, dissecting them after the contest might be just as important. So, without further ado, let's look at the five keys, see what mattered, what didn't and how the team did in the areas.

Shake Off Potential Fatigue From Holiday And Three Straight Road Games:

Importance: High

How Bengals Fared: Poorly

Synopsis: The three straight road games seemed to have taken their toll on the Bengals, as many facets were sluggish early. The biggest culprit in the early poor play was quarterback Andy Dalton, who was also an example of other factors besides fatigue bothering the team. Dalton had been battling a stomach flu since Saturday and rumor had it that he was throwing up shortly before the game. The Buccaneers tried like heck to sneak a win out, but credit the sluggish Bengals for doing just enough on both sides of the ball to win their third straight game.

Hide/Help Marshall Newhouse As Much As Possible:

Importance: Medium

How Bengals Fared: Average

Synopsis: There were two sacks given up by the Bengals line on Sunday with a handful of other pressures. It wasn't until the later stages of the second quarter and into the third that Dalton looked comfortable. One of those sacks came from pressure up the middle from Gerald McCoy, while Michael Johnson had minimal impact on the game from the edge. Running the ball was a little bit of a tough go, with Giovani Bernard getting 4.9 yards per carry to Jeremy Hill's 3.1 average. They had 112 yards on the ground in the game overall, but also had to aid Newhouse with additional blocking from Jermaine Gresham and Ryan Hewitt.

Get On A Lesser Opponent Early:

Importance: High

How Bengals Fared: Epic Fail

Synopsis: Could there have been a worse start to a game than an interception on the first play from scrimmage? I suppose a pick-six, but you get the point. Aside from that, the defense let up 10 points in Tampa Bay's first three drives and you could see the Buccaneers fed off of the momentum and early lead. The Bengals offense had a miserable go of it in the first half, with two of their first four possessions ending in punts and the other two ending with Dalton interceptions. It was exactly what Cincinnati didn't want to happen against a two-win team.

Find A Way To Cover Tampa's "Twin Towers":

Importance: Very High

How Bengals Fared: Excellent

Synopsis: As it has been really since the Week 8 match-up against the Jaguars, the defensive game plan was to stop the run and keep all pass plays in front of them. Both were executed well on Sunday, with Mike Evans getting just 49 yards on four catches and Vincent Jackson with 24 on two grabs. It was physical at the line and the much smaller Cincinnati corners held up against the two 6'5" monsters. Semi-consistent pressure from the defensive line helped as well, even though only one sack was accumulated on the day.

Aside From The Obvious Reasons, Avoid Interceptions:

Importance: High

How Bengals Fared: Failed

Synopsis: We've mentioned it before but Dalton's three picks were killers. His teammates didn't seem pleased with them and the opportunity to put a poor team away early on wasn't available. You can pick which one of the three was the worst, but a minimum of six points could have been had, say if Dalton only had the initial interception. After taking care of the football for the most part the previous two weeks, Sunday was a disaster in that area. He played well later on and was supported by his defense, but this can't happen in the daunting December stretch looming ahead.