The defensive line we saw from the Bengals yesterday was outstanding. The Bengals front of Wallace Gilberry, Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Thompson, Domata Peko and Geno Atkins formed a dominating force in the destruction of the Browns' offensive line all day. Pressure on Johnny Manziel was constant and disruptive to the Browns' offensive game plan.
The surprising part was not that the Bengals pressured the rookie quarterback. It was that the pressure came with no real blitzing from the defense. The front four were charged with the task of not allowing the young QB time to burn them with his feet, while also making him uncomfortable in the pocket. The Bengals front rose to the challenge and passed with flying colors.
ESPN noted the same. In a post-game reaction piece, they noted the Bengals were able to pressure with only two official blitzes on the day.
The Bengals contained Manziel with a standard pass rush, blitzing only twice on his 24 dropbacks. Entering Sunday, there had been only eight games all season with a lower blitz percentage than the Bengals' 8 percent.
Take a look at the first sack from Gilberry. The Browns double team Atkins (and for some reason Peko) and leave Gilberry the open path to Manziel. He takes the most direct route and does not allow the rookie to beat him with his feet. (Somehow this is not considered a sack in the box score, but you judge for yourself.)
Another sack from the defense was had by Thompson. Again, no blitz, but a lineman who just beats the guy trying to slow him down. You see the Browns offense once again keying on Peko. It looks like he commands two guys on the snap. Rookie offensive lineman Joel Bitonio is left dancing in space as he whifs on Thompson.
Both of the Bengals interceptions were great plays by the respective corners. They also were aided again by the defensive line and the ability to collapse the pocket and create pressure. Dre Kirkpatrick trailed Andrew Hawkins as he crossed the field. A better timed throw and there is a good chance that the Browns get a completion there.
However, the pressure coming into Manziel's face from Dunlap manhandling the offensive lineman didn't allow the quarterback to set his feet and he locked onto his receiver. Kirkpatrick read the play and made the move to the ball. Huge play from the line and secondary.
The Adam Jones interception was a similar story. Without blitzing, the Bengals defense was able to just obliterate the pocket and force Manziel to make a bad throw on the run. Maybe this pass works in college, but with the speed and discipline of professional athletes, this was a can of corn for Jones.
The Bengals defense left Manziel confused and battered. He was caught on the sidelines at the end of the game looking dazed and confused. I am no lip reader, but at the end you can kind of make out him saying "Who Dey". I think he definitely knows Who Dey are.