It feels like we’re beginning to become accustomed to the rarity that is a regular season tie in the NFL. With three Bengals ties in the last 8 years, it seems like the result is a haunting memory hanging over the team. That said, the average performance the Bengals put in on offense was very much deserving of a tie. With multiple opportunities for both teams to win the game, the ineptitude of both franchises led to a result that was frustrating, if not accurate. I mean I thought both the Redskins and Bengals were evenly matched heading into the weekend, but what we saw was ridiculous. Before we get started I’d just like to throw out my support for adopting the NCAA’s overtime system. Both teams get a chance, there is no tie, and because of it, the moment is that much more dramatic. But back to the Bengals and their play in the NFL in London on Sunday.
Eifert Rises to the Occasion
After a one catch performance on limited snaps against Cleveland, Tyler Eifert assumed full duties at the tight end position, and the Bengals even made C.J. Uzomah inactive, knowing Eifert was ready for close to full game action. For anyone who was watching, it was easy to see that Eifert elevates the Bengals’ offense to a completely new level in a way Cincinnati has never seen from a tight end.
Being the team’s biggest threat over the middle means you’re missed when you’re gone. Earlier in the year, all too often the offense was content with throwing short on third down, hoping to pick it up, and take shots on earlier downs. With Eifert in the game, the Bengals not only have the ability to be more effective over the middle, but also be more aggressive on third down, continuing to play for the goal line instead of just the first down. That’s exactly what Eifert does here, losing his man on a slick stick-post double move to pick up 22 over the middle. While Uzomah did well in relief with Eifert out, he just doesn’t have the route running ability Eifert possesses.
And of course, we can’t forget about how dominant he was in the red zone in 2015. It seems fitting to see him replicating that success already in 2016.
Number 85 has the impeccable skill set of being able to high point the ball, getting over top of a safety who was missing help from Bashaud Breeland who fell flat on his face coming out of his read steps. A steady dosage of Eifert will go a long way to curing the team’s impotence in the red zone so far. On a short field, it’s easy to double cover A.J. Green and take him away on a short field, but when you do, you leave guys like Eifert in single coverage to make plays. Here, despite being in a Cover 1 meant to take that exact route away, Eifert gets results.
Crazy Legs Dalton
Andy Dalton threw a pick and lost a fumble in overtime that essentially sealed the fate of a tie, but he’s still playing some pretty good football. That said, he forced a couple passes to Green that probably should have been intercepted by Josh Norman. It wasn’t his worst game of the season and it wasn’t his best game of the season, but he keeps this team in a position to win because of his play. But for as much credit as the Red Rifle has gotten for his arm talent, it’s his ability to run the ball that I think is underappreciated.
It’s not the touchdown play, and I hope you weren’t expecting it. That was all scheme and a great ball fake, nothing really to do with his legs there. What he did on this third and long in overtime showcases both his reaction times and his ability to think on the fly. Seeing nothing open at the snap and man coverage across the board, Dalton knows shortly into the play his best chance is to run, and with the only shallow route being a crossing Eifert, it’s a good call. But it’s also the pump on the shovel pass before he gets the line of scrimmage that gets him the first down. If Dalton just tucks in and runs Mason Foster could have left Eifert and stopped Dalton well short. But just the slightest notion of a shovel pass was enough to keep him in coverage and allow Dalton to pass him by. Great veteran move.
Green: 1, Norman: 0
A.J. Green continues to be the best receiver in the National Football League, this week leaving Josh Norman with nothing but excuses after a performance where Green had 121 yards on 9 catches, while Norman had 5 penalties.
Despite flagrant defensive pass interference from Norman, Green is able to blow the top off of the Redskins Cover 1 blitz and haul in a 40 yard reception. Norman started the play with great positioning, but lost himself when A.J. moved for the sideline and it forced Norman to trail him and act out of desperation to force an incompletion. Norman didn’t totally lose the battle, as he had some nice coverage at times and had a few chances at an interception, but Green was clearly the winner.
Growing Pains Continue
Now that we’ve covered all the things I liked from Week 8, it’s time to ground us all in reality and showcase where the Bengals obviously still lack on offense. Protection.
With a chance to win the game on the line, not even necessarily needing a first down (even 5 yards would have given the team a shot), this was the most important down for the Bengals offensive line. They simply needed to hold for one more play. And what happens? The defense runs a stunt, and the Bengals once again continue to not pick it up. Cedric Ogbuehi is beat like a dead horse, a rusher from the opposite side comes free, and a punt ensues.
Now don’t get me wrong, I played on the offensive line and I know how tricky a good stunt can be to block. It requires some excellent communication, slide protection, and quick reactions from everyone involved. But if I’m a defensive coordinator in the NFL and I’m game-planning against the Bengals, I’m having my defensive front stunt the hell out of you. Because you aren’t stopping it. The Cowboys had a field day running stunts, the Jets ran a ton of stunts, everyone should be stunting this line. Right now this line has some nice individual talent, and some up and coming guys who should be good someday. But they really don’t play as a unit in pass protection. Each player should be looking at that hard during the bye week.