If Andy Dalton never wanted to take another step inside MetLife Stadium, I can’t say I’d blame him for feeling that way. In two games the Bengals have played there this year, he’s been sacked 10 times for a total loss of 60 yards by the New York Jets in Week 1 and most recently the New York Giants in Week 10.
But it was the timing of the takedowns, and the overall pressure he was under, that couldn’t have been worse. Down by one point with a little more than six minutes remaining in the game, the Bengals ran six plays on their final drive of the game. It was the final three plays of that drive that crushed them. Let’s go over them:
First-and-10: Ball on the 30
How does a bad player limit your offense? Well, this play is about as good of an example as you’ll get.
One play after Dalton escaped a broken pocket and scrambled for 15 yards, the offense motioned tight end Tyler Eifert from a receiver out wide, to an extra blocker behind left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
At the snap, Eifert pulled around the line to block left defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, as the protection flowed the opposite way.
Pierre-Paul beat Eifert at arrival and forced Dalton to throw it to no one before getting taken down. Now, the Bengals have done this sort of thing before, but they’ve done it when Dalton’s primary read is where the gap between the pulling tight end ends up and the tackle on that side. In this case, it was the space between Eifert and right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi. But, as you can see with the All-22 angle, none of the receivers’ routes are ending up in that direction:
So, why did they have Eifert do this? I mean, never mind the fact that the left-leaning movement of the line at the snap helped the right end split his gap and get in the pocket as well? Why was this schemed for this play?
Maybe it was because they didn’t trust the right tackle in the game at that time to block Pierre-Paul? He really couldn’t all game long.
Due to the lack of trust the team had in Cedric Ogbuehi, they took a target out of the play to block a player he isn’t capable of blocking in the circumstance at hand. And it failed miserably anyways. But it’s fine, it was only first down, right?
Second-and-10: Ball on the 30
Before and after photos are cool. Here’s a great example:
The difference between these two pictures is a total of two seconds. Let’s observe.
The Giants applied their film study beautifully. They know the Bengals are weak against A-gap blitz looks and stunts, so they combine them together. 57 and 52 in blue are threatening the dreaded double A-gap blitz, so Dalton aligns running back Giovani Bernard to pick up the left A-gap. But the Giants added a stunt to their A-gap blitz with their left 3-Tech as well, taking advantage of center Russell Bodine and collapsing the pocket from the inside.
The sad thing is that’s far from the only thing destroying this pocket. Pierre-Paul predictably manhandled Ogbuehi backward deep into Dalton’s space, the same thing happens to Bernard against the MIKE linebacker in this case. And even left guard Boling loses positioning on his man once Bernard gets driven backwards.
This was a systematic disaster that put the Bengals in an even tougher third down position.
Third-and-18: Ball on the 22
I’m forced to admire the nuances that some of the opposing pass rushers demonstrate against this offensive line because most of the time, it’s the only thing admirable that happened during the play. And because it’s just good football.
Boling is a smart football player, but he was simply outplayed by defensive end Olivier Vernon here. Vernon was lined up in a two-point stance as a 3-Tech, and set up Boling from the snap of the ball. Vernon started his rush toward the A-gap on Boling’s left, and Boling mirrored this movement to maintain a half-man relationship, exactly the way Vernon wanted him to. Because with a simple swipe with his outside arm, Boling is perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, and totally out of position to re-establish leverage with Vernon.
And of course when Boling gets beat he rolls into Whitworth who then loses positioning with his man and the pile up on Dalton ensues, captivating an embarrassing offensive performance for the night, and really, for the whole season thus far.
This offensive line has regressed. Plays are going south because the two worst players are playing like the two worst players, and the normally good players look bad when the scheme doesn’t cover up their weaknesses. There’s a reason why the offense moves the ball better when Eric Winston is in at right tackle, and when Bodine isn’t asked to reach block the nose tackle. Two bad lineman can completely destroy the structure of a once desirable unit. How can it be fixed?
Steal some of Dallas’ linemen.
This Sunday, the Bengals play their first real home game in almost a month. And they face the Buffalo Bills, who through the first 10 weeks of the year lead the league with an astounding 30 sacks.
Hold onto your butts.