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Film Room: Bengals’ offense adapts to beat Jets

Andy Dalton and the Bengals pivoted their game plan to get a huge win against the Jets.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Marvin Lewis was thrilled with his team for getting a tough win in New York during Week 1. The 15th anniversary of September 11th provided an electric atmosphere that made this feel like a playoff game. While in all reality it was just a 1 p.m. regular season game, it shows this team is capable of pulling off victories against good teams in a hostile environment. But the day didn’t exactly start out as promising as it ended.

Andy Dalton was under duress for pretty much the entire game. What is usually a top five offensive line in the NFL allowed a mind boggling seven sacks. Granted, the Jets have quite possibly the most dominant 3-4 defensive line in the NFL and they’re coached by former standout Arizona coordinator Todd Bowles.

Dalton is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when facing the blitz, but the problem is that a lot of the pressure he faced didn’t come from crazy blitz schemes. He simply didn’t have adequate time to find an option to bail him out. This led to him forcing an early interception on what was simply a stressed quarterback making a bad decision.

Luckily for the Bengals, this would be the only mistake Dalton would have all day. Margus Hunt swung the momentum of the game on a blocked field goal, and Dalton made sure the Bengals capitalized via C.J. Uzomah. Take a look:

If you’re familiar with the Madden series of video games you’ll know this play. It’s just a classic four verticals play. The outside receivers are running go routes and the inside men are running seams. What you might not understand is this weird Jets coverage. In essence it’s cover two man, usually the best coverage for this play, but the Jets disguise it in a way that causes it to burn them. The outside corner on the bottom of the screen, Marcus Williams, would typically be covering LaFell on the play as he’s right over him. However, there’s a shift where safety Calvin Pryor rolls up over Uzomah, but at the snap actually runs to cover LaFell; linebacker Darron Lee is covering Uzomah, and Williams for some reason rolls back to play as the safety. Certainly a confusing coverage, but the error happens when Lee stops running with Uzomah and allows space between them. Dalton fits the ball in and with a few broken tackles the Bengals find themselves near the red zone.

That drive would only result in a field goal, but there were plenty of impressive plays for the Bengals to make later on.

The Decimation of Revis Island

For years Darrelle Revis was one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL. That was not who Revis was on Sunday afternoon. The only thing currently occupying Revis Island is a retirement home that Revis could soon become a part of. Take this for example:

The misdirection in the backfield is what makes this play. Rookie Tyler Boyd motions to the backfield like he’s getting a reverse and there’s a fake up the middle to Giovani Bernard. The run fakes draw up and freeze the Jets’ linebackers. This leaves Green and LaFell one on one with their defenders with a single safety. Green ran a skinny post and LaFell ran a deep in route. Both Bengals had their man beat and the safety is essentially frozen in the middle as he doesn’t know who to help cover, as they both need help. Dalton recognizes this and goes for single coverage over the top of the safety; that’s a battle A.J. Green will win all day long.

Adapting in the NFL

Perhaps the biggest issue the entire game for the Bengals was the consistent pass rush they faced from the Jets. Very few plays were allowed to develop before Dalton was essentially consumed by a sea of green and white. To counter, Ken Zampese smartly dialed some screens and quick hitters, the most popular of which I’ll be showcasing here.

This is beautifully blocked wide receiver screen that the Bengals went after a few times, taking advantage of the aggressiveness of the Jets’ defensive linemen. For A.J., it’s just a simple stutter step to come back to the screen. Meanwhile, the left side of the offensive line let their men go after a quick chip to peel back block for Green. Combine this and the play action to Jeremy Hill and the defensive line is too far upfield before they recognize the screenplay. Had Green not lost his feet, he would have scored here, but the excellent design by Zampese gave the Bengals a great 30 yard gain regardless. While the rookie coordinator didn’t call perfect plays the whole game, he was very good for the most part and at least enough so to get a win.

Effective when necessary

Although the Bengals didn’t run the ball all that well on Sunday, they didn’t really need to. What’s most important is that they were able to do so in the red zone, which is usually much tougher as the shortened field makes the defense much more likely to expect it. Take a look at the Jeremy Hill 12 yard touchdown run.

This is a simple inside zone run, but the team runs it to perfection. Clint Boling makes this happen by first double teaming with Bodine on the nose tackle and then scraping to and blocking out David Harris. This allows Hill to hit a hole and get square, which allows him to take that contact at the second level and move forward to get into the endzone. These plays aren’t pretty looking, but they’re extremely effective. This is exactly the type of play the Bengals will need to run well to win the AFC North and get past that playoff hump. I’m expecting the Bengals offensive lineman to shake off the opening day lame-duck performance and come back with a vengeance against Pittsburgh. With that said, I’ll see you next week to break down the offense after the team’s visit to the Steel City.