The Marvin Lewis coaching tree has extended its branches over the past few offseasons and this Sunday presents another matchup against a familiar face. After beating Vance Joseph’s Broncos, the Bengals travel to Minnesota to take on Mike Zimmer and the Vikings.
Here are five major keys to a Cincinnati victory this week.
Keep it close early in the game:
Given the Bengals’ issues in the second half this year, if the Bengals wish to sneak away with a win on Sunday, they’ll need to play well in the first half. Heck, with so many issues to get points in the final two quarters, they may need to get a sizable lead.
Zimmer has his team in a good position and they know how to win games. If the Bengals fall behind big early in the contest, this one could get ugly very quickly.
Second half production:
If the Bengals hope to get a win on the road against the 10-3 Vikings, they will need to buck some major trends we’ve seen them fall into this year. One of those is in Bill Lazor finding a way to get significant points in the second half.
A lot of the issues fall in Lazor’s lap, but drops and a lack of execution by his players haven’t helped. Cincinnati is facing the No. 3 overall defense, so some of the unforced errors we’ve seen even their biggest stars commit won’t fly this week.
Shake off Weeks 12 and 13:
We thought that the Bengals might channel their anger from how the Monday night loss to the Steelers and destroy the struggling Bears, but that didn’t happen. They sleepwalked through the game against Chicago in an obvious hangover to the bloodbath loss to the Steelers.
For all intents and purposes, the postseason is now out of reach for the Bengals this year. Even though they are still a little banged up, they have enough quality players to play for pride. If they want to give their old defensive coordinator a loss, they’ll need to forget what has happened the past two weeks.
Use the familiarity of Mike Zimmer against him:
Marvin Lewis and Paul Guenther are intimately familiar with Zimmer’s defensive schemes and what he likes to do to opposing offenses. The schemes are similar and Zimmer uses those big, physical cornerbacks to cover opposing receivers. It has worked to the tune of a No. 5 ranking against the pass.
Though the Bengals’ coaching staff has come under the most scrutiny it has seen in the Lewis’ tenure, they have a chance for redemption to game plan against Zimmer and get a win against a quality team. It’s going to take proper preparation though, and that hasn’t seemed to be a strong point from the staff this year.
Exploit the sometimes-over-aggressiveness against Minnesota’s corners:
Zimmer was in charge of Cincinnati’s defense when the team drafted Dre Kirkpatrick, who has given himself a bit of a reputation as a gambler on the outside. He has since drafted Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander with high picks to complement Xavier Rhodes as other corners.
They are all talented, but all are also known as somewhat gambling type of corners. Lazor, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will need to work together to use that aggressiveness to create potentially huge plays for the Bengals’ offense.