It took 65 minutes and 20 seconds, but the Cincinnati Bengals finally found the end zone.
At 0-3, that’s about as optimistic as you can possibly get about this team considering the disarray the team seems to be in at the moment. That said, this was a hard fought game that the Bengals should have won - though I’m pretty sure we all saw this coming from a mile away.
Without question, the Cincinnati offense played better. The problem was that while they were better, better isn’t good enough. Cincinnati’s defense is capable of bailing out the Bengals offense so long as the offense can at least play at a mediocre level for four quarters.
They were pretty damn good in the first half, looking much like the unit we all expected them to be.
What’s a touchdown?
It seemed like the Bengals were never going to get into the end zone after the first two weeks. Honestly, if Bill Lazor hadn’t replaced Ken Zampese, I don’t know if we would have scored this week. But the first score of the year was an impressive one, because it wasn’t a gimme by any means. It was one heck of a throw by Andy Dalton.
Dalton is able to stand in the pocket and fit the ball on a post route in between two defenders with a third one not far away. That’s a difficult throw to make and one that requires a lot of confidence in your arm in order to take a chance on.
That said, having A.J. Green as your target would boost the confidence of 32/32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. From a coverage perspective, the Packers couldn’t have done much better to take away Green.
The above look is what Green Bay is initially showing Dalton pre-snap. Let’s break down what he’s seeing and what he can determine from that. First notice the safeties, which are in a two high alignment. This is an initial nod to either a Cover 2, Cover 4, or even a Cover 6 defense.
In the Cover 2, both safeties are responsible for the deep halves of the field, which makes the blue zone between them the vulnerable part of the coverage. In Cover 4 the safeties are responsible only for a quarter of the field, where the corners will be responsible for the outer quarter on either side.
Finally, Cover 6 is a blend of the two with one half having a safety in a half and the other safety and a corner taking quarters on the opposite side. Often the key to figuring out which of these coverages the defense is in lies with the cornerbacks. Right now they’re three to four yards off the line of scrimmage.
But as the play develops pre-snap they’ll roll back a few more yards. A corner will often only take this much depth if they’re responsible for deep zone coverage in Cover 3 or Cover 4. Finally, there is also the slot defender lined up over Tyler Boyd, who is likely aligned the way he is to simply deny an easy inside release.
As the play develops, you can see the coverage developing. The four red zones are the defensive backs taking mold in a deep quarters coverage. However, there’s quite a large gap between the two safeties which would indicate that the defender in yellow I have pointed out would likely be responsible for. He’s preoccupied by Tyler Kroft being near his space, however, and it leaves a window open for Dalton to fit the ball into. Still a tremendous though, but double coverage doesn’t mean anything to Green.
More Mixon, please
Joe Mixon didn’t put up a spectacular yards-per-carry average on the day, but I think he played really well. This isn’t exactly the best offensive front in the NFL, so he’s going to have to make plays out of nothing this year. He did that on multiple occasions, but at the same time, we saw too many plays of him being hit 3-4 yards in his own backfield.
The solution to this issue, which was used to great effect by coach Lazor, was to get Mixon in space in the passing game. Joe is a tremendous athlete and has all the talent in the world to make people miss. So if you can’t block for him between the tackles, what better way to let him do his thing than flip it out into the flats?
You still get a lot of the benefits of an outside run, Boling is able to lead out onto a boundary defender and Mixon is already nine yards downfield before someone is able to make first contact with him. At that point it’s pure elusiveness and speed for the rookie that sets him apart from the rest.
And there were also spurts of success for the interior in the run game, with Mixon being patient enough to wait for blocks when nothing is there, as well as knowing when to take a hole if he sees it.
There’s a fine line between being patient enough to wait for an opening and dancing so long that you don’t go anywhere. Mixon does a great job at waiting and knowing when it’s time to cut and go.
Lazor seems set on making Mixon the bell cow back of this team considering he had almost double the touches of Bernard and Hill combined. That’s a good thing considering he’s the running back of the team’s future.
I think overall this is a team with a bright future, the only issue is that the future isn’t now.