Whew. That was... that was tough to watch.
On Monday afternoon, knowing what was on the docket for me, I went to Twitter to gauge you all regarding your desire to see an article about this game. Three out of five people told me to forget about it.
do y’all even want a weekly lineman for wednesday? i’ll do it, but i understand either way— ☠️ alex scarerickson ☠️ (@John__Sheeran) October 22, 2018
To the approximately 61 people who advised me to not waste my time, nice try. Maybe for the next inevitable primetime embarrassment.
Upon rewatching the game, I actually found a some positives from both the offensive and defensive lines. Was there enough to determine the Bengals were the better team? You know the answer to that.
Joe Mixon carried the ball 13 times for an underwhelming 3.8 yards per carry. After myself and others hammered the decision-making process last week for not using Mixon out of the shotgun more, the Bengals gave Mixon the ball out of shotgun formation eight out of 13 times and averaged 2.9 yards per carry. When quarterback Andy Dalton handed Mixon the ball after taking the snap under the center, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry.
After listing Carl Lawson as one of the losers from the game right after the final whistle was blown, the rewatch put him in a much better light in his mere 19 pass-rushing snaps. He’s basically played the same game all season: accumulating a handful of pressures but never finishing.
Football is weird, but good players eventually figure out things sooner or later.
Two good players the Bengals have are Andrew Billings and Cordy Glenn, who played extremely well when most of their teammates were in the middle of collapsing around them. Billings had a productive training camp and preseason but has mostly been an afterthought for the first six weeks of the season, while Glenn has spent most of the last month watching speed rushers blaze by him despite being touted as a pristine pass protector.
Both players managed to flip the current narratives that surrounded them entering this game, and represent two of the few bright spots the Bengals can take away from this disaster. Let’s start with Billings.
Billings officially had five tackles in this game in run defense, and each one was a stop for the defense. This was his most impressive one. Simultaneously, he fills his gap between the right guard and center, and places his left hand on the back of the right guard. While keeping his eyes on the ball the whole way, he’s able to essentially two-gap this play and toss the guard to the side, putting himself in perfect position to make the stop.
“Where’s Geno Atkins been?”
I’ll admit, last week’s performance against the Steelers was pretty porous for Atkins’ standards, but he was active for most of this game, and helped Billings produce as a pass rusher for once. Here he works on softening that outside edge which forces quarterback Patrick Mahomes to step up into Billings’ bull rush.
It wasn’t the only time these two worked off each other.
Facing another make-shift double team, Billings uses a bull-jerk move and transitions to just bending around the center who is more focused on Atkins doing the same outside rush. Once again, Mahomes has to step up and his feet are all over the place. If Billings can explode off that outside foot just a tad more, he could’ve been able to wrap up on Mahomes and take him down, but a hurry-hit combo on the scoresheet works as well.
So, outside of Billings and Atkins, the defensive line didn’t do much in either phase of the game, but they at least gave them some tape to smile about. The Bengals offensive line played an up-and-down game. Mixon’s aforementioned day was a product of the Bengals not getting a lot of push up front, and Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart displayed their usual struggles in pass protection, even Clint Boling gave up a sack.
But through it all, Glenn had his best game of the season, and it started with A+ pass protection.
This is the Glenn we all expected coming from Buffalo. Here he displays perfect synchronization with his feet in his vertical kickslide and his hands that strike at the opportune instant. Chiefs edge rusher Breeland Speaks isn’t the kind of athlete that can beat Glenn with speed, but he also couldn’t beat him with power either.
Next up was Frank Zombo, whose name caused a double take from yours truly (Zombo was a rock as a special teamer in Madden 13 and I had no clue he was still in the league). Zombo doesn’t present much of a challenge here to the mammoth Glenn is, that is if you try to go through him. Not many tackles can snuff out bull rushes like Glenn can, and his ankle flexion and ability make him a force in doing so.
Finally we have the surprise stud in Dee Ford, who has revitalized his career in year five. Glenn knows that the outside speed rush is Ford’s primary, secondary, and tertiary method of pass-rushing, so he makes sure to expedite his vertical set and reach the top of the Ford’s arc before he does. With good timing and placement of his hands, he’s able to snuff out Ford’s rip move and run him out of the pocket.
In a 35-point vanquishment, it’s easy to place blame on anyone and everyone. Every loss is attributed to a multitude of factors and it never truly comes down to just one thing. In the same light, players can yield good performances in the midst of disaster, and Billings and Glenn were the best examples from this week.
I could’ve written about why 45 million dollar man Carlos Dunlap has been relatively quiet as a pass-rusher, or beaten the “Alex Redmond is bad” drum some more. In the wake of another primetime failure, some positivity never hurts.
Now, they must face a volatile but worthy opponent in the Buccaneers back in Paul Brown Stadium before they enter their bye week. How they handle the resurgent edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul and work around the ascending center Ali Marpet will be significant determinants in whether or not the Bengals are above or sitting at .500 in their week off.