Consider this a 10-play summary of the Bengals matchup against the Seahawks. These 10 plays played a major role in the game’s outcome. Each represents a key moment in the game that greatly affected the Bengals chances of winning.
The Bengals’ second offensive drive was extended by a running-into-the-kicker call. They made good on their second chance by driving into the red zone, but then the drive stalled.
On 3rd and 2 on the Seahawks’ 16 yard line, the Bengals were called for delay-of-game. This is an inexcusable penalty, that put them in 3rd and long.
Zac Taylor dialed up a good play.
If you watch John Ross, who is the second receiver from the top of the screen, you will see he comes open on his break for first down yardage, but if you pause it just as Ross breaks, you will see that Dalton is concurrently forced from the pocket.
It is not the offensive line who is at fault, it is running back Joe Mixon. His poor effort blocking the blitzing linebacker forced Dalton to scramble and take his eyes away from Ross.
The Bengals are forced to kick the field goal and take a 3-0 lead.
John Ross comes open just as Andy Dalton is forced to scramble pic.twitter.com/2FNCpeu1Yo— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2019
The next key play comes with 5 minutes and 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Bengals have just crossed midfield after a 36-yard reception by tight end C.J. Uzomah.
This is a great time to take a shot into the end zone. The Bengals come out in a tight formation and send Ross on a jet motion. The ball is snapped and Ross runs by Dalton. Dalton hands off to Mixon, but it is a flea-flicker and Mixon tosses the ball back to Dalton.
Ross slows down as he hits the edge. This is important, because it makes the outside linebacker look to Mixon and the inside run. The outside linebacker is the flat defender and is responsible for running with the wheel route.
As the linebacker’s attention goes away from Ross, the wheel route is exactly what he runs. Ross has his defender beat and one juke gets him by the Seahawks’ final defender and into the endzone.
This is a great play design as it puts the outside linebacker in a bind. By slowing down after the fake jet sweep and before running the wheel, Ross has demonstrated an understanding of coverage and what the play is trying to accomplish.
This is an excellent play that gives the Bengals their first touchdown of the season and a 10-7 lead.
Unfortunately, their lead did not last long. The Seahawks and Bengals both went 3-and-out on their respective next drives, but as the half winded down the Seahawks put a drive together.
On 3rd and 7 with 59 seconds remaining in the half, quarterback Russell Wilson completed a short pass to Chris Carson in the flat and one of the Bengals biggest problems from 2018 reappeared.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was the first Bengal there, and the first Bengals to miss the tackle. His missed tackle was the ugliest as he dove errantly for Carson’s ankles and face-planted on the turf. Safeties Jessie Bates III and Shawn Williams also had an opportunity to bring Carson down, but failed to make the tackle.
Missing tackles was a huge issue for the Bengals last season particularly after a completed pass. These missed tackles allowed the Seahawks to score a touchdown before the half. A tackle by either of these 3 players would have forced the Seahawks to kick a field goal, which could have made all the difference in a game that was determined by 1 point.
The Bengals however were not content to go into halftime down 10-14. After completions to Tyler Boyd and Damion Willis and a drop by Ross, Dalton looked again to Ross.
In this clip, Ross beats the defense with speed on the outside vertical route. The safety misreads the pass and tries to jump in front of it and Ross outruns the cornerback to the end zone.
This is another big play for Ross and gave the Bengals a 17-14 lead before halftime.
The Bengals started the 2nd half strong as Preston Brown forced a fumble on the Seahawks first play giving the Bengals the ball on the Seattle 29 yard line. This should have been one of the plays that changed the game, but unfortunately, momentum quickly shifted back to the Seahawks.
2 plays later, the Bengals had 2nd and 9 on the Seahawks 12 yard line and a chance to take control of the game. Giovani Bernard lines up at receiver and comes in jet motion. The Bengals set up a screen to screen to him, but as Dalton goes to throw the ball slips out of his hand and into the hands of Seahawks defensive tackle Al Woods .
This was a huge opportunity for the Bengals and they came out with nothing.
The Bengals defense stepped up on the ensuing drive. The Seahawks netted negative 5 yards on 3 plays and had to punt.
The Bengals were able to gain some yards on the following drive, but once again came away with nothing as Randy Bullock missed a 45-yard field goal.
Again, the defense stepped up. A sack from Kirkpatrick on first down and another from Sam Hubbard on second down led the Seahawks to a 3rd and 26 that they were unable to convert.
The punt swung the field position back in the Seahawks’ favor as the Bengals took over at their own 8 yard line. They were able move the ball well, but the drive stalled on the play below, 4th and 1 on the Seahawks’ 36 yard line.
It would be a 53-yard field goal attempt from here and a tight window for a coffin-corner punt. A good offense should be able to pick up 1 yard when they need it. So it makes perfect sense to go for it in this situation. The play call and execution leave something to be desired.
Let’s start with the play call. A zone run from the shotgun takes too long to get back to the line of scrimmage for a 4th down call. To make matters worse, the Bengals were rarely able to get to the middle linebacker on zone runs throughout the game and he often made the tackle at the line of scrimmage.
They should have gotten under center for 2 reasons, First, it gets the running back moving forward instead of side to side; which is key when only a yard is needed. Second, it would have given Dalton the option to keep the ball himself on a quarterback sneak. Every offense in football has a built in quarterback sneak audible, which Dalton could have used seeing the open A gap to his right and wide linebackers.
Now let’s look at the execution. Bernard actually reads the run properly. His first read is the block of right guard John Miller. Miller blocks out on the defensive tackle (Woods), so Bernard’s eyes go to the block on the backside defensive tackle.
Trey Hopkins is to his right so Bernard needs to bang it up in the gap between Hopkins and Miller. Bernard executes this well, but Woods is able to fight across Miller’s face and shows in the gap for the tackle.
The second tweet shows 3 still-frames which make this picture even more clear. Woods beat Miller in a one-on-one matchup that determined the outcome of the play.
Bernard made right read on 4th down, but John Miller couldn’t hold his block pic.twitter.com/gNZv2aTfZ7— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2019
A few plays later, a scoreless 3rd quarter ended, but things changed on the first play of the 4th quarter when Wilson threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tyler Lockett which swung the game’s momentum wildly in Seattle’s favor.
Lockett was wide open, but how?
The Bengals appear to be in a form of Cover 3. Both Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III are dropping into a deep field zone on the outside. Underneath, both Williams (who is aligned like a linebacker on the bottom of the screen) and B.W. Webb (slot corner to the top of the screen) drop into the flat.
Brown and Nick Vigil both drop to their left (this is because the boot action makes a throw to their right less likely) into the hook to curl zone. Everything looks like Cover 3 except one very important thing. The free safety.
Bates immediately drops into a “robber” position to play the crosser leaving the middle of the field wide open.
The Bengals showed an inverted Cover 2 look earlier in the game which looked similar. The big difference in that case was that the corners dropped into the middle of their deep halves so they could play routes like Lockett’s. Here they stay wide as they would in Cover 3.
There is a coverage called “Adjust” that can either Cover 3 or an inverted Cover 2, depending on the offensive formation. I believe the Bengals are playing this or a similar coverage. Perhaps it is the motion by tight end Nick Vannett that leads to confusion. Whatever the reason, the defensive backs are not on the same page. It is more likely that Bates is wrong than both Jackson and Kirkpatrick are wrong.
This play put the Bengals behind 17-21.
The Bengals responded by driving down to the Seahawks’ 4 yard line where they had 1st and Goal. Unfortunately, their offense sputtered in the red zone. An incompletion on first down and a holding call on second down pushed them back. After Dalton was sacked on the replay of second down, they faced 3rd and 16.
That is when they ran the screen to Ross seen below.
My question is, why?
The Bengals where without A.J. Green and Auden Tate, but they still had Tyler Eifert who is known for making plays in the red zone and Willis who is a machine when it comes to contested catches.
This was key play in the game. They should have sent both of those players on routes into the endzone. That would have given them a good chance at taking the lead back, but instead they were forced to kick a field goal that left them down 20-21.
(Jonah Hill aggravated gif) pic.twitter.com/ARU8GdmjHb— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2019
Many fans were displeased when the Bengals punted late in the 4th quarter, but why were they in the situation in the first place?
They passed the ball on 6 consecutive plays. Dalton managed to convert on 3rd and Short, and get them a new set of downs, but an incompletion and a 3-yard pass to Alex Erickson later, they were in 3rd and Long.
Between the run of pass plays, the obvious passing situation, and the lack of talent on the Bengals’ offensive line Dalton didn’t have a chance. The Seahawks brought a 6-man pressure that collapsed the pocket and resulted in a tipped pass.
The Bengals were forced to punt down by a point with 3:30 left to play.
Collapsing pocket, deflected ball pic.twitter.com/IyPqs2CLDa— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2019
In the 2nd half, the Seahawks had 1 drive end in a long touchdown, 1 drive end with a fumble on the first play, and 3 drives and in 3-and-outs. In fact, at this point, the Seahawks had only earned 1 first down in the entire second half.
The Bengals had 2 timeouts, and there was every reason to believe that the Bengals could force another 3-and-out and get the ball back before the 2-minute warning.
The Seahawks wanted to keep the ball on the ground to force the Bengals to use their timeouts. All the Bengals needed to do was stop the run for 2 plays and put the Seahawks in to a difficult 3rd down situation.
Unfortunately, that is not how it went down. In two plays, the Bengals gave up 9 yards and both of their timeouts. That brought them to this critical 3rd and 1.
The Seahawks came out in a 2 tight end formation (although one of the tight ends was actually backup tackle George Fant). The Bengals lined up with Carlos Dunlap head up on Fant, Geno Atkins in a 3-technique outside of the left guard, Andrew Billings in a 1-technique on the other side of the center, Ryan Glasgow in a 4i inside of the offensive tackle, and Hubbard outside of the other tight end.
That is a strong defensive alignment. Although the formation is balanced, the presence of an extra lineman on one side gives that side strength, The Bengals countered by putting their two best defensive linemen (Atkins and Dunlap) to that side.
What was confusing is what they did with their linebackers. Vigil held the edge outside of Dunlap. Williams, the safety, creeped inside of Hubbard taking away the C-Gap to that side. This essentially left only the A-Gap between Atkins and Billings, but Brown moved around and ended up lining up over the offensive tackle on the other side of the formation.
Atkins plays strong and essentially eliminates the A-gap, but he cannot disengage from the block to make the tackle. Brown has to make the play, but Billings gets driven back, impeding Brown’s path. Brown should have lined up directly behind Billings or on the strong side of the formation. This error in either scheme or execution allows Carson to pick up the first down with ease.
This gave the Seahawks what they needed to drain most of the clock. The Bengals got the ball back with 21 seconds on the clock and no timeouts.
3rd and 1 from the tite angle pic.twitter.com/wxjKXVXAIV— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 10, 2019
The Bengals showed a lot of promise, but I have never been one to take stock in moral victories. The good news is that many of the problems they have are fixable. Here are 3 correctible problems that stuck out.
- They need to be better in the red zone. Their only two touchdowns came on long passes to Ross. They were not able to finish any sustained drives in the endzone. They have a plethora of pass catchers who thrive in this part of the field, they need to do a better job of getting them the ball.
- They need to avoid penalties. More than once a penalty was an important factor that ended an offensive drive.
- Tackling remains an issue, particularly in the open field. This problem is not what it was a year ago, but improvement is still needed.