After defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 4, the Bengals’ were not able to generate any offense against a much more talented Baltimore Ravens team in Week 5.
This week the Bengals face the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts feature a defense that is just as talented and well-coached as the Ravens, but very different schematically.
What do the Bengals need to do to bounce back and find a win against a quality opponent?
Don’t get to Rivers
That’s not a typo. The more time Philip Rivers has, the better.
This week’s guest on Bengals Chalk Talk wrote a great piece on how Rivers holding the ball for more than 2.5 seconds is trouble for the Colts.
For example, since the beginning of 2019 when he was in Los Angeles, Rivers has thrown 25 interceptions, and 16 of them came when he held the ball longer than 2.5 seconds. In the same time period his completion percentage plummeted from 73.54% to 59.66% when he held on to the ball for longer than 2.5 seconds.
The Bengals need to focus on coverage and let Rivers hold the ball. They should play tight man coverage, not allowing for quick passes. Free safety Jessie Bates III and rookie linebacker Logan Wilson should be left free in the middle of the field in a Cover 1 defense. This would allow Bates to make plays on deep throws and Wilson to make plays on underneath throws. Both have a knack for interceptions, and Rivers will give them opportunities.
Stop the Run
The Colts are dedicated to running the football.
The Bengals need to stop rookie running back Jonathan Taylor. This will put the Colts in more long yardage situations, forcing Rivers to hold onto the ball for longer (see above).
The Colts run the ball on 2nd and 8 or more 40% of the time. If the Bengals can stuff the run on early downs, they will create excellent 3rd down opportunities.
Of course the loss of D.J. Reader hurts their run defense greatly, but Geno Atkins should see more action this week and Christian Covington has been very impressive in recent weeks.
Win the Red Zone
The Bengals have the 30th ranked Red Zone offense in the league; the Colts are ranked 29th.
Their defenses’ are also nearly identical in this category, each ranking in the mid-range of the league giving up a touchdown roughly 58% of the time.
If 1 team can step up in the Red Zone, that could be the difference in the game.
The Bengals’ Red Zone woes date back to 2019.
Often this season, they have tried and failed to get a score by throwing a 50-50 ball up in the air. Improved rapport between Joe Burrow and his receivers would help in this area, but they also need to do more to scheme touchdowns.
They have had success using Joe Mixon in the pass game in this area, and should expand on those concepts.
If you struggle inside the 20-yard line (Red Zone), then you better be able to score from outside of the 20 yards. Completing passes of over 20 yards, though has been a notable problem for the Bengals this season.
Burrow has no deficiency that can explain this offense’s lack of success completing deep passes. At some point, they will start clicking in this area and their success rate with swing violently back toward expectation.
Being able to score from anywhere on the field has obvious advantages, but it has the added advantage of loosening up the defense and creating more opportunities in the run game.
That’s right. I said “pass to set up the run.”
Bounce Back Burrow
For the first time in his young NFL career, Burrow looked like a rookie last Sunday. The defense threw a lot of things at him that he hadn’t seen and was not prepared for.
This is a huge bounce back game for him.
He needs to take a big step forward and show that he can be successful against a top defense.
The Bengals need to put together a whole game where the offense, defense, and special teams all play at their top level in order to get the win over the Colts.
The defense needs to ride their momentum after an impressive showing against the Ravens. The offense needs to address their issues and have their best game of the season.