The Cleveland Browns swept the Cincinnati Bengals once in the last decade. That was 2018, which was Marvin Lewis’ last season as the team’s head coach.
Prior to that, the last time the Browns swept the Bengals was 2002. That happened to be Dick LeBeau’s last season as the team’s head coach.
Zac Taylor needs to win this game, but how?
The Bengals are coming off a heart-breaking loss and have some key injuries that are extremely damaging to this matchup.
It won’t be easy, but here is how they could do it.
Stop the Run
It is great news that Mike Daniels is back, but the Bengals are still without D.J. Reader and Geno Atkins has yet to get a full workload.
Even with Nick Chubb out, the Browns running game is going to be tough to stop.
Whether it was Chubb or Kareem Hunt running the ball, it was trouble for the Bengals in the 1st Browns game.
The Browns are an excellent outside zone team, but it was not zone plays that killed the Bengals in that game. Down/gap scheme plays like Power and Counter were where the Bengals gave up long runs.
This was coming off of a short week with a new starting linebacker in Josh Bynes and two rookie linebackers also taking snaps. Improvement at linebacker will hopefully help them prevent these long gains in Round 2. Faster reads and better tackling could make a world of difference.
They were also much more effective stopping the run in their three defensive tackle looks, so they should lineup in 3-4 defensive fronts whenever they are expecting run.
Take an Early Lead and Keep Scoring
Things got worse as the first game went on. The Bengals’ defensive line wore down, and they had nothing left on the final drive.
This is likely to be a problem again, unless they can play from the front.
They have to take an early lead and make Baker Mayfield beat them.
Of course the Bengals gave up 21 points in a quarter last week and go into this game without their top cornerback William Jackson to matchup against Odell Beckham Jr.
They cannot afford to take their foot off of the gas. They need to get a lead and keep building on it. Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow needs to lead the offense to an early lead and keep building on it.
Steal a Score
Last week, the Bengals were trailing 28-27 when Jessie Bates III intercepted a deep pass by Philip Rivers, giving Burrow and the offense a chance to take the lead back. Unfortunately that drive ended with a missed field goal.
It is not good enough to give them opportunities, the defense and/or special teams needs to score.
Special teams may the Bengals’ biggest advantage in this game. This would be an opportune time for a kickoff return touchdown from Brandon Wilson.
Protect the Franchise
The Bengals’ defense had a goal line stand in the first game that resulted in a turnover on downs. This was a potential turning point in the game, but unfortunately a strip sack a few plays later gave the bad guys another chance at 1st and Goal from the one-yard line.
Despite struggling against a fierce Baltimore Ravens defense, the Bengals offensive line has improved since they inserted Alex Redmond at right guard.
This week they play a talented Browns defensive front led by Myles Garrett, It will be a tall task for the Bengals offensive line, but they need to give Burrow time to get this offense rolling.
The offensive line however cannot do it alone. Running backs Giovani Bernard and Trayveon Williams along with tight end Drew Sample will play a key role. Burrow himself will have to have great pocket presence and understand when to run and when not to run.
A struggling team coming off of a demoralizing loss needs to take a step back and focus on fundamentals.
The Bengals’ biggest problems the first time around were pass blocking and missed tackled. As difficult as this matchup is, if the Bengals can block and tackle extremely well, they’ve got a chance.
It seems simplistic, but these are things that struggling teams cannot lose sight of.