To win this game and get the first road win of the Zac Taylor era, the Bengals need to execute at a high level. Here are some specific areas they should focus on.
Running the Ball
Washington has an excellent group of pass rushers, but although guys like Da’Ron Payne are very good against the run, their defense isn’t great in that area overall.
If they can run the ball effectively, it will help keep them out of long third down situations, which will make the pass rush more manageable. Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Ryan Kerrigan, and Tim Settle provide a mighty challenge for the Bengals’ pass protection. They will make life a lot easier on themselves if they can run the ball effectively and stay out of bad third down situations where Joe Burrow has to hold the ball for a long time.
Convert 3rd Downs
Naturally that brings us to third down conversations.
The Bengals have struggled in this area over the course of the season but hit an unassailable low against the Steelers, when they went 0-13 on third downs.
That is completely unacceptable.
There were many reasons for this, which we won’t get into here (Because I already got into them here). Anyway you look at it, this cannot be repeated. The Bengals need to make plays and move the chains on third down.
Lock Down Terry McLaurin
Washington does not have many talented receivers, but they do have one very good one in McLaurin.
The Bengals have given up some big plays in the pass game this season, particularly at the end of the half. They must account for McLaurin, who is always a threat to score a long touchdown.
Of course, getting after the quarterback would go a long way towards keeping McLaurin in check. Washington has some issues on their offensive line, particularly the left side.
Carl Lawson needs to have a big day, and live in the Washington backfield. The return of Sam Hubbard gives the Bengals another capable pass rusher. He and Geno Atkins need to get interior pressure.
If they can impact Alex Smith early and often it will lead to a very successful day for the Bengals defense.
Finish the Game
Washington has given up a last second winning field goal, failed a 2-point conversion attempt that would have given them a late lead, and Smith has thrown an interception on the final drive of a one-score game.
As we all know, the Bengals have also struggled to close. They need to finish this game.
Washington has demonstrated in the past that they will not go away. If the Bengals have a big lead, they must keep their foot on the gas. They cannot give Washington hope of a comeback. If it is a close game, the Bengals need to step up make the game winning plays that they have come up short on in the past.