Prior to this weekend, the Bengals had gone seven-straight games without scoring a single point in the 3rd quarter.
That changed this weekend against the Houston Texans, as the Bengals came away from both of their 3rd quarter drives with touchdowns.
As the Texans kicked off to start the 3rd quarter, the game was tied at 10. The Bengals worked quickly on this drive and needed only four plays to get the touchdown.
They started with a quick pass to Giovani Bernard in the flat. This type of throw was open for positive yards throughout the game. That put them in 2nd and 4, which gave them the flexibility to run or pass.
They elected to hand the ball off to Bernard on the zone play. As you can see in the clip above, good backside blocks by Drew Sample, Bobby Hart, and Quinton Spain set up a cutback that Bernard took for an 11-yard gain.
The Bengals run game has shown improvement lately, no doubt due to the addition of Spain and the return of Xavier Su’a-Filo. This allowed the Bengals to have a balanced attack throughout the game, relieving pressure from Brandon Allen and the pass protection to perform in must-pass situations.
They went to the air on the next play, and Allen found A.J. Green over the middle for another first down.
Awesome combo by Fred Johnson pic.twitter.com/7lfH8EXIW1— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) December 29, 2020
Then they went back to the zone run, but this time it was Samaje Perine running the ball and instead of cutting back, he hit it on the front side.
The key block here comes from left tackle Fred Johnson. Johnson and Su’a-Filo are responsible for blocking defensive tackle Ross Blacklock (90), who is head up on Johnson and linebacker Tyrell Adams (50) who is lined up outside of Johnson, over tight end Drew Sample. Based on the defensive alignment, both of these blocks are tough, but Johnson does a great job of making both blocks happen.
As the ball is snapped, Su’a-Filo and most of the other blockers take a wide path, but Johnson does not. His first step is to the outside, but his next step is right at Blacklock. He gets a shot in on him that throws the rookie defensive tackle off balance and allows Su’a-Filo to reach him. Then Johnson gets wide and kicks out Adams. Perine cuts right off of Johnson’s block and takes the ball 46 yards for the touchdown, ending the 3rd-quarter-drought.
Unfortunately, the defense gave up a touchdown on the next drive, so the Bengals needed to score to take the lead back.
Beautiful ball— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) December 29, 2020
Too bad it was called back pic.twitter.com/hnDmd3GVVF
After a wide receiver screen on first down and a run on 2nd and 3, the Bengals faced 3rd and 1. Instead of running for the 1st, they went to the air taking a deep shot to Tee Higgins. This was smart because they knew that the defense would be in man coverage and had a pay dialed up to convert the first down and pick up some serious years.
Allen threw a beautiful ball and the Bengals gained 31 yards on the play, but unfortunately, it was not to be. Sample was called for pass interference for the pick that allowed Higgins to get open.
After the penalty, the Bengals faced 3rd and 11. This is not a position the Bengals have been comfortable in this season and similar situations have resulted in failed 3rd quarter drives. This must-pass scenario allows the defensive line to commit fully to the pass rush, making life tough on the offensive line and the quarterback. The Bengals helped themselves out in this game by running a number of screens. The threat of a successful screen helps to mitigate some of the pressure on the offensive line in this situation.
Allen dropped back and threw a high and hard pass to Green. He looked like the A.J. we all know and love on this play, as he leaped up, extended his arms, and made the catch to move the chains.
This was a huge play because penalties and sacks that put the Bengals in ten-plus yard situations have killed drives for the Bengals throughout the season, but that was not the case here.
The 3rd and 1 penalty didn’t scare off Zac Taylor, as he continued his aggressive play calling.
On the very next play, they went back to the air. Recognizing the late defensive rotation, Alex Erickson split the two deep safeties and Allen hit him for 42 yards.
That put the Bengals in the Red Zone where on the very next play Allen throw a beautiful touchdown pass to Higgins, who ran a delayed slot fade.
The offense was clearly clicking and would not be denied.
This game marked the first time the Bengals have won two games in a row under Taylor and was the first road win for the franchise since September 30th of 2018, but getting the offense going in the 3rd quarter for the first time since Week 4 might be the more important hurdle that they overcame.
The offense was impressive in all facets against the Texans.