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5 keys to beating the Miami Dolphins

Odds are against the Bengals this weekend, but here is how they could pull it off

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Due to COVID-19 related NFL policies, last week was the first time that Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen was in the stadium for a Bengals game.

Although that is a bit unusual, the Bengals have been even stricter with him. He was the team’s “quarantine quarterback” who attended quarterback meetings virtually and who coaches actively kept away from other players at practice.

This was a very smart move by Zac Taylor and his staff. I’m sure the rest of the NFL is adopting something similar after seeing the entire Denver Broncos go into last week’s game with their entire quarterback depth chart on the COVID-19 list.

Now, Allen has been called on due to Joe Burrow’s injury. They can win games with him, but not because of him. This means that everybody around him has to perform at their highest level to give the Bengals a chance to win.

Last week, some players and positions stepped up to the challenge, but not all of them. Here is what the Bengals need to do to have a chance against the Miami Dolphins.

Special Teams: Set up a score

The special teams was on fire against the Giants.

Of course, the highlight was Brandon Wilson’s 103-yard touchdown on a kickoff return, but they were impressive all day long. Wilson was also incredible in kick coverage. Plus, the Bengals faked a punt that kept a drive alive as Shawn Williams ran for the 1st down. Alex Erickson returned two punts for 44 yards, including a 29-yarder that put the Bengals on the verge of field-goal range with a minute to play.

Erickson is fifth in the league in average yards per punt return. Miami’s Jakeem Grant is number 1. Grant is also one of only two players who has returned a punt for a touchdown this season. Wilson (and possibly Stanley Morgan Jr.) will have their work cut out for them covering punts.

Odds are against the Bengals scoring a special teams touchdown two weeks in a row, but they need to do their part to set the offense up for a score and keep the defense out of bad situations.

Defense: Set up a Score

The defense played pretty well last week against a mediocre opponent. They gave up some big plays to the Giants’ best offensive player, Evan Engram. They cannot afford to give up big plays to Miami’s best player, DeVante Parker.

The defense also needs to do their part by scoring a defensive touchdown or by creating scoring opportunities for the offense. Jessie Bates III and Logan Wilson have both shown a knack for getting interceptions. It looks like Darius Phillips could be back at cornerback. Not only can he get turnovers, he can turn them into touchdowns.

The Bengals defense needs to not only limit the number of points the Dolphins score, but put their own points on the board.

Help Allen with Playcalling

Allen struggled to read the defense and quickly deliver the ball last week, but don’t forget that he was the 3rd-string quarterback the week before that. He has had very few reps with the Bengals offense, even practice reps.

Still, the coaching staff can make life easier by giving him a simple reads that will allow him to make a decision and get rid of the ball fast.

Offensive Line Steps Up

Of course, Allen won’t be able to get rid of the ball quickly every time, so the offensive line needs to be strong in pass protection. The Dolphins have good pass-rushers, including Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson. They also have some interesting blitz packages. The Bengals must not give up sacks that put them in long-yardage situations and end drives.

The Bengals also have to be able to run the ball. This is an area where they have struggled for much of the season, but the Dolphins are susceptible. If they can have success on the ground, it would be a huge benefit to this offense and take pressure off of Allen.

Wide Receivers Make Plays

The Bengals have a plethora of talented pass-catchers who need to make plays. Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green can’t expect perfect passes, but they need to fight to get open and make contested catches.

Even that is not enough. They need to pick up extra yards once they get the ball in their hands.

Giovani Bernard should be heavily involved in the pass game because he will have favorable matchups and can gain yards after the catch.

Allen isn’t Burrow. We can’t expect him to be. We can’t hold him the same level.

Without Burrow, the rest of the team has to step up their game and pick up the slack. They need to rally around Allen and work together to get the upset.