Week 17 is upon us, and the Bengals go into their rematch vs. the Ravens while on a two-game win streak.
The defense actually played pretty well the last time around. The Ravens scored 27 points, but seven of those points were scored by the Ravens’ defense on a fumble recovery. A Joe Burrow interception also gave them a short field helping to set up another.
In that situation, the Bengals defense still should have buckled down and forced a field goal, but all in all, the Ravens only had one long, sustained touchdown drive.
The Bengals defense held a dinged Lamar Jackson to three yards rushing, 180 yards passing, and a completion percentage only slightly over 50. In total, the Ravens ran for 161 yards, 42 of which came on a reverse to Devin Duvernay.
So, how did they do it?
The Bengals usually come out in a five-man defense front when they are trying to stop the run, but that was not the case in this game.
They actually came out in a 4-3 defense with rookie linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither making his first career start. This gave them more speed them they would have had in a five-man front, but with the extra linebacker, it put them in a better position to stop the run compared to their nickel defense.
This play is a great example of assignment football. You see the linebackers flowing and everyone getting where they need to be. The running back bounces off of Davis-Gaither, but because the safeties are where they need to be, Vonn Bell makes the tackle.
I mentioned the Duvernay reverse earlier. That play put the Ravens in scoring position on their first drive, but the Bengals defense really clamped down and prevented them from coming away with a touchdown.
Let’s take a look at that three-play stand to force the field goal.
First, the Ravens went to the air. The Bengals knew the Ravens want to go to Mark Andrews or Marquise Brown. Here Jessie Bates sits on Andrews’ route and Bell covers Brown deep.
Next, Sam Hubbard stays wide, forcing Jackson to hand the ball off, and Germaine Pratt gets off of his block to make the tackle for a three-yard gain.
Finally, on 3rd and long, Bates makes a great read and jumps the route to deflect the pass.
The Bengals defense was pretty impressive the first time around. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens adjust and what defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo does to counter.