This is my weekly article on the five keys to beating the Cincinnati Bengals’ upcoming opponent. This week, that opponent is the Detroit Lions, but I’m not going to write that article.
Instead, this week’s five keys are about what the Bengals need to do to in this game to be a serious contender this season. As it happens, doing these things will almost certainly lead to beating the Lions, so it works both ways.
These are the five things the Bengals need to do to compete with the best teams in the league this season and in turn beat the Lions this weekend.
Regardless of who you are playing, you need to play to your standard. The Bengals need to set a high expectation for themselves, and that expectation needs to be met. They need to focus on their performance.
No gimmicks. No trick plays. No razzle-dazzle. Just execute.
Keep the game plan simple. Focus on getting really good at your bread-and-butter plays. Be the offense you want to be.
It all starts up front. Make this the get-right game for the offensive line. They want to be a zone team running team. Execute. Be perfect on your combo blocks. Be perfect with your communication. Be perfect on your reads. Get into good position. Do not hold. Get movement.
In pass protection they need to communicate, move their feet, and anchor on contact. The running backs need to do their part too, as does Joe Burrow.
They are the better team. They need to act like it.
Move the Chains
Get one first down. Just one.
That seems to be the key for the Bengals’ offense. Dave Lapham recently called it “feast or famine.” They go the distance or they go three-and-out.
Zac Taylor has repeatedly talked about getting into a rhythm on offense. To do so, they need to start each drive focused on moving the chains just once and build from there.
Of course, they have not done a great job with third down conversions in general. This was the case last week, despite the fact that they got themselves into what should have been manageable third down situations. Per Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic, the Bengals led the league last Sunday with seven third-and-three-or-less plays but converted a dismal two.
They have got to do better.
Big note inside the stats from Sunday's game, #Bengals had third down and between 1-3 yards to go seven times. Most in the league yesterday.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) October 11, 2021
They only converted 2 of the 7.
For the season, they rank 30th in the NFL in converting those situations.
HAVE to get better there.
The Bengals’ defense has been impressive this season, particularly in the red zone, where it counts, but they have not created enough turnovers.
Logan Wilson has three interceptions this season (tied for second in the NFL), which is fantastic. The problem is that Chidobe Awuzie’s pick last weekend is the only other interception the team has this season, and they have only recovered one fumble.
For perspective, the league leader in interceptions is Cowboys’ cornerback Trevon Diggs. He has six. The Cowboys have 12 turnovers total.
So, if you are keeping score, take the league’s leader in interceptions away and the Cowboys still have more turnovers than the Bengals, as does the league leader by his lonesome. No me gusta.
An obvious place for improvement is fumble recoveries. The Bengals are one of 10 teams with only one fumble recovery this season (the Jaguars are the only team in the league with none). Tackling should be the priority, but the second and third guy to get to the ball carrier needs to rip at the ball relentlessly.
They are making defensive stops at key moments in the game. That’s huge. Now they have to figure out how to steal possessions.
I’m talking to you, Joe.
Put Them Away
It’s not okay to play down to your opponent’s level. It’s not okay to let bad teams stick around. They did that against the Bears, and it cost them.
Last week, they lost a close game to the Packers. When games come down to a field goal, sometimes the wind doesn’t blow your way. It’s a regular season game, so in the immortal words of the Beatles “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, life goes on.”
The problem is that they need to play in fewer close games so this doesn’t keep happening. They were better than the Bears. That game shouldn’t have been close. They are better than the Lions, this game shouldn’t be close either.
Put them away.