When you beat a team as bad as the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers did on Sunday you’re able to rest your starters pretty early. Cincinnati has had a few games this year where starters got to rest for a series or two at the end of a game, but we saw most of the starters were out early in the fourth quarter.
That obviously skews some things from looking at the snap counts, but we will decipher how the Bengals deployed their starters in order to put to bed one of this franchise's bigger nightmares from the past couple of decades.
How many snaps did starters get?
The Bengals ran 68 offensive plays while the Steelers ran 62. That doesn’t seem like a huge disparity, but the context means quite a bit. While the Bengals pulled all of their starters on defense after 39 plays, the Steelers never pulled their starting offense. That helps pad the stats of things like third down conversions where they finished five of 11. You can imagine what that would have been if they didn’t pick on the second string.
Cincinnati’s offense completely dominated the game. Regardless of what the final amount of snaps or time of possession says, there was never a point on Sunday where anyone in that stadium was reasonably scared this game was going to slip away from the Bengals.
The important numbers for us to remember are the offensive starters had roughly 58 plays. That is how long Joe Burrow was in the game. There were guys like Jonah Williams and Hakeem Adeniji who played every offensive snap, but for all of our sakes, we will refer to that as the point where things shifted. The defense played 39. Jessie Bates and the usual defenders who are usually always on the field left at that point.
Germaine Pratt talk
If you have been following the snaps since the beginning of the season you’ll know that when linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither was healthy he would be rotated in with guys like safety Ricardo Allen and linebacker Germaine Pratt. That rotation seemed to deploy different ideas and meant to help provide extra coverage in certain passing situations next to linebacker Logan Wilson.
Davis-Gaither was added to the injured reserve following the loss to the Browns with a foot injury, and since then Pratt has handled most of the snaps via that rotation outside of times where the opposing team is in obvious passing situations at the end of the game. That has helped this defense turn back around after having a terrible two-game stretch before the bye week.
This isn’t being pointed out to say Davis-Gaither was hindering Cincinnati, but it seems lie the communication on defense has improved without that rotation. Plus Pratt has been playing some outstanding football these past two weeks. There have been times that some in this fanbase have been down on Pratt, but he has been a major part of this defense getting back on track.
Defensive starters get needed/deserved rest
When the Bengals had that terrible stretch on defense, these starters played a combined 132 snaps. This also has coincided with a change in philosophy to reduce the amount of rotation we saw along the defensive line.
The defense really earned their way to a very short day. Players like Trey Hendrickson (25) and D.J. Reader (21) had very impactful days while barely breaking a sweat.
It really can’t be stated enough how dominant of a performance this defense had to be able to call it a day after only 39 plays which was just over half of the game.
- Center Trey Hill and tackle Isaiah Prince got a handful of snaps with the starters prior to the mass substitution. They both looked serviceable, but at this point the offense was in full conservative mode, so it is more about it being nice to see them get those reps than anything else.
- Joe Mixon dominated the running back snaps as usual. However, we saw even less of Samaje Perine and Chris Evans even had a few plays during meaningful drives of the game. Evans of course got to pad his snaps with the backups.
- Wide receiver Stanley Morgan has really taken advantage of Auden Tate’s absence. He has been a great blocker, but he even got a deep target this week as well. If we assume 10 of his 22 snaps came after the mass substitution, he still got 12 reps out there with Burrow.
What are your biggest takeaways from this week’s snap counts?
Bengals’ snap counts against Steelers
|POS.||NAME||Snaps||Percentage of snaps|
|POS.||NAME||Snaps||Percentage of snaps|
|S||Jessie Bates III||39||63|