To get the win, they had to make some big time plays on offense, defense, and special teams. These three plays stood out, not just for their impact on the game, but for what they said about the team and its potential.
There has been a lot of talk about teams running Tampa 2 against the Bengals this season. This coverage is not new, but the Bengals struggled to beat it in the first couple of games.
That changed on Thursday.
In this clip, Tyler Boyd is the innermost receiver at the bottom of the screen. He runs a vertical route up the seam. This occupies both the safety and the mike linebacker.
Hayden Hurst is just outside Boyd. He runs a hitch at about five yards depth. This gets the nickle corner to stop his drop in anticipation of a throw to Hurst.
Tee Higgins is on the outside, He releases inside the cornerback, then runs an in-breaking route at 15 yards. Since the Mike linebacker is chasing Boyd up the seam, once Higgins gets inside the nickle, he is wide open. The protection is true, and Joe Burrow has plenty of time to stand in the box and deliver the ball to Higgins.
This is a great play.
Good red zone design to sneak Hayden Hurst through the back door for a TD pic.twitter.com/soxWSm9R8a— Mike (@bengals_sans) October 1, 2022
The Bengals have struggled in the red zone and in short yardage situations. Like last season, this largely stems from an inability to get movement up front.
On this play, Hurst is off the line of scrimmage to the right side. As the play action goes to the right, Hurst goes left, just as he would if it were a split-zone. This type of route is nearly impossible to cover. The entirety of both the offensive and defensive line is between Hurst and the coverage. Instead of handing the ball off to Joe Mixon, Burrow turns and throws the ball to Hurst for a touchdown. This was a great play call on the goal line.
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Vonn Bell was labeled a strong safety.
While Bell does have the ability to rock down into the box and play like a linebacker, he also has the range to make plays like this. Bell is not a strong safety. He is a complete safety.
Rookie Zach Carter continues to shine, and this play is a great example of what he brings to the run defense.
Carter (#95) controls the guard, and shows in the B-gap. When the running back cuts back inside, Carter disengages and dives inside to make the tackle.
The D.J. Reader injury was a big loss for this defense, but Carter could lessen the impact. He has been impressive so far this season, and his role should increase throughout the season.
3 on 2— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) October 1, 2022
Tackle steps down to Hill
TE steps out to Hubbard
Gunter gets skinny through the gap
Great design and execution pic.twitter.com/NfWq1XqdEf
Of course, there is another rookie defensive lineman in town, and he made a big-time play on special teams.
As the field goal block team took the field, rookie Jeff Gunter lined up on the right side among starting defensive lineman like Josh Tupou, B.J. Hill, and Sam Hubbard.
Tupou, Hill, and Gunter lined up so closely, that they were basically touching. Tupou was on the guard’s outside shoulder, Hill was on the tackle’s outside shoulder, and Gunter was head up on the tight end with his eyes on the inside gap. Hubbard was a step outside of Gunter.
When the ball was snapped, the guard stepped to Tupou, and the tackle blocked Hill. The tight end ignored Gunter and stepped outside to block Hubbard. Big mistake!
There was only a small gap, but Gunter was able to slip through it and partially block the kick, This prevented the Dolphins from taking the lead and set up Higgins’ long touchdown reception a few plays later.
Last week’s win was huge for the Bengals and these five plays stood out, not only for their impact on this game, but for what they could mean for the team moving forward.