Avoiding a tumultuous blown lead can be nearly as impactful as actually letting the win slip out of your grasp. Winning in general is hard, and while the Cincinnati Bengals won’t apologize for doing so, the urgency to tighten up as the playoffs near has increased.
Winning close games may not be sustainable from a year-to-year standpoint, but it’s very useful in forging young players as they go through the motions. Here’s where the rookies stand after a 22-18 victory over the New England Patriots.
Cincinnati’s defense produced four quarterback sacks for the first time since Week 3, and Carter notched the first (half-sack) of his career as he helped clean up this pressure with Joseph Ossai.
The Bengals were prepared for New England’s run game as they minimized the number of odd fronts in run defense to better handle gap-scheme concepts, much like they did against the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago. Carter and Josh Tupou only played a combined nine snaps against the run as the Patriots ended up with a pass heavy attack trailing the entire game. Carter was only one for eight pass-rushing snaps, but Pro Football Focus credited him with the team’s highest pass-rushing grade at 73.2.
There’s always content to be had when you’re being targeted eight times per game in a three-week span. Taylor-Britt had arguably his best and most costly play in coverage this season on Saturday, and the distinction has everything to do with finding the ball against Kendrick Bourne.
Early in the third quarter, Bourne had a go route against Taylor-Britt and just couldn’t stack him as the rookie was in his hip pocket the entire way. There have been flashes of Taylor-Britt playing the ball at the catch point, but not on a true vertical route like this. As soon as Bourne turns to see the throw, Taylor-Britt whips his head around with him. And just when the ball arrives, Taylor-Britt turns and faces the pass right in stride with Bourne to make a diving play on it.
When the field condenses near the goal line, it can be tougher to play the ball and the receiver simultaneously on long developing plays. Taylor-Britt ran into this problem later in the second half.
The first half of the play is managed perfectly. Taylor-Britt receives Bourne’s corner route from the slot as the boundary corner. He stays with him as he breaks inside, but keeps his eyes on the quarterback as he’s in zone coverage. As soon as Bourne turns back to the right, Taylor-Britt fixates on the route and turns his back to Mac Jones. Any competent quarterback in this situation is going to target the corner’s nameplate. That’s exactly what Jones does.
It’s a tough play that also presents the danger of dropping eight near the end zone. The longer the play develops, the harder it is to stay with receivers and maintain awareness of the ball. Add it to the list of teaching moments Taylor-Britt has received.
Next Monday is going to be tough, plain and simple. Stefon Diggs can cook against any cornerback in the league and plays all three receiver spots equally, while Gabriel Davis is a menace to defend deep. Buckle up.
Facing a Belichick defense is never easy as a rookie, but Volson turned in a near clean sheet. His illegal use of hands penalty was just about his lone blunder from the day. This fell in line with the expectation entering the game, as New England’s defensive line is carried by their edge players, while their interior is mostly just second-year stud Christian Barmore, who had one tackle on the day.
On Monday night, Volson and Co. will square off against DaQuan Jones and Ed Oliver, who both have pass-rush win rates greater than 15%. Oliver specifically wins with quick hands and explosion; he’ll give Volson a good fight all night long.
In their first game without Sam Hubbard, the onus to replace him went entirely on Cam Sample rather than a combined effort between Sample and Gunter. Sample played a whopping 53 snaps while Gunter was out there for six. Trey Hendrickson was also limited to 24 snaps due to his wrist injury, and Joseph Ossai expectedly shouldered the responsibility to fill his spot at right defensive end.
It’s back to the norm for Hill, who played one snap a week after playing 66 of them as a starter. Long gone are the days were speculation would arise before Cincinnati would play a top passing offense. Hill has only played north of six snaps in a game this year due to injuries in the secondary. It’s just the way it is.