Let’s take a look at how it happened.
On this play, the Bengals put Ja’Marr Chase all by himself on the backside of the formation. The hope here is that you will isolate the defender and get a true one-on-one between Chase and Rashad Fenton. The safety, Daniel Sorensen, has rocked down to linebacker depth on that side. They make it a play-action pass, to try and keep him inside and away from Chase.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way.
The play action is slow. Sorensen doesn’t immediately drop into coverage but has plenty of time to get between Chase and the quarterback before the ball is thrown. Chase takes an outside release, and the Fenton, expecting the ball to be thrown behind Chase, runs right underneath him. He’s all over the route and the play doesn’t have a prayer.
On the very next play, the Bengals came out in a different formation, but once again they put Chase on the backside with Fenton and Sorensen. The idea here was very similar, but some minor tweaks made all the difference.
Joe Mixon releases to a swing route to that side, and as a result, Sorensen gets wider to cover him rather than deeper underneath Chase’s route. Now, they have a true one-on-one with Chase and Fenton.
Chase takes an outside release again, but this time he leans on the cornerback. This gives him (and Burrow) a little more space to work with outside and prevents Fenton from cutting underneath him.
There is no play-action, so Burrow is able to throw the ball much quicker. He puts it on Chase’s outside shoulder and allows him to turn into it.
This was a fantastic adjustment from one play to the next to get the score. The Bengals came up big in a clutch situation because of their ability to adjust in the moment.
The defense is going 2 for 2 here and matching up based on the WRs' release— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) February 1, 2022
Taylor's initial inside steps and Chase's vertical release lock the safety in to Taylor
This is a great call, particular immediately after targeting Chase for the TD pic.twitter.com/BRIPye7g8K
Of course, that wasn’t enough to tie the game, they had to go for the two-point conversion. Initially, they had Chase isolated once again, but then Trent Taylor motioned to his side. Taylor ends up just outside of Chase. Fenton lines up on Taylor and Sorensen lines up over Chase.
Because the receivers are bunched up, the defense isn’t playing true man-to-man coverage at the snap of the ball. Fenton and Sorensen will over Chase and Taylor, but the releases of the receivers will determine who covers who.
Chase releases vertically but dips slightly outside, so Fenton, who is on the outside, matches up with him.
Taylor takes three steps to the inside, looking right at Sorensen, so the safety matches up with him. But there is a problem.
Taylor cuts back to the outside and is all alone. He already has a couple of steps on Sorensen, but the safety doesn’t help himself at all with his angle. Taylor is wide open for the game-tieing score.
This was an incredible play call, particularly after targeting Chase on the previous two plays.