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Film Room: Rey Maualuga knew what was coming on the safety play

Rey Maualuga read the Texans' check and anticipated their play-call on the safety play in the second quarter.

Before Sunday's game, Rey Maualuga and the defense poured over film of the Texans on offense. In doing so, the Bengals caught a number of the Texans' tendencies, including a specific check by Ryan Mallett (and presumably Ryan Fitzpatrick from earlier this season) which indicated that the Texans were running the ball to the right (strong) side of their formation:

"We knew watching (film) what they liked to call," Maualuga said. "(Ryan Mallett) made a check, and we knew what the check was and sort of ran to where he was going to run before they even ran the ball."

I'm no expert at reading offenses, but it looks to me like Mallett's check (highlighted in blue) consisted of simply twisting his head to the strong side, in addition to yelling a few coded words, thus indicating running back Alfred Blue to run to the strong side. Just a guess, though. Whatever it was, Maualuga (highlighted in red) noticed it.

Maualuga read 1

Immediately upon Mallett's check, but still before the snap, Maualuga left the usual spot of his MIKE position and ran up to the strong side, the only Bengal to do so. By saying "we," I think he is being somewhat humble.

Maualuga read 2

Upon the snap, Maualuga was nearly on the line of scrimmage. Just as he predicted, the Texans attempted a run to the strong side. Center Chris Myers was hit hard by both Maualuga and Domata Peko. Maualuga also occupied a gap that Blue might have been able to run through had Maualuga not been there.

Maualuga read 3

Maualuga intruded his way into the Texans end zone, still both pushing Myers and occupying the gap. Myers then inadvertently tripped up Blue (the tripping is highlighted in blue), who subsequently was tackled in the end zone by Geno Atkins, resulting in the safety.

Maualuga read 4

Maualuga read 5

Maualuga is arguably playing better than he has ever before. The past couple games, his biggest plays have impacted the scoreboard, including a goal-line tackle-for-loss to deny the Saints of a touchdown, an interception of Mallett eventually resulting in a Bengals TD, and creating this safety.

It's also encouraging to see that he was able to personally observe the Texans' check (as a result of his diligent film study) and thus anticipate what was coming, indicating that he has been good not only in physical play, but also the cerebral and mental aspects of the game.