Bengals Latest Win Provides Blueprint For Important Upcoming Games
By Joe Sorensen
With games against the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions in the coming weeks, Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers (1-2) was a test for the Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) – a team that prides itself on its defense. The Bengals passed this week’s challenge by beating QB Aaron Rodgers (244 yards, touchdown, two interceptions) and the Packers 34-30.
Arguably the deepest receiving core in the league – consisting of wide receivers Jordy Nelson (eight catches, 93 yards), Randall Cobb (five catches, 54 yards), and James Jones (four catches, 34 yards and a touchdown) – were unable to create the big plays they are known for. An additional receiving threat, TE Jermichael Finley, was forced to leave the game early with an apparent concussion. With the passing game struggling and their top two running backs injured, the Packers turned to their rookie third-string RB Jonathan Franklin (103 rushing yards and a touchdown). The team totaled 182 rushing yards against a Bengals’ team that only gave up 62.5 yards a game through the first two games of the season.
Although the defense gave up 399 total yards, the Bengals extended their streak of not allowing a quarterback to top 300 yards to 17 straight games. The defensive line continued to apply pressure on Rodgers, sacking him four times and swatting down Rodgers’ passes on several occasions. The rest of defense did its job as well, forcing the Packers into four turnovers. The last turnover turned out to be the go-ahead score for the Bengals as a fumble recovery by CB Terrance Newman (six tackles and an interception) was returned 58 yards for a touchdown.
Offensively, the Bengals continue to have issues. QB Andy Dalton (235 yards, two touchdowns, interception) continued to spread the ball around. Five players totaled three catches or more, including WRs Marvin Jones (three catches, 38 yards) and A.J. Green (four catches, 46 yards and a touchdown). The team had two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, one by each rookie RB Giovani Bernard and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But after that, the running game disappeared and finished with 82 yards on the day.
Looking ahead, Cincinnati plays the New England Patriots (3-0) and QB Tom Brady in two weeks. While the Patriots are missing some key pieces in their passing attack (i.e., TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Danny Amendola), a couple of rookies and unsuspecting veterans have been stepping up. Through three games, Brady’s main targets have been WRs Julian Edelman (27 catches, 201 yards and two touchdowns) as well as rookie WRs Aaron Dobson (10 catches, 108 yards, one touchdown) and Kenbrell Thompkins (nine catches, 130 yards, two touchdowns). The Patriots, while hardly firing on all cylinders yet, should be a challenge if they can keep RBs Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount involved in the game.
A couple of weeks afterwards, the Bengals head to Michigan to take on the revitalized Detroit Lions (2-1). While Detroit’s QB Matthew Stafford does not have the track record that Brady has, he has just as many weapons around him and a better running game. On the outside, Stafford has WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (17 catches, 268 yards and three touchdowns) and the NCAA’s all-time receptions leader in WR Ryan Broyles. The two running backs, Reggie Bush (115 rushing yards, 145 receiving yards and one touchdown) and Joique Bell (119 rushing yards, 177 receiving yards and three touchdowns), can hurt a defense in both phases of the offense.
These two teams offer similar challenges compared to Green Bay. While both games could easily turn into shootouts, the Bengals have a lot to take away from this week’s game to make sure they have success against the Patriots and the Lions. The Bengals need to stay consistent with their running attack and continue to spread the ball around on offense. Defensively, the team needs to prevent the big plays and, if it does, it could post a couple more important wins in both of the aforementioned upcoming games.