Before we move on to the New Orleans Saints I thought it would be productive to take on final glance at how we played against the Bengals. We won, which is ultimately what matters, but many of the facets of the game struggled, particularly for the first three quarters.
Last week I gave 5 Keys to beating Marvin Lewis' squad. In this piece we will review those 5 aspects of the game plus more.
Key 1 - Run The Ball. I noted that teams had found success against the Bengals run defense. The Bucs called 19 run plays, which is well below their season average. It clearly wasn't in the game plan to run the ball. The final total will show you that they ran for 125 yards and a score. However, the success they found against the Bengals defense was much worse than that. Graham broke free for a 61 yard run which really helps the stats, but if you take that away your looking at a average of 2.93 YPC on designed runs. That's miserable. While this didn't cause us to lose the game it did directly impact Freemans performance throughout the game.
Key 2 - Find a 2nd WR.
Using Winslow will be huge in this game, but the Bucs have got to establish a 2nd WR. Whether it be Stroughter, Benn or Spurlock
Winslow and Williams had a huge day. Williams essentially beat one of the top 5 CB's in the league in Leon Hall. While they didn't establish much of a "2nd WR" they spread the ball out incredibly well. Stroughter and Spurlock had 3 catches for 39 and 35 yards respectively. Benn and Glimore also contributed. Speaking of Mike Williams, he had a better day against Hall than Moss, Boldin or Steve Smith had. I can't count how many times it has been said on this site alone, but Williams is setting himself apart as an elite talent. However, he must correct his fumbling problem. I believe both of his lost fumbles have been him just not securing the ball well.
Key 3 - Get pressure with only 4. Todd Wash and the Defensive Line can go ahead and buy Cody Grimm, Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber dinner. This has to be, even with the additions, one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL. They not only
struggle fail at getting any sort of pass rush, they can get an ounce of penetration against the run and look like they are on skates trying to hold gaps. Cedric Benson absolutely gashed the Bucs on Sunday. The Bengals have plenty of weapons on offense and holding the rest of the team, not named TO, to only 100 yards is worth noting. Had we gotten more pressure, Owens numbers may not have even been that high.
Key 4 - Safety Help. It's hard to tell exactly what happened on the Owens touchdown. I don't know what the play-call was. I can tell you that Barber on the other side was 1 on 1 with Chad. Grimm stayed at home cover Gresham. Sabby did something similar but it looked like he recognized he should of had deep help for Talib. Talib trips ever so slightly, but it's almost as if he is anticipating some sort of Safety relief. It's not there. Sabby was no-where to be found. I though Grimm played very well and stayed behind receivers, made some great tackles all over the place and obviously had a huge interception in which he read Palmers eyes and jumped a route.
Key 5 - Field Position. The coverage teams had a couple of lapses, but overall the results were good. Bryan also put a few inside of the 10, but then topped it with punts of 19 yards and 28 yards. He can not be relied on at this point and other options should be exhausted. The Bengals starting field position was at the 26 on 13 drives. Most of this was helped by not turning the ball over in our own territory but once. Williams fumble and Freemans INT were both deep inside Cin. territory.
Some other notes:
Cody Grimm played great.
Williams is done. I've held on longer than most attributing most of the blame to the offensive line. While they have been bad, so has Williams. We need to still be committed to the run-game but Williams carries need to be halved..again.
Freeman looked tremendous. Especially in the 4th quarter. I am not sure what he saw on his interception. I almost want to think that his pass was inteded for Williams and sailed on him. If not it was deeply underthrown to a very well covered Winslow. Regardless, he probably should have thrown that one away. A turnover after a momentum boosting 61 yard carry hurts.
Probably one of the more unheralded plays of the game was the pass to Mike Williams on the sideline on the final drive. It moved us into position to score and on the next play was the touchdown. It was one of the best throws and catch I have seen by a Bucs offense in a long time. Freeman was using the sideline and put the pass on a rope to where only Williams had a chance. Williams had to stretch but was able to keep both of his feet down and hold onto the ball. Absolutely textbook.