In the bright lights of a Monday Night Football game the Atlanta Falcons got a push on defense when their offense wasn’t playing up to speed. The Falcons used an under-matched defensive unit to outplay based on their game plan and efficiency in disguising coverages to confuse Peyton Manning and a more talented Denver Broncos offense.
The Cincinnati Bengals are banged up on defense, like in every other spot on this team, but if it’s at all possible they need to find a way to be able to rely on their defense when the inefficiency of the offense demands it. What they really need is to get their best defensive play-maker on the front line, Carlos Dunlap, to get healthy and back on the field.
If the Bengals can’t generate any kind of pass rush it won’t matter what scheme Mike Zimmer creates , these young guys in the back seven are going to suffer. They have shown that they can’t stop the run still, but if they at least can get to the quarterback on a consistent basis they will have a chance to win tough games.
The schedule for Cincinnati doesn’t exactly tilt in their favor and it looks like they will be playing in a lot of gritty, hard-fought games. If the defense can’t give them some help then Andy Dalton will be playing a lot of catch-up in obvious pass situations and this will hurt the entire team in two ways. The obvious effect is that the offenses chances of driving the field will drop. The other, possibly more significant consequence is that Dalton’s progression in his second year will be hampered.
There is one area in his game that Dalton critics are giving him credit for from last Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns. Dalton showed the mental toughness to not let a series of bad throws and the fact of the Browns fighting back till the end phase him and force him into making bad decisions that would lead to him throwing the lead away. Many young quarter backs with more experience that are starting for an NFL team right now have shown much less cerebral determination and maturity.
Yet, Dalton just doesn’t have the surrounding talent to be able to throw his team on his shoulders and take a game over when their down. If Dalton is faced with deficits and has to scratch back into too many games the Bengals will not be as successful as they would be with a defense that can give him the support he needs.
The offensive line has allowed too much pressure and the defense has allowed too many big plays. If Dalton and the Bengals offense are down by a touchdown and need a few drives to even the score and then get ahead, the defense absolutely cannot allow the opposing offense to build their lead. That is how the snowball starts rolling and the game escapes the Bengals or any other team.
What the Falcons were able to do against the Broncos is exactly what Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Zimmer, Dalton and this whole Cincinnati club needs to have a fighting chance in a division where the Ravens have the lead and appear to be the team to beat.