The Bengals did find A.J. Green eclipsed by tight bracket coverage most of the game, but they adapted in a way that would be uncharacteristic of the team earlier in the season. The huge two-touchdown game for rookie Mohammed Sanu showcased his continued emergence, and Jermaine Gresham has continued to play like an upper-echelon in-line tight end, with excellence in receiving and blocking.
Before Sanu’s first touchdown catch, the Gresham set up the red zone visit with yet another great snag down the seam.
On this play, the outside receivers run vertical routes against two high safeties. This is designed to pull the safeties outside the numbers to open up the middle of the field for the two post routes on the inside.
Towards the top of the formation, Green is aligned in the slot. Without a jam at the line of scrimmage, a receiver in the slot is more likely to have a free release and make a play. Whenever Green is in the slot, it is likely that the play is designed to get him the ball.
At the bottom of the formation, Orson Charles is aligned wide. Although Charles has become slowly integrated into the offense as the move tight end, like the Aaron Hernandez to Gresham’s Rob Gronkowski, he is the decoy here fresh off a 10-yard reception. He pulls linebacker Phillip Wheeler out wide in coverage, giving Gresham a free release.
At the snap, safety Matt Giordano stays bracketed over Green, refusing to take the bait that Sanu has laid out by going vertical up the sidelines. With Green-Ellis releasing underneath the linebackers, keeping them from gaining depth to undercut the post route, Gresham has the whole middle of the field open.
As show here, Gresham coasts into the open real estate and makes the easy catch. Both Wheeler and Tyvon Branch, circled, are too far out of position to make a play. As soon as Gresham has the ball, he turns upfield directly down the middle to rumble to the goal line to set up the touchdown. This is the second time in as many weeks that he has set up a touchdown with a post route that splits the safeties.