Credit defensive backs coach Mark Carrier, as the Bengals’ defensive backs, especially Hall and Terence Newman, have been outstanding on driving down on breaking routes when playing off-man coverage. Despite Adam Jones’ poor decision to try to jump a route, which caused him to get burned on a double move with no safety help, the secondary had an outstanding day against Pittsburgh.
And Carrier, a former safety, had to enjoy seeing Reggie Nelson’s game-changing interception with 24 seconds left.
The Steelers ran a corner route against Cover 2, and ran it well, and although Emmanuel Lamur may have lost depth by looking at the underneath receiver that Newman was covering on the scramble drill, Nelson was in perfect position over the top, deep enough to avoid a big gain that would allow the Steelers another shot at winning and ready for the overthrown ball by Roethlisberger, who was on the run and trying to make sure he threw it where Jones could not make an interception. Fortunately, he threw it where Nelson could.
And, of course, despite some ups and downs, Andy Dalton made big plays when it counted. Marvin Jones did an outstanding job of using his size and leaping ability to make big plays, including nearly making a highlight-reel touchdown catch in the end zone on an underthrown ball on a fade route.
But, as always, A.J. Green and Dalton made the most important play together. On the play after Nelson’s interception, Dalton hit Green on a 21-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal, on what may be the biggest completion of Dalton’s career.
On this play, the design was to get Green open in field goal range from jump street. Out of the bunch formation, the Bengals ran Jermaine Gresham down the seam to draw any underneath defenders away, and keep the safeties honest in the middle of the field. Andrew Hawkins ran a shallow out route, which prevented any defenders to sink back and play underneath Green. Green then ran a deep out and was isolated in a one-on-one matchup against Keenan Allen. Dalton placed the pass very nicely and Green made the easy catch.
The play design was perfect for the situation, but the best part about it was the perfect execution at the most important moment. That is what every Bengals fan hopes to see for years out of Dalton and Green.