On this play, Still lined head up with the center, with Geno Atkins in a 7 technique over the left tackle. Dan Skuta, who was in the defensive end rotation along with the linebacker rotation, flanked Atkins to the right.
Howard and Rey Maualuga, who usually would line up in the A gaps between the guard and center on the a-gap sugar, where the linebackers line up in the A gaps and either blitz or bail at the snap, are aligned head up over the guards, where the defensive tackles would normally play.
Michael Johnson aligns to the left standing up and rushes the passer. This play worked as a more traditional zone blitz, like Dick LeBeau would call, because both Johnson and Skuta are capable of playing defensive end or a linebacker that drops in a zone. This keeps Flacco guessing.
The Bengals often brought pressure to wherever Ray Rice was aligned in order to force him to stay in and pass block, since he is so dangerous getting the ball in space in the flats. One surefire way to make sure he stayed in was to overload blitz to his side.
Atkins racked up a sack on this play, and it was due to the play design that he was isolated one-on-one with Matt Birk and no running back to help. At the bottom of the formation, to Rice’s side, Maualuga and Reggie Nelson line up outside of the tackle. Oher manages to block Maualuga, but Nelson turns the corner and forces Rice to block.
This play uses a route-recognition zone coverage, in which a defensive back identifies the route combination and covers the receiver going to his area. It is kind of a zone and man coverage hybrid.
The outside receiver pointed at Newman, who appearing to be playing press-man coverage, then motions into the bunch formation. Newman backs off for at a different level than his neighboring defender like he would if playing man coverage to protect against a play has crossing rubs.
Flacco was expecting man coverage against the big blitz and the pre-snap read, and more of a cushion was expected created for Smith, who is shielded from his man by the other defenders in the bunch. But The Bengals play route-recognition, and Neman can easily scrape over to play Smith in the flat.
Flacco freezes in the pocket while staring down Smith. The stacked defenders on the outside frees up middle for Geno, who runs a crossing stunt with Still to get his isolated matchup against a reeling Birk.
When the Bengals have the ball, Ed Reed should not stop the Bengals from taking downfield shots. He still has the best instincts in the league, but he no longer has the pure speed or athleticism to keep up with A. J. Green.