To the right of the formation, two wide receivers run vertical routes. This is designed to stretch out defensive backs in a Cover 3 and punish a back that over-commits to one side or the other.
On the left, Green is lined up in the slot, which is a sign that they are going to make him the primary target. This is the Cover 2 beater side, and the Ravens roll into a Cover 2 with an outside bracket at the snap. The outside receiver runs a short comeback, sucking the underneath cornerback coverage down.
Green sees the safety protecting the sidelines and runs a skinny post on the “win” route, a Bill Walsh special, and Dalton hits him as soon as he sees the coverage. Dalton now has more responsibility at the line to check into a play after diagnosing the coverage. If he can be patient enough to go through the entire progression, then Dalton will be benefitted by more options built to beat the specific coverage, but are significantly less effective if the coverage is misdiagnosed.
The running game impressive, although more quietly. BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball 10 times for 68 yards, which is an impressive 6.8 YPA. Although the Bengals did run some Power O and other guard-pulling runs, their success in the zone game foreshadows the scaling back of the power-blocking run game.
The Bengals spent much of the game attempting to take advantage of overeager Ravens defenders. Here the Bengals run a counter-zone running play, which manipulates the linebackers to the backside. Dalton reaches out to the left with the ball, and Green-Ellis makes one step towards the left, reeling in the Ravens linebackers.
Green-Ellis then takes off towards the right, where Kevin Zeitler and Andre Smith have cleared out a cavernous tunnel.
The inside zone run was the most effective when Green-Ellis was patient and stayed in synch with his offensive line, which is easier said than done for such a downhill runner.
With two high safeties, the Bengals wisely run the ball up the gut due to the numerical advantage. Green-Ellis starts off running at where the strong side guard’s outside hip was. At this point, he must decide whether to continue, bounce the play outside, or find the cutback lane on the backside.
Bouncing the play outside would have been a minimal gain. Following fullback Chris Pressley up the middle would have netted a few yards, but the linebacker in the circle would be able to scrape over and make the play.
Also in the circle is Andrew Whitworth winning his double team block at the first level. He will be able to wall off the linebacker, so Green-Ellis bends the play back for 14 yards.
Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden put together some effective gameplans for the Ravens, but the problem was in sloppy execution. With perhaps better personnel defensively, and a more robust offensive playbook, and overall better execution, the Bengals could easily end the season on a high note to build up their momentum heading into the playoffs.