While the old saying is true, a win IS a win, but we all know that is not completely true. Some wins are better than others. Some are better because of the way you play. Some are better because of the opponent you beat. Sunday was some of the former (defensively), and all the latter. The Bengals (offensively at least), did not play well.
But, they beat a 4-0 Patriots team that takes the field every Sunday with a 3-time Super Bowl winning QB and a 3-time Super Bowl winning coach. Regardless of injuries, that is not just a win. That is a good win.
The Defense as a Whole
We will recognize the defense for specific plays later, but how good is this defense as a whole? Missing their top CB (Hall) and arguably their best DE (Johnson), the defense befuddled Tom Brady like he has never been befuddled before. Brady was held to: 0 TDs for the first time in 52 games (last game of 2009); 47.4% completion – worst since a 27-24 win against Baltimore on 12/3/2007 (still had 2 TDs and 257 yards); a 52.2 rating – worst since a 20-10 win against the Jets (51.5), also in 2007 (12/16); and a 16.8 QBR – worst since a 21-0 loss to the Dolphins 12/10….2006.
How this guy continues to get passed over for NFL head coaching positions is beyond me, but I can’t say I am upset that the Bengals get to keep him as their DC. In their last two home games, Zimmer has managed to limit 2 of the best QBs in the game (Rodgers and Brady) to 441 yards, 54.3% completion, 1 TD and 3 INTs…combined! Rodgers and Brady had QB ratings of 64.5 and 52.2 respectively in those two games. After Sunday’s performance against Brady, Zimmer’s defense has extended their NFL streak of not allowing a 300 yard passer to 20 games (Brandon Weeden – week 2 of 2012).
The Defensive Line
No Michael Johnson, no problem. On Brady’s first drop back of the day, he was sacked by Geno Atkins, and it wouldn’t get any easier from that point on. With 4 sacks and 8 QB hits, Brady never had time and never got comfortable in the pocket. QB Pressure is the key to neutralizing any QB, regardless of how prolific of a passer they are.
Michael Johnson who? With Johnson out, Gilberry took advantage of the extra snaps and ended the day with 2.0 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QB hits and 4 tackles. Gilberry has to be one of the best mid-season pickups in franchise history and has been a vital part of this DL since being picked up off the streets in week 3 of 2012.
Speaking of being picked up off the streets, how about Crocker? The last two seasons may have been Crocker’s best. Maybe the key is to make him miss all of training camp, watch the first few weeks from his couch, and then sign him with fresh legs a few weeks into the season. Crocker’s presence in the secondary, especially with all the injuries, has been immeasurable. He is almost making me forget the disdain I had built up for him after the 2011 playoff loss…almost.