2. The Run Game
A main reason why the Bengals beat the Chargers was their physical running game. Both Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard had outstanding days, much ado because of how well and physical the offensive line was blocking.
Now, there has been a lot more shuffling along that offensive line, but they are still blocking well for the running backs and Dalton. The Bengals offense rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers, but that’s not all; the Chargers defense allows on average 103 yards a game.
When they play away, only two times have they allowed less than 100 yards of total rushing yards to a team, they also have given up 9 rushing touchdowns. The Bengals are going to have to use power running to get the Chargers off their game.
The Chargers like to get the ball and score, but if the Bengals can maintain possession and wear out the clock, the Bengals can expect similar success as they did earlier in the year.
3. Zimmer’s Playoff Defense
As written in an earlier article: (insert link right here), Mike Zimmer’s defense has almost fizzled out for mostly every playoff game. Ranking 3rd in the NFL, this defense will have their work cut out for them quickly against the Chargers.
With Philip Rivers always being a hassle and the emergence of Ryan Matthews becoming a premiere running back, the Bengals defense in the playoff certainly must improve. Zimmer’s defenses tend to take a step down in the playoffs. However, the Bengals rank 5th against the pass, rush, and points allowed.
Strangely, the Bengals defense is not getting as much credit as other NFL defenses, but they have a chance to put it on full display. Zimmer has stated earlier in the week that he is focusing solely on this game and watching tape, so Zimmer has been preparing for this game for quite some time.
Defense wins championships, and this defense will be a huge part as to how they can beat the Chargers. If the defense struggles, it is yet another playoff game that Zimmer has lost. Yep. Mike Zimmer has never won a playoff game as a coordinator, so this game may mean a lot to Zimmer as well.
Expect quite a few blitzes, nickel, and dime packages throughout the game.