The Good, the Bad and The Ugly of Cincinnati’s Wild Card loss to San Diego

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Mike Zimmer

We all love Zimmer, but at times we give him a pass. Since joining the Bengals as DC in 2008, Zimmer has made the defensive calls in 4 playoffs games (2009, 2011-2013).

All 4 years Zimmer had a top 10 defense. And though the offense has put the defense in bad positions, Zimmer’s defense: gave up 171, 188, 158 and 196 yards rushing; they have surrendered an average of 25.3 PPG; they lost to two rookie QBs (Mark Sanchez and TJ Yates) – neither of which still start; they gave up ratings of 139.4 (Sanchez), 97.7 (Yates), 83.4 (Schaub) and 118.8 (Rivers); they have given up 3 TD passes to just 1 INT (Schaub); have just 4 sacks (including 0 sacks twice); allowed 5 TD drives of 75+ yards (2 of 80+ on Sunday); forced just 1 turnover in 4 games; and have surrendered a lead in all 4 games (twice surrendered a halftime lead).

Those numbers are every bit as bad as Gruden’s and Bratkowski’s offenses have been in the playoffs. If his name wasn’t Zimmer, we would be hammering him – and it is only fair that we do.


The offense put the defense in some terrible situations and the defense responded. But, it was as if they needed the adversity to perform. In 3 drives which started in Cincinnati territory (including one at the 3), the defense surrendered just 2 FGs and a punt. In the 5 drives that started at or inside the San Diego 20, the defense gave up 2 TDs (86 and 80 yards). While the defense kept the Bengals in the game late, they did not play to the level they played all year.

  1. Run Defense – How does a defense ranked 5th against the rush, giving up just 96.5 YPG in the regular season all the sudden get gashed for 196 yards and bring Ronnie Brown back to life? That was an embarrassing performance and would have to rank as reason #2 for why the Bengals lost.
  1. Tackling – For all but 2 games this year, the Bengals were a very sound tackling team. Make that 3 now. The defense was missing tackles as often as Dalton was missing receivers and neither is a winning formula.
  1. Rivers Completion Percentage – He only threw 16 passes for 128 yards, but he completed 75% of those passes (12) had 0 INTs, 1 TD and a 118.8 rating, 57.8 better than their PBS average opponent rating.
  1. 0 Turnovers – Despite the offense donating the ball to San Diego 4 times, the game was still within reach and could have been turned with a turnover by the defense and they just couldn’t get it. For a defense that averaged nearly 2 takeaways a game, they got 0 in the most important game of the year.