Bengals at Colts: Sunday “Catch Up” Notes
Aug 28, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 35-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Today’s game feels like a must-win for the Bengals after sliding in Weeks Five and Six. Although the team stands atop the AFC North, the momentum has gotten away from them as the Ravens are clawing their way towards first place.
The Bengals have a lot to play for today. Not only do they need to regain some of this lost momentum, but they desperately need to prove themselves capable of winning against good teams. What better way is there to do so than to go into Lucas Oil Stadium and shut down Andrew Luck and the Colts’ offense.
Cincinnati’s defense has been unrecognizable thus far this year. After finishing as the AFC’s top defense in 2013 (third in the NFL), the Bengals have now allowed teams to run all over them while opposing quarterback’s have had an absurd amount of time to throw the ball. Today is an opportunity for the Bengals to turn things around by winning a big game on the road. Here are some things to note for today’s game.
Colts To Watch
Obviously the headliner is Andrew Luck. If the Bengals want to negate some of his potentially overwhelming impact on the game, the front four needs to set up. They’ve struggled to get to the quarterback this year, and allowing Luck copious amounts of time to analyze the defense will spell disaster for the Bengals.
Arguably a bigger problem on the day could be the Colts’ penchant for using multiple tight ends. Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are talented, receiving tight ends and the Bengals have struggled mightily in these matchups. With Emmanuel Lamur out, the Bengals will need Taylor Mays to step up the way he did last year when playing the nickel backer role. Mays was impressive last year until he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury just before the season’s midpoint. Also, we could see rookie linebacker Marquis Flowers get some snaps as the coverage linebacker. Flowers’ ability mirrors that of Lamur’s, so it’s possible we could see him step into the role as well as Mays; of note, Lamur did something like this in 2012, his rookie season.
Finally there’s the Indianapolis pass rush. Going largely unnoticed, the Colts have produced the seventh most sacks in the league thus far (17). But the Bengals’ offensive line has been dominant so far this year. That trend will have to continue if the Bengals are to give Andy Dalton the necessary time to “move the chains” and help the rushing attack keep Andrew Luck off the field.
The Bengals will be without A.J. Green for the second straight week. There’s no current timetable for his return. Obviously missing Green is a big deal, but the Bengals get some help here as Colts’ defensive back Darius Butler is out for the game as well.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler looks to be a “go” today after practicing all week. Zeitler was having a great start to the year prior to hurting his calf while blocking two Falcons players during a Giovani Bernard touchdown run in Week Two.
His presence will be huge as the Bengals will need Bernard to be all the more effective with A.J. Green out. Zeitler’s run blocking ability will be to Jeremy Hill’s benefit as well. Expect Hill to get more carries this week as the Bengals will look to win the time of possession game big today as a response to Andrew Luck’s presence.
Bengals Who Need To Step Up
Obviously the offense needs to control the ball and run effectively to win the game. But it’s the Bengals’ defense that needs to step up most today. Geno Atkins has been on the mend this year after his ACL injury this past year. But we’re in Week Seven now and questions will begin to start popping up soon regarding whether or not he can be the player he once was. He’s been “knocking on the door” in past weeks with some near sacks. A performance circa 2012 would go a long way for both Atkins and the Bengals today.
Beyond Atkins, Vontaze Burfict has some answering to do following last week’s disappointing performance. His actions after the whistle are not the kind of plays this team needs. They need Burfict to step into a leadership role both on and off the field. Burfict needs to focus his tenacity on the task at hand rather than on the foolish stuff he did last week. His performance this week both before and after the whistle will tell fans whether or not he’s beginning to understand what this team really needs from him.
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Taylor Mays’ opportunity this week is bittersweet. No one wants to see players go down with injuries, but Mays can really make a name for himself with strong play against the opposing tight ends today. Mays is a gifted athlete who performed well in this role last year. If he can show well today, maybe he earns more playing time going forward.
Finally, Brandon Tate. He and Adam Jones may be flipping roles this year; last year Jones had to step away from returning duties due to injuries in the secondary. This year, with injuries to A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, Brandon Tate has received a ton of snaps on offense so far compared to past years (62.5%). Hue Jackson has turned Tate into an offensive threat at times with plays like his screen pass touchdown last week, which reminded many of Chip Kelly’s offense. Could we see Adam Jones receive an uptick in returning duties this week while Tate helps try to negate the losses in the receiving core?
Today’s game should prove to be an exciting one for fans. It’s incredibly important for the Bengals to begin to turn their season around as the season’s midpoint is here. Get your game faces on fans, it’s Sunday.
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