Super Bowl 2015: What the Bengals Can Learn

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Defense and Running Wins in the Playoffs

Across the Patriots’ Super Bowl winning years they always possessed one of the league’s stingiest defenses. In 2001, 03, and 04, the Patriots finished sixth, first, and second in the league in points allowed respectively.  This while running backs Antowain Smith ran for 1,157 yards in 2001 and former Bengal Corey Dillon ran for 1,635 yards in 2004.   The Patriots success on defense and when running the ball meant that a young Tom Brady didn’t have to carry the team.  It gave them balance and translated into great success.

Over the past three years, the Seahawks have really made these two aspects of the game their “bread and butter.”  On the defense, they’ve been utterly dominant finishing first in the league in points allowed for each of the last three seasons.  Over the years, the Seahawks have drafted well, creating the vaunted “Legion of Boom,” which has spurred this team’s defensive success.

Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch has been a stalwart in the backfield.

January 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) before playing against the Carolina Panthers in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Since being made the team’s primary back, Lynch has undoubtedly led the offense, running for a minimum of 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in each season since 2011.  He’s been perennially one of the league’s top running backs over this span.

Again, this dominance on defense and within the running game has allowed the Seahawks to foster Russell Wilson as he transitions to becoming the focal point of this offense.

To be fair, these are some aspects of the game the Bengals have either emphasized or begun to do so.  Prior to this year, they had one of the league’s best defenses.  Injuries have certainly impacted this group, yet the biggest hurdle for the defense was the change from defensive guru Mike Zimmer to his protégé Paul Guenther this past season.

Guenther’s coaching lineage means he could find success in the coming years, so with a strong group of players, the defense could reclaim its past success.

This while the Bengals have invested in their running game over the past couple of years.  In the past two years, they have drafted Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill with second round picks.  Since, Bernard has turned into one of the league’s most dynamic weapons while Hill had a fantastic rookie season that saw him become one of the NFL’s most prolific rushers once he took over the starting duties.

A formula for success in the NFL has often included a strong defense and running game.  More often than not, they are aspects of the game that lead to success in the playoffs.  This year, the Patriots and Seahawks have continued to employ this formula and have found predictable success.  Hopefully with the foundation they’ve set, the Bengals can emulate these teams in these aspects of the game.  Drafting well this year and dipping into the free agency pool would help; just look at what it did for the Seahawks in 2013.

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