3 keys for Bengals to beat the Houston Texans

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HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans is tackled behind the line of scrimmage by Wallace Gilberry #95, Michael Johnson #90, and Carlos Dunlap #96 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter at NRG Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans is tackled behind the line of scrimmage by Wallace Gilberry #95, Michael Johnson #90, and Carlos Dunlap #96 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the first quarter at NRG Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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Thursday night action will pit the Cincinnati Bengals against the Houston Texans. The Paul Brown Stadium showdown is a must win for Cincinnati.

Week 1 wasn’t very kind to the Cincinnati Bengals. After an offseason of “preparation” and negative fallout from losing more players to free agency, the 20-0 blowout loss to Baltimore was inexcusable. The offense that was supposed to offer a new sense of pride and excitement to fans was stagnant and bumbling, to say the least. There was a hint of promise from the defense, but that was squashed by the field position given up by the offense. The Texans come to town for Thursday Night Football. A fast turnaround and adjustments need to be in place ASAP.

The Texans have been kryptonite to the Bengals in the past. During the record-setting 2015 season, Houston spoiled the Bengals’ eight-game winning streak with a loss on MNF. Houston owns a 5-4 edge in the all-time series. In the playoffs, the Bengals are 0-2 against the Texans.

Here are three keys to a Bengals victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night.

Protect Dalton And Give Him Time

This seems like a no-brainer. But, with the current state of affairs along the offensive line, things could get ugly fast. The O-line is still looking for stability, after getting a wake-up call against Terrell Suggs and the Ravens. Cedric Ogbuehi was responsible for two of the five sacks Andy Dalton suffered through. Per Pro Football Focus, he was one of the low spots of the Bengals’ home opener. Receiving a grade of 36.7 isn’t going to turn many heads. But it will make defensive players salivate.

The fire gets hotter as the Jake Fisher and Trey Hopkins’ replacement T.J. Johnson meet the Texans’ D. And if they thought Suggs was a rejuvenated nightmare, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are the stuff nightmares are made of. In order for the line to become more comfortable and stable, they have to get help. Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese seems to forget there are ways to protect the QB with a fullback set. Keeping that extra back in on passing downs can do wonders.

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander will have to be creative against the Texans. Watt is a player who likes to move around. Therefore, in order to match his intensity, the Bengals need to be aware of his location on the line at all times.

Use The Running Game…Please 

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Zampese said there would be a three-headed attack for the 2017 season. Frankly, it should be about getting the ball into the hands of the hottest player. Last week, Joe Mixon was essentially ineffective (8 carries, 9 yards, 1.1 y/a), as his snap count was limited. Jeremy Hill may not be saying he’s still hurting, but he looked hesitant and indecisive again. Giovani Bernard handled the football seven times for 40 yards and a 5.7 average. Take away his big-hitter of 23 yards and he becomes average ( 6 carries, 17 yards, 2.8 y/a).

Most running backs have to get into the flow of the offense and get a feel for the opponent. When Kareem Hunt shredded the New England Patriots in Week 1, he needed 17 carries to amass 148 yards. Additionally, it took Leonard Fournette 26 carries to get 100 yards. But, again, every back is different. Zampese’s thinking is simple. If all three backs feel it, then one of the studs should get hot. Sorry, Ken. It doesn’t always work like that. Pick a starter and go with him until something happens. See plans B & C if something goes awry.

In the Kansas win, they rushed the ball 39 times. The Ravens pounded the rock 42 times. Yes, it’s simple. To keep the pressure off Dalton, run…the…ball. Giving the ball to three backs a total of 22 times ain’t happening. That didn’t work when it was just Gio and Hill.

Help The Defense

Let me rephrase that. Keep the defense off the field. The only time the Bengals D should set foot on the turf at PBS is after Dalton has led the Bengals to a score. Furthermore, turning the ball over and giving the Texans excellent field position is a definite no-no.

Next: Same Old Marvin

Hopefully, this will be a chance for the offense to prove those weapons of mass disruption are capable of doing what they’re supposed to. But, a ball control attack must be somewhere in the Bengals’ game plan.

If Carl Lawson, Chris Smith, Geno Atkins and the rest of the defense is going to be effective against the Texans, they can’t be forced back onto the field after a three-and-out. Essentially, the X’s have gotten better and faster. But, there has to be a balance between the two.

The defense performed well enough to win, in Week 1. However, there was absolutely no help from the offense. Thursday night will be a chance for things to even out.

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