CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Sunday’s game here against Panthers rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen doesn’t hinge on the defense.
You can probably get a pretty good sense what is going to happen. Carolina running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are going to get their yards on the ground, but in the last 26 games since defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer settled his system in place, the Bengals have rarely been pummeled on the ground.
Clausen is going to make some plays, too, with wide receiver Steve Smith. But if Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had nowhere to throw to his three receivers with at least 587 career catches last week, what is Clausen going to do with a stable that has only one receiver with more than 35 NFL catches?
And recent history says Clausen isn’t going to produce a cascade of points, either. Head coach Marvin Lewis is 6-7 against rookie QBs, but if you’re like him and don’t the count the 2009 throwaway finale in The Meadowlands, it is 6-6. In those 12 games, the defense has allowed 18.9 points per game.
That’s not the problem. The problem is in those 12 games the offense has countered with just an average of 18.0.
OK, take away the games that quarterback Carson Palmer was a first-year starter himself and the 34-3 loss to Baltimore in 2008 when he was hurt. The Bengals are 4-3 in those games, but they still have only scored 18 while giving up 15 points. And only twice did the rookie generate 20 points, the Browns’ Charlie Frye in Cincinnati’s 23-20 win in 2005 and the Jets’ Mark Sanchez in last season’s Wild Card Game.
So we think we know how it’s going to go. Three touchdowns ought to do it. The Bengals score 21 and they ought to be 2-1.
The best way to put pressure on a rookie QB? Not an all-out blitz or disguised defenses or an eight-man front to stop the running game. Just a good old-fashioned 17-point first half and get him in a hole 10-0 or 14-0. Now he’s got to throw. Now he just can’t hand it off. Don’t let him hang around. It’s up for an offense led by a guy making his 84th NFL start to do a very big part.
The last time the offense produced 17 first-half points? Eleven games ago in a 17-7 win over the Ravens last Nov. 8. They had a 17-7 halftime lead on Detroit rookie Matthew Stafford on Dec. 6, but the first score came on defensive lineman Jon Fanene’s interception return for a touchdown.
Tags: bengals vs. clausen and rookie QBs
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