A few wild thoughts

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 7, 2012 – 1:08 pm

Andy Dalton

HOUSTON — A few thoughts heading into Saturday’s Wild Card Game (4:30 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 5) in Houston:

No doubt about it. This is Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s show.

Starting from when the Bengals knew they were in the playoffs coming off the Paul Brown Stadium field last Sunday with a game in Dalton’s hometown. Then the Wednesday practice he missed with a 24-hour bug. The scene Friday night in the hotel lobby with his family before he went into meetings.

(They were all business this week. Dalton put the word out. No media interviews for his family, which, really, was smart because they would have been swamped. They know what a big game means. Both Dalton and dad Greg quarterbacked high school playoff wins in the Astrodome.)

All the while he has shown that signature unflappability and, why not? This is his fourth game in Reliant Stadium, going back to when he became the first high-schooler to throw a touchdown pass in the place as a junior for Katy High School head coach Gary Joseph.

“Very poised. He executed as a junior but the real pressure was when he was a senior,” Joseph said earlier this week. “That’s when you have to really perform, when you’re a senior and you’re one of the leaders.”

Dalton executed in both seasons and raised his record to 3-0 in Reliant when he led Texas Christian to a win in the Texas Bowl over Houston.

With indications that Texans coach Gary Kubiak is going to keep the roof closed to emphasize the homefield advantage, this one is going to be a lot tougher with the noise factor and a defense that held Dalton to a second-half field goal the last time the Bengals and Texans met.

“There’s a lot of excitement around here; tickets are scarce,” Joseph said. “People are excited about Andy. They want to see him do well. He’s kept in touch and been around our guys before the season.”

The week after the Bengals took him in the second round Dalton went to the school and threw to receivers as well as talked to the team. The Bengals expect that cool kid next door to show up Saturday.

“I have all the confidence in Andy. Andy is a real composed guy, he (doesn’t) get rattled by too much. He loves to win and he likes the pressure. So that’s a good thing. I think Andy will hold up real good,” said cornerback Adam Jones. “I’ve been playing with him for 17, 18 weeks, and I was here with him the whole summer. Just being around the guy. I talk to him, and the way he carries himself, he’s a winner. He’s not a flashy guy, but he loves to play football.”

Or as left tackle Andrew Whitworth observed, “Pressure isn’t really an issue for him. The greatest competitors are the ones that want to win. They want the heat. Pressure is a good thing. It only drives them to be better. I think Andy is one of those guys.”

WALKING THE LINE: Dalton is walking the line here. Since throwing three interceptions against the Ravens Nov. 20, he’s thrown just one interception in the last six games. He’s taken to heart in the stretch run to make sure he doesn’t lose a game.

But there’s also the growing sense after these slew of close games that he may have to start taking more chances. Under most circumstances the quarterbacks that win in the playoffs take shots. Dalton has taken shots, but in those six games his yards per attempt is just 6.3 yards per game and that’s not going to win a road playoff game. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has been talking about how there are times he’s wished Dalton has tried some throws when he’s taken a checkdown instead. But he also appreciates Dalton trying to avoid the big mistake.

Walking the line.

The health of Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green is related. Since he sprained his shoulder against St. Louis 10 quarters ago, Green has caught six balls with the longest of them just 18 yards. He told ESPN Friday night his range of catching the ball has been limited since the injury, but he also has been saying for the last couple of week it feels better than when it first happened.

Texans safety Danieal Manning told ESPN that his defense was surprised when it went back and looked at film of last month’s game. He said they were surprised at how many wrong reads Dalton made and the indications were that the Texans were going to try and confuse him.

Dalton was certainly lucid in the first half while running back Cedric Benson was running for 92 yards. He completed nine of 17 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown for a 93.3 passer rating.

The TD came in the red zone on a 17-yard laser to wide receiver Jerome Simpson, where Dalton has really avoided the big mistakes. Inside the 20 he’s got 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. But the Bengals are 26th in the league scoring red-zone TDs.

Walking the line.

Ironically, it was the red-zone work that Dalton missed on Wednesday. But given that the Bengals already have a game plan against the Texans from 27 days ago and the work he put in the other five days of the week, they don’t expect a problem.

YET ANOTHER MATCHUP: The Bengals haven’t been able to stop Texans tight end Owen Daniels in their two games against Houston. He had two TDs in ’09 and 100 yards last month and Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham says Bengals outside linebackers like Thomas Howard are going to have to be on their game. Safety Taylor Mays played well against Daniels in the second half last month but he’s probably not going to play with a hamstring injury.

Lapham noticed the Bengals played a lot of man under, which means there was man-to-man coverage under the zone and wonders if defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is going to change it up on them.

BIG PLAYS: The last game against the Texans was defined by two plays in the last 45 seconds. Texans quarterback T.J. Yates scrambled on third-and-15 for 17 yards, and then he threw a six-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left.

The scramble hurt the Bengals even more because right end Michael Johnson led a charge that had Yates sacked, but with the secondary’s back turned, Yates was off.

“I mean, we had the guy sacked, he got out of it,” Zimmer said. “This is going to be a different game and I anticipate plays like that will win the game for one or the other.”

ESPN analyst Eric Mangini isolated the last play to show that the Bengals got beat when they covered the multiple Texans receivers that went vertical into the end zone but didn’t cover Kevin Walter’s crossing route.

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Posted in Hobson's Choice | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “A few wild thoughts”

  1. By mwindle1973 on Jan 7, 2012 | Reply

    Yeah Mangini showed that play…I’m sure Zimmer’s showed it a few times too. And I’m sure they know to slide the coverage to the right in that situation again. I’m betting that we run the ball a lot. I think people are going to be surprised. We gutted them pretty good in the 1st half of the last game, and personally I feel like we left running yards on the field int he 2nd half. They didn’t adjust that well at half. Mistakes were made. I think we will run it heavy early and take some shots on play action. I really feel like we should be able to run it. It been awhile since Gruden went to Jumbo strategy of offset lines, double and triple TEs, and play action to Green and Gresham out of those same formations. Here’s hoping Bengaldom for the 1st win in 21 years!!

  2. By gernst66 on Jan 7, 2012 | Reply

    The Bengals have continuously been on the losing side of games they should have won. Why? Who is to blame? Fate?
    If they cannot find ways to win, instead of ways to lose what is the use of being a fan? It is no wonder they can’t fill seats and players continue to walk away… They are sooooo close to losing yet another fan. I cannot express my disappointment any other way, other than screaming at the top of my lungs, “WHYYYYYYY?”

  3. By mwindle1973 on Jan 8, 2012 | Reply

    You know I like Jay Gruden a lot, but I do question a few things. Considering out front that some of this may be the players not executing his plays correctly or any number of things. Hard to tell really, but he gets a lot of credit. So he deserves lots of scrutiny. First off didn’t he replace Brat because Brat couldn’t bust a Cover 2 rolled to Ochocinco? Now we’ve watched the offense struggle in the stretch run because we can’t bust a Cover 2 rolled to AJ Green! Also, with the same personnel he’s not produced the same running game. The pass protection improved but only because of all the short drops and quick releases. The 5 step drops on 20+ yd routes make no sense to me. Dalton can’t step up, he has to escape the pocket in those situations, and it puts him in the same spot for too long. The last criticism is he seems to abandon the game plan too quickly if we lose the lead, or if something wasn’t working. You have to continue to run, even if you aren’t having success. It just seems that Lewis has always wanted to do 3 things on offense…run effectively, have an effective deep game, and protect the passer. And all the criticisms I bring up could point towards the players and not Gruden.

  4. By mwindle1973 on Jan 8, 2012 | Reply

    Well the offseason begins tomorrow and a lot of big decisions to be made. I can’t remember the exact number, but we have 20-25 guys with expired contracts. And we have 4 (probably 5 after compensatory picks) picks in the first 3 rounds. We have 2 coordinators who may get a head coaching gig. We have Kevin Coyle being named as a DC candidate and usually Zampese gets looked at as well. I would think if we lose Gruden or Zim, that Coyle and Zampese would be possible replacements. Honestly becuase of Zampese, it scares me more to lose Zimmer. And then there is the draft. Do you keep building offense, take the D over the top, do a little of both? One thing is for sure, we have to upgrade at S this year. Crocker’s tackling and smarts have taken a dive this year. Nelson offers tons of great plays, but gives them up too. Adam Jones, I think is maybe just needing more time not injured to work in the system. He’s come a long way in discipling, but he has a ways to go yet. We have to address LG too, it was again a big problem this season. The big question is do you keep the Simpson/Benson/Jones types. The troubled player that despite trying can’t seem to quite overcome their own problems. Or do you continue to thin the herd this season too. That really depends on whether they think those players are worth the effort of rehabilitating or think they pretty much have run themselves out of time trying to turn it around. That’s a tough call there. It’ll be intersting to see how the evalutions turn out.

  5. By tepidfan31 on Jan 8, 2012 | Reply

    Looking at the New Orleans/Detroit game, and generally the NFL. There has been a dramatic change in the NFL over the past few years requiring both a good passing offense and a reasonable pass defense. No longer does the run set up the pass, but for good teams the pass sets up the run. The better the passing offense vs. the opponent’s, the more assurance you have of winning, regardless of the opposition’s good running game. If the opposing team’s front 3, 4, or 5, with an occasional blitz, cannot consistently pressure the QB, a good QB will eat your lunch. In fact, if you do not have a consistent pass rush, an average QB may have a field day as well. If you drop LBs back, it opens up the run; if you don’t, it opens up play/action. Then, if your defense can also stop the run, winning becomes a no-brainer, ala New Orleans. The obvious answer here is that, as always, you need quality players on both sides of the ball; the best teams simply have more of them. That poses the final question, since there is parity, why aren’t all teams, eventually, equal? Ask the GMs and coaches! Ask Mike and Marvin! “Eventually”, is 21 years!!!!

  6. By mwindle1973 on Jan 8, 2012 | Reply

    I wondered why nobody is being critical of McGlynn’s (RG) blocking technique. I thought maybe it’s just me. So I went to a resource I use often. It’s a notated form of info from a Jim McNally (former Bengals Oline coach) Oline camp DVD. I found I was right. When blocking a 3 tech like McGlynn was, and he tries a swim move like Watt did, you don’t do a double punch to the shoulders like Mcglynn did. Proper reaction to a swim is to focus leverage on the outside shoulder of the rusher and drive block him like it’s a run. Played properly Watt would’ve been driven towards the sideline or better yet to the ground. TO make it simple, in that situation you are basically pushing a guy over who is already off balance. But he punched instead and Watt kept his eyes on a pass deflection, and got an int/td instead. And Livings didn’t have a great game either. There are 3 really good OGs in the draft this year, but we’ll have to use on of the 1st rounders to get one. They’ll be gone by the the time we pick in the 2nd. DB & OG need addressed that’s for sure. It’s been a great season, and if we play our cards right this offseason we could have this team set up to win for several years

  7. By mwindle1973 on Jan 9, 2012 | Reply

    Man Tebow was amazing. He made great reads and great throws. He was doing a great job looking the safeties off and coming back to the other side of the field. And they had sucked the Steelers in. I guess it’s all a matter of whether or not he can grow into playing this well every game. I’m not counting them out of any games at this point. They just took the #1 D for 346 yards on 21 passes, and 133 yards on 34 rushes. That’s 480 yards and almost 9 yards a play! Tebow threw for over 17 yards an attempt and just under 35 yards per completion. And their Oline could be the best in football at this point in the season. We’ll see next week how Tebow can follow it up. But if he plays this well, and the rest of the team keeps up to par they could be a dangerous team. Baltimore and San Francisco are the only 2 teams with a top D left. If they did this to the #1 D what will they do to the Pats and Packers 31st & 32nd D? Perhaps the Steelers went wrong trying to stop Tebow instead of just trying to confuse him into making mistakes. Which is what Bellicheck will try and do

  8. By bengalpirate on Jan 9, 2012 | Reply

    Just to get it out of my system and yes, it is already overstated. Coach Lewis is doing a somewhat better job of managing the clock, but still struggles with challenges to review of plays. I don’t know who he is listening to, players, coaches in the box, but apparently he is getting bad advice at times. I bet if you look at the percentages, Coach Lewis loses more challenges than he wins. In this game, it didn’t matter, but what about the future? Maybe the Bengals need a dedicated challenge coach who focuses on when to challenge and when not to. Overall though, I thought this game was winnable, but after JJ Watt’s int, the momentum changed dramatically and with the closed roof Reliant Stadium, we needed a miracle to change the momentum back and never got it. I’ll take the near miracle in Denver, though, as it helped me bounce back from the Bengals loss knowing that Pittsburgh has no shot at the Super Bowl this year.

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