Home > Game Tape, NFL > Tale of the Tape: NFL Week 4 — Bengals at Browns

Tale of the Tape: NFL Week 4 — Bengals at Browns

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A LiveBall Sports Game Tape Review.

Lots of problems here with both teams, but the absolute truth is that right now there are just six teams in the AFC up at three wins, and while there are a lot of teams at 2-2, getting to second place in the AFC North is pretty much an automatic playoff berth.  Here’s why the Bengals, or the Browns, could pull off that feat:

  • On the very first play of the game, Cincinnati put Andrew Whitworth, it’s left tackle, in motion from right to left.  This is how the Bengals were successful last year, lots of unbalanced formations, and motion that dictates that the team is going to run.
  • There are lots of things to like about rookie TE Jermaine Gresham.  His blocking is not one of those things.
  • If the Bengals are going to do all of these power run concepts, they can’t then throw from the shotgun on third and two.  A lot of talk about “offensive identity” is just a bunch of hot air, but here’s somewhere where it has on-field significance.  If you aren’t going to run in third and two, what is the deal with your overload run concepts? (Palmer completed this pass for a first down on the game’s first 3rd & 2 situation).
  • Cedric Benson is not quick through those holes.  The running lanes are there, but Benson isn’t hitting them for chunks of yards, he’s instead picking his way through for a couple of yards at a time.
  • Bengals LG Nate Livings had a blown block against Shaun Rogers that led to a drive-ending pass deflection.  Ochocinco was open underneath on a rub concept.
  • Speaking of identity, the Browns could be a really, really good rushing team.  But I get the idea that they want to develop their passing game for future years.
  • The Bengals offensive line and running backs struggle to pick up blitzes of all sorts.  They can handle a four man rush, but when they get one on ones across the field, they usually don’t hold up, and oftentimes, they just don’t sort the protection properly to begin with.
  • Cleveland is doing an excellent job taking advantage of the coverages they are getting from the Bengals on first down with some precision passing from Seneca Wallace.  Wallace is struggling with making throws against more pass-centric coverages.
  • TE Evan Moore runs routes like a WR for the Browns.  The Bengals picked a bad time to find this out, when they put Chris Crocker on him in a man free coverage scheme and Moore beat him on a skinny post for a touchdown.
  • Carson Palmer threw the deep ball better in this game than the prior three.  He took his shots with discretion, usually waiting for cover-1 or cover-0 (usually on first down), but laid the ball right in over the Browns’ young corners.
  • The Browns were very comfortable with their corners in man coverage on the touted Bengals receivers, using their safeties as much to stop the run as to help the corners.  Generally speaking, the Bengals’ receivers won this match-up.  However, just by trusting their corners on the Bengals receivers, the Browns had advantages elsewhere on the field.  It was a worthwhile gamble by Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
  • Terrell Owens averaged 22 yards per catch for 10 catches.  Chad Ochocinco only caught three balls, but those catches were probably even more valuable than any three of Owens’ save his 78 yard TD gamebreaker.
  • The Bengals will force the ball to Owens, just like every other team with Owens has forced the ball to him.
  • Cleveland is primarily a 2 WRs pro-style offense because with all the talent they have at the TE position, having the best blocking fullback in the NFL (Lee Vickers) and multiple valuable running backs, that’s four players they need to get on the field most every play.  3 WRs is a luxury the Browns only use in long yardage.
  • RB Peyton Hillis runs with great power and vision.  He’s not going to break long runs.  He’s also not as good as a blocker as you’d think for a guy who came into the league a fullback.
  • The Browns use Josh Cribbs as a wildcat QB in their “Flash” formation, and as a running back on early downs.  He’s an every play WR on this team, though certainly not their best player at the WR spot.  Not dissimilar to the Devin Hester effect of 2008 (increased use of the primary returner on offense), Cribbs averaged just 21 yards per kick return in this game and did not return any of three Bengals punts.
  • Owens beat Sheldon Brown badly on his 78 yard TD reception.  Brown lost his footing trying to find the ball.  The Browns dialed up a 7 man blitz against a shotgun/4 WR look from Cincinnati.  This is pretty much the exact reason that blitz call is a poor one in that situation.
  • The Browns were lucky to survive a 3rd & long interception from Seneca Wallace, who got picked off just trying to pick up 6 yards in a third and ten situation.  Leon Hall picked off a deflected pass.
  • Turn of this game: 3 straight incomplete passes from the CLE 26 for Palmer, then Cleveland blocked the field goal attempt, went down with the time the Bengals didn’t run off the clock and got a field goal.  A 6 point swing in a game that the Browns won by three.
  • Rookie CB Joe Haden has impressive instincts.  He guessed wrong on the aggressive side a few times in this game leading to some long passing plays to Owens, but it’s hard to not see how strong the Browns are going to be on the defensive edges in future seasons.
  • Ultimately, Palmer threw the ball impressively today, but the Bengals can’t protect him well enough to have a real dependable passing game.  Benson doesn’t run hard enough to be the lead back in their running game.  Finally, the big plays by the Bengals in this game were functions of aggressive mistakes by the Browns.  Good job taking what the defense will give you I suppose, but in a division with the Steelers and Ravens, that mentality gets you last place.
  • Outside of a scripted skinny post to Moore, the Browns just don’t have a receiver who averaged better than 12 yards a catch in this game.  Wallace throws the seams quite well, but that’s the only throw the Browns had in this game.  Your threat on the edges is Chansi Stuckey.  It was a disappointing week for Mohammad Massaquoi and Brian Robiske, who combined for 1 catch, 5 yards.  The Browns have been in all games this year because neither Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme has lost a fumble this year.  The Browns are in trouble if that trend cannot continue.
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