This will act as an unofficial plug for NFL Game Rewind, whose condensed version of games allows you to watch an entire NFL game in under 45 minutes. I took advantage of this feature yesterday just to get a glimpse at the Atlanta Falcons Week 2 opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.
I will now share with you some of my quick takes from what I saw in the Bengals Week 1 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens:
- The Bengals featured quite a bit of zone read option in their offense. Given the speed of running back Gio Bernard, and the fact that quarterback Andy Dalton is a lot more athletic than probably most people think, this makes sense. Given the Falcons historic problems with dealing with the zone read (watch any Falcons-Panthers game from 2011-12), this could be problematic on Sunday.
- I’m not sure if it was specific to their gameplan against the Ravens, but early in the game the Bengals featured a lot of passes and plays designed to attack the edges of the Ravens defense. Dalton threw a lot of passes outside the numbers and their running game seemed to feature a healthy amount of Bernard running outside the tackles.
- Dalton has been an easy punching bag over the years, particularly for his play in January. But he looked more than capable and able to manage the offense instituted by new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. The major bone of contention (if you’re a Bengals fan) is that the team struggled to convert third downs, leading to the Bengals settling for five field goals on their first six possessions. The Bengals only converted two of eight
- The Falcons tackling will be tested once again against Bernard. He’s a similar runner to Devonta Freeman, but with much better lateral quickness which makes him much more dangerous in the open field. He was heavily featured in the offense on Sunday, with eight targets in the air and 14 carries on the ground.
- Andrew Whitworth is surprisingly athletic given his size, as he’s listed at 6’7″ 330 pounds. There was a screen pass where he looked like a gazelle running downfield to pancake a linebacker. Osi Umenyiora is unlikely to have a big game against him.
- Center Russell Bodine got beat several times by Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams, suggesting that a veteran like Paul Soliai could be primed for a good performance. It could also be a matchup that Jonathan Babineaux and Malliciah Goodman exploit when they are on the field in the Falcons sub-packages.
- While the Bengals gameplan seemed to center around a lot of shorter, quick throws designed to get the ball out of Dalton’s hands and make his decision-making less of a factor in the outcome of the game, there still were enough deep shots to keep a defense concerned. Especially with A.J. Green on the field, as the deep ball always becomes a possibility. It was essentially what won the Bengals the game on Sunday. The Ravens had mostly been successful for the first 55 minutes of the game in containing Green, who only had five catches for 54 yards. But then his 77-yard game-winning touchdown crushed the Ravens hopes and dreams. The Falcons cornerbacks and safeties will have to be extra disciplined this week and not let him get behind them, which is easier said than done.
- Tight end Tyler Eifert had a nasty elbow dislocation on Sunday, and certainly won’t play football for awhile. Given the Falcons historic problems of covering tight ends, that should make things a little easier. Jermaine Gresham however remains, and while by no means a dynamic weapon in the passing game, he’s still a big, physical man. He’s more than capable of doing what he did last summer to Desmond Trufant against other Falcons defenders.
- Middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict left the Ravens game with a concussion after delivering a hit on Joe Flacco on a blitz. Burfict is the heart and soul of the Bengals defense and his possible absence from this week’s game could be a huge boon for the Falcons. Linebackers Rey Maualuga, Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur are solid players, but none are anywhere close to the caliber of playmaker that Burfict is, both against the run and pass.
- Geno Atkins and the Bengals pass rush will be another tough test for the Falcons offensive line. Atkins plays mostly at right defensive tackle, but they’ll move him around and both Justin Blalock and Jon Asamoah should see plenty of them. If he’s successful in collapsing the pocket and shooting gaps, Matt Ryan is unlikely to see the same level of success he had on Sunday with very little interior pressure.
- Wallace Gilberry made two key sacks to seal the Bengals win. He plays defensive end in their base set and inside at times in the nickel. Maybe it’s the No. 95 he wears, but Gilberry somewhat resembles a younger version of Babineaux. His emergence last year was a big reason why the Bengals were willing to letdefensive Michael Johnson walk in free agency.
- Carlos Dunlap size, burst and length can be problematic for lesser tackles. Ravens tackles Eugene Monroe and Rickey Wagner had no problems containing Dunlap on Sunday, but that doesn’t automatically mean the Falcons tackles will fare the same.
There’s a good chance I’ll take a more thorough dive into the Bengals via Game Rewind to break down some key matchups later this week, but I thought these dozen impressions were worth sharing for the time being.