Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Keys to a Week 5 Win over Miami Dolphins
After a brutal Week 1 performance against their AFC North rival the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals started a steady climb out of obscurity. They have quietly strung together three straight wins and sit at the 3-1 mark headed into their Week 5 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
Certain aspects of Cincinnati’s game plan and team philosophy seem to have changed over the course of the last three weeks. These changes have catapulted the Bengals into becoming a more steadfast team. These same changes that have been implicated are also the keys to their success in Week 5.
Let’s take a look at the aspects of the Bengals that have become not only the keys for winning their past three games, but quite possibly, the keys to making yet another playoff run in the 2012 season.
1. Aerial Attack
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The first thing that has been so very important for the Bengals thus far is the emergence of their newfound aerial attack. Quarterback Andy Dalton along with top receiver A.J. Green have been the standouts this season and continue to play at a very high level.
After Dalton’s Week 1 performance where he racked up a mere 65.3 passer rating, he has come back strong with ratings of 128.2, 132.9 (career high) and a 96.7 in his past three games.
More importantly, he did not throw a touchdown pass in Week 1 and has now thrown eight over the last three weeks. He has eclipsed the 200-yard mark in each game this season which is something that he did not do consistently in his rookie campaign last year.
A huge factor for Dalton’s success is the development of wide receiver A.J. Green. Green was recently named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month and has the stats to prove it. Green now has 428 yards this season while averaging 15.9 yards per catch.
If the Bengals can keep up this kind of effective attack through the air early and often they can avoid falling into holes early on and passing out of necessity later in games. This is the first key to success in Week 5: Start strong through the air and build an early lead.
2. Rushing Defense
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Going along hand-in-hand with their aerial assault, the Bengals defense, in turn, will need to stop the Dolphins rushing attack led by Reggie Bush. This is crucial to the Bengals being able to start strong as they need to get their offense back on the field quickly.
Last week, the Bengals found their defense against the run while holding Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew to only 38 yards rushing. This will need to continue in Week 5 as Miami will want to control the clock by giving Reggie Bush early carries.
If the Bengals can start strong on offense and halt Miami’s running game, they will be able to build an early lead which will force the hand of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Last week, this was a very effective strategy against Blaine Gabbert of the Jaguars.
When the opposing quarterback is threatened with the need to throw to stay in a game, he will be more susceptible to errant passes and forced balls down field. This will allow the Bengals secondary to feast on any passes that happen to come their way.
3. Quarterback Pressure
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Upon the return of defensive end Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals pass rush has been revitalized. Cincinnati recorded a total of six sacks in their first two games with Dunlap ailing. Now that he is healthy, they have recorded 11 sacks in their last two games giving them a league-high 17.
Sacks are not the only important factor in an effective pass rush. Quarterback pressures prove to be just as effective. Pressuring the quarterback reduces the time for his receivers’ routes to develop or forces an errant, off-balance pass.
These are very crucial points for the Bengals defense. Their secondary, although mostly healthy this week, are still a work-in-progress. They have not gelled as a unit yet and allow easy receptions to mediocre receivers.
Added pressure to the quarterback will certainly help this decimated Bengals secondary as they should not need to hold their coverage quite as long. This has also been effective for the Bengals over the past two weeks and will need to continue this week for a chance at success.
4. Offensive Line
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One of the largest factors (well, five of them) this week is the Bengals offensive line. They have been very solid this season in pass protection and about average in the run-blocking category.
The line has allowed Dalton’s jersey to remain clean for the most part as they have only allowed 12 sacks this season. Keeping pressure off of Dalton has been a key to the success of the Bengals revamped aerial attack.
Although, as good as they are at pass protection, they seem to be equally as poor while run-blocking. Lanes have not opened up easily for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis this season as he struggles with a mere 3.5 yards per carry.
This offensive line needs to work together and dig deeper in the trenches. They have not been very forceful up front in the trenches and have been pushed back off of their blocks regularly.
The Bengals passing game relies mainly on play-action and that can not be achieved without a solid rushing game to keep defenses honest. The line needs to show a better presence in run blocking to become more of a complete, dynamic offense that will keep the Dolphins defense on their heels.
5. Game Management
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Game management is a rather broad category but there have been things that have happened out of the ordinary for the Cincinnati Bengals this season.
Head coach Marvin Lewis seems to have gained some faith in his offense as he has allowed them to attempt multiple fourth-and-short situations.
Lewis has also kept his finger on the trigger all season long as he no longer seems content to run out the clock too early while maintaining a lead. He has also used his challenges sparingly and has not wasted any valuable timeouts due to bad judgment.
All of these things are new to Cincinnati Bengals fans in 2012. If Marvin Lewis can keep his head cool and maintain this type of efficiency with his football team, it could provide the much needed boost to finally play at a higher level.
If the Bengals can string together these five aspects of their game this coming Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, they have a very high probability of achieving a 4-1 record through the first five games of the season.