The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off of their bye week after three consecutive losses to the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. The 3-4 Bengals are at home this week against Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos (4-3).
It seems to be a must-win scenario for Cincinnati, as this season has quickly turned ugly. Trying to turn around their season against a Peyton Manning team is much easier said than done.
Manning is 7-0 for his career against the Bengals and has the stats to prove it. He has thrown for 1,827 yards at a 65.5 completion percentage along with 17 touchdowns against only three interceptions for a passer rating of 107.8.
Manning has been red hot of late as he has thrown for three touchdown passes in his last four consecutive games. In those four games he has thrown only one interception and has posted a passer rating of over 115 in each contest.
Considering his past against Cincinnati and how well he has been playing lately, this seems like a very daunting task for this Bengals team in Week 9.
So what can the Bengals do to slow down the onslaught that is Peyton Manning?
One key dynamic to Manning’s offense is his running game. Running back Willis McGahee has been great in the Denver system for the past couple of years. In fact, the only back who has posted more 100-yard games in the past season-and-a-half is the Houston Texans Arian Foster.
Only one time this season have the Broncos lost a game when McGahee ran for over 100 yards. Once McGahee gets moving, it opens up play-action passing, which Manning utilizes to perfection.
In addition to not allowing a huge game overall to McGahee, the Bengals need to contain him on first-down situations. They cannot afford five-yard carries on first down and let Manning pick them apart for second- or third-and-short situations.
Attempting to keep Denver one-dimensional will be one huge factor in determining the Bengals success in Week 9.
Still, even when the Broncos are forced to throw every down, they can put points on the board against any NFL defense. This makes it very crucial for the Bengals offense to come out hot.
This matchup will be won by outdueling Manning, not by stopping him. Andy Dalton and company are going to have to come out very strong to keep pace with the dynamic Manning.
This does not mean that the Bengals need to take deep shots down the field to A.J. Green from the beginning of the game, however (although it is something they should do on occasion). Cincinnati needs to utilize the running game and sustain long drives to keep Manning off the field and give their defense a rest.
Conditioning for the Bengals defense this week will be very important. Manning runs a no-huddle offense better than any quarterback in the NFL, and this will not allow substitutions for the Bengals defense.
Being that the same defensive players will be on the field for a longer period of time than usual, the Bengals offense will not be able to afford many three-and-outs.
The Bengals secondary has not been stellar this season, and Manning will likely be able to pick them apart this week. It is important for safeties to hold their ground and not allow big plays over the top. They need to make Manning drive the length of the field and hope for a miscue.
Containing Manning in the pocket will not be an issue this week as he is not a mobile quarterback. However, getting pressure on him will be crucial as he relies on timing routes with his receivers, and forcing him to throw earlier than he wants can lead to errant passes.
Bengals linebackers will need to step up in coverage this week as well. Manning relies heavily on his tight ends and running backs on check-down throws, so Cincinnati linebackers will need to stay tight in coverage to limit yards after the catch.
Finally, the Bengals coaching staff will need to keep making adjustments during the game on Sunday. Aside from being a great quarterback, Manning is also an offensive coordinator on the field and can check in to different packages and protection schemes based on what he sees across the line of scrimmage.
Head coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will have to do a great job disguising blitz packages and keep Manning guessing. If Manning gets a good read on what the defense is trying to do, he could make them pay dearly.
This will certainly be an uphill battle for the Bengals in their attempt to get back to .500 for the season. They have had a good amount of time to prepare over their bye week and need to be in top form to compete with the future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.