Bengals at Chiefs: 10 Keys to the Game for Cincinnati
Kansas City comes into the game with a 1-8 record, and until last week had not held a lead in regulation over the previous eight games.
But as bad as the Chiefs have looked, they are a dangerous squad with their backs against the wall and nothing to lose. Bengals fans should know the feeling.
The keys to winning this game are similar to nearly every game. Last week, Cincinnati hit nearly every one of my keys and the result was a blowout win over the Giants.
What do the Bengals have to do this week?
Let’s take a look.
Build on Momentum
Now that the losing skid is over, the Bengals need to keep the momentum going.
Starting with this game their next three matchups are all suddenly very winnable games, and a four-game winning streak will put Cincinnati back in the playoff hunt.
But it starts in Kansas City, a place the Bengals have traditionally struggled. But no team in the NFL has struggled like the Chiefs this year.
Cincinnati must take the lessons learned from last week’s big win and continue to play with the same urgency this week.
The key to knocking off any underdog is to strike quickly.
Last week, the Bengals scored two quick touchdowns against New York and stole the momentum from the Super Bowl champs.
A repeat performance will be key this week.
Strike quickly, take the fans out of the game and cruise to the win.
Put Them Away
And while we’re at it, put them away.
The Bengals have held fourth-quarter leads in three of their five losses this season, an unacceptable statistic for any team that considers itself a playoff contender.
If the Bengals have a two-score lead in the fourth quarter this week, the Chiefs will fold.
If it's a one-possession game, Kansas City may come back for the upset.
Don’t allow that to happen.
Win the Turnover Battle
Turnovers are always one of the biggest keys in the NFL.
Simply put, force more turnovers than you give up, and chances are you will win.
Nowhere is that more important than on the road against a weak opponent.
Kansas City has a razor-thin margin of error, and a couple of turnovers early could end the game.
On the other hand, if you turn the ball over early, the momentum swings to the underdog.
After that, you’re in for a battle.
Andy Dalton said he spent the bye week looking at his mechanics, and the adjustments obviously worked.
The second-year quarterback finally returned to form with a nice game against the Giants.
The NFL is a quarterback league, and no team can win consistently without a good one.
Dalton will never be Peyton Manning, but he is a smart, accurate passer who usually makes the right decisions. He didn’t for much of the losing streak.
He needs his strong play to carry over from last week.
I have been harping on the need for a second receiver to step up and provide relief for Green all season, and this week is no different.
But this is a game Green can dominate.
The Chiefs are ninth in the league against the pass, but have allowed 18 touchdowns through the air, the third-highest total among the 32 teams.
Simply put, Kansas City has nobody that can guard Green one-on-one, and it can’t afford to devote too much attention to him in the form of double teams.
Expect a big game from A.J.
Stop the Run
One area in which Kansas City does excel is running the ball.
The Chiefs are averaging 149 yards per game on the ground, the fourth-best total in the league.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, is 20th against the run and has struggled at times against better-than-average backs.
The only chance the Chiefs have in this game is to control the line of scrimmage and the time of possession, and that comes from a stout running attack.
If Kansas City is able to run the ball at will, it changes the Bengals’ defensive philosophy.
Cincy must take the running game away early on.
Pressure Matt Cassel
To say that Matt Cassel has struggled is putting it mildly.
The Chiefs’ signal-caller has a quarterback rating of 66.6 while completing just 58 percent of his passes.
He has thrown for six touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The Bengals need to get to Cassel early and often, forcing him into mistakes that they can then turn to their advantage.
Cincinnati punished Eli Manning last week, and the result was an easy win.
Do so again this week, and the Chiefs’ rushing attack will be rendered inert.
Win Special Teams
Special teams always gets lost in these kinds of discussions, but they are every bit as important as offense and defense.
Ask any Bengal fan how important they are, as Adam Jones nearly took the ball to the house on a punt return last week.
Teams that struggle usually do so because of special teams. Kansas City fans have watched in horror as field goals have gone wide, a big reason why the Chiefs’ are 1-8.
Win the special teams battle and you win the war.
Play Like the Underdog
With Cleveland and Miami, the Bengals tensed up and suffered losses that may come back to bite them.
Against the Giants, Cincinnati was loose and saved its season.
If the Bengals approach this game not as the favorite but as a team that needs the win, they will have a much better chance.
Cincinnati has always played down to their competition.
They need to avoid that pitfall this week by channeling the same underdog attitude as last week.
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