How the Bengals can beat the Chiefs

Maybe the very best factor the Cincinnati Bengals can do to beat the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC Championship recreation is to… nicely, present up and do what they’ve finished earlier than. The Bengals have famously crushed the Chiefs in every of their final three matchups, and in every of these video games, defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s halftime changes (which exist, it doesn’t matter what Peyton Manning says) have made life pure hell for Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes’ first-half/second-half and time beyond regulation splits in these three losses, together with final season’s loss in final season’s AFC Championship recreation, couldn’t be rather more stark.

Mahomes within the first halves: 43 completions in 57 makes an attempt (75.4%) for 503 yards (8.8 yards per try), 267 air yards (4.7 yards per try), six touchdowns, no interceptions, one sack, 19 pressures, and a passer ranking of 136.8.

Mahomes within the second halves/OT: 25 completions in 44 makes an attempt (56.8%) for 253 yards (5.8 yards per try), 129 air yards (2.9 air yards per try), no touchdowns,  two interceptions, 5 sacks, 20 pressures, and a passer ranking of 54.5.

Anarumo will little doubt have every kind of bear traps for Mahomes in Sunday’s recreation, and that course of will likely be accentuated to a higher or lesser diploma by how a lot mobility Mahomes has with the excessive ankle sprain he suffered within the divisional spherical towards the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Anarumo-Mahomes battle is the obvious deciding tilt on this recreation. If the Bengals are to beat the Chiefs for the fourth straight time, and head to their second straight Tremendous Bowl, they’ll additionally must observe these specific bullet factors.

Remove Chris Jones in any respect prices.

(Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports activities)

There are a handful of gamers who can lay declare to the title of “Greatest Defensive Sort out within the NFL,” and Kansas Metropolis’s Chris Jones is actually considered one of them. No inside defensive lineman has created extra offensive havoc than Jones from 0-technique (head up over the middle) to 3-tech (aligned to the guard’s exterior shoulder) In these alignments, Jones has 9 solo sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 26 quarterback hurries, and eight knockdowns.

However in Week 13 towards the Bengals, Jones had no sacks, no quarterback hits, and simply two quarterback hurries on 61 snaps. Why? As a result of Cincinnati’s offensive line handled him as a protection would deal with Travis Kelce or Ja’Marr Chase — they doubled and tripled him time and again and took their probabilities with all people else. Jones was at the least double-teamed on 25 snaps, and although he acquired each of his quarterback hurries towards doubles, it was not the sport Jones would have most well-liked.

Now, there are occasions with Jones the place you’ll be able to align a number of blockers towards him, and it simply doesn’t matter. Jones virtually acquired to Joe Burrow on this play with 2:05 left within the fourth quarter by cruising previous middle Ted Karras and left guard Cordell Volson. George Karlaftis acquired the sack, however Jones was proper behind him.

So, stress numbers aren’t at all times indicative of a participant’s impact on an offense. Jones is a one-man wrecking crew regardless of what number of blockers you placed on him, and the Bengals — particularly with their injury-depleted offensive line — will likely be nicely conscious of that. Eliminating Jones completely as an element is wishful pondering – the very best the Bengals can so, as was the case earlier within the season, is to restrict the harm to an inexpensive quantity.

Run the Chiefs proper out of their very own constructing.

(Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports activities)

Talking of that injury-depleted Bengals offensive line, that group placed on a grasp class in run recreation range and blocking method towards the Payments within the divisional spherical. Cappa, left deal with Jonah Williams, and proper deal with La’el Collins had been all out, and Karras was dinged up within the recreation. However Cincinnati ran everywhere in the Payments’ protection for 172 yards, and Joe Burrow was sacked simply as soon as, with 12 pressures on his 39 dropbacks.

It was a efficiency that offensive line coach Frank Pollack took personally for his gamers.

“That’s the story of the NFL,” Pollack said on Wednesday. “They need drama. We’re on the earth of 24-hour information cycle, drama, actuality TV. All this rubbish that promotes all that. However it will get the rankings, it will get the eyeballs and that’s all good for the league from a enterprise perspective. However for the group, you must tune out the noise. It’s all rubbish, it’s crap. You’ve acquired to tune it out, keep centered and all that issues is the boys within the locker room.

“And our guys took that message this week and did an impressive job. I’m actually happy with them.”

Like most offensive line coaches, Pollack has no filter, which is at all times pleasant. And he had some extent relating to his line in that recreation. Joe Mixon beat that Payments for 105 yards and a landing on 20 carries, and the methods by which Cincinnati’s like blocked issues up for him was, in a phrase, marvelous.

That screencap was from Mixon’s 10-yard run with 13:15 left within the first quarter. Mixon merely adopted the parting of the Pink Sea, and walloped security Jordan Energy on the finish of the play for good measure.

The entire “Preserve Patrick Mahomes off the sector by working the ball” is usually a idiot’s errand due to the Chiefs’ explosive potential, however the Bengals are one group who can pin you to the bench with clever smashmouth, after which match you massive play for large play.

With that, it’s previous time to debate the Bengals’ quarterback, as a result of that Joe Burrow man is fairly good.

Lean on Joe Burrow’s Brady-esque pocket motion.

(Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports activities)

To rely the attributes that make Burrow particular is to design the near-perfect quarterback. However one factor that has stood out to me earlier than, and it was gobsmackingly apparent towards the Payments, is Burrow’s pocket motion. Not escaping the pocket, however the extra nuanced ability of managing a 4 foot-by four-foot sq., and evading stress to make big-time throws. Tom Brady is the very best pocket mover in professional soccer historical past — I don’t assume there’s a variety of debate there — however the stuff Burrow did towards the Payments was equally freaky.

It began early towards the Payments.

Burrow’s total technique was easy however efficient: If stress got here from the perimeters, he’d transfer up within the pocket and feather throws to his receivers. If stress got here proper up the center, he’d grasp again, transfer round, achieve that additional break up millisecond, and beat the protection with one other well timed go.

Burrow’s 28-yard landing go to Ja’Marr Chase with 11:48 left within the first quarter was a case by which Burrow was pressured from the sting AND inside. It’s fairly irritating for a protection to do the whole lot proper, solely to observe a quarterback break up the void between two pass-rushers able to get house…

…after which, he does this.

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is greater than conscious of Burrow’s predilection for defensive annoyance in these issues.

“Whenever you watch him, he simply is – the phrase I give you is nifty,” Spagnuolo stated of Burrow on Thursday. “He by no means panics within the pocket. It looks like he’s acquired like six eyeballs round his head. Severely. We watched them final evening, [Defensive Line Coach] Joe [Cullen] and I had been watching him. There’s a rusher coming in, it appears to be like like he’s going to get him, and Joe didn’t do very a lot however he made a transfer, by no means misplaced steadiness, took a pair steps, threw the ball downfield.

“Yeah, he’s elite. You’ve acquired to be extra underneath management is the one factor I may say. We’ve labored on that. And but, when you attempt to rush managed an excessive amount of, you’ll by no means get there, proper? However it’s each methods. We’ve acquired to cowl actually good on the again finish to provide our go rushers time, after which we’ve acquired to discover a option to end him. Getting extra guys there, I imply, you wish to get as many guys there as you’ll be able to. It’s onerous for one man.”

Understanding the issue is Step 1. Stopping it on this case might be rather more troublesome. Hurrying Burrow is like punching Rocky Balboa — you’re simply amping him up. You both knock Burrow out (figuratively talking, after all), or he’s simply going to maintain coming at you.

Double Travis Kelce, however be careful for his buddies.

(Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports activities)

In the companion piece detailing what the Chiefs must do to beat the Bengals, I made the somewhat self-evident level that when you cowl Ja’Marr Chase with only one defender, your protection goes to pay for it. Effectively, no duh, Doug. The Chiefs even have a pressure multiplier who defenses should contemplate doubling always, and that concentrate on is Travis Kelce.

Again in Week 13, the Bengals had a transparent understanding of the risk Kelce could be, and so they did issues that had been much like what the Chiefs did to Chase. Whether or not it was going all out after him on a easy display…

Kelce completed that recreation with 4 catches on six targets for 56 yards and no touchdowns, which is as constructive a end result as any protection can count on.

After all — and that is additionally true of Ja’Marr Chase — the issue with paying too a lot consideration to Kelce is that you simply’re leaving one-on-ones for everyone else. The Chiefs took benefit of this on their game-deciding landing towards the Jaguars within the divisional spherical. With 7:13 left within the fourth quarter, and the rating 20-17 Chiefs, safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Andre Cisco doubled Kelce over the center from the Jacksonville six-yard line. That allowed Marquez Valdes-Scantling to beat cornerback Tyson Campbell on the crosser to the tip zone.

The Chiefs produce other estimable targets, simply because the Bengals have Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and tight finish Austin Hooper when you determine to throw too many sources on the No. 1 man. It’s a steadiness, however every group has one receiver you single up at your peril, and right here’s the place Cincinnati’s protection can have its eyes.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire

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