The Bengals A.J. Green went off against the Dolphins on Thursday night, catching 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. His most exciting moment in a game full of highlight plays occurred about half way through the first quarter. Quarterback Andy Dalton evaded the Dolphins ferocious pass rush, scrambled to his left and delivered a beautiful pass to Green while on the run. On the other end of the pass, Green leaped over corner Xavien Howard and came down with an athletic catch for a 51 yard gain.
Cincinnati ran the same play here that they ran week one for a deep touchdown to Green, and yet again executed it near perfectly.
Just like against the Jets, the success of the play depended on Brandon LaFell attracting the safety’s attention. Miami Saftey Reshad Jones was forced to step up into coverage in order to cover LaFell’s crossing route over the middle, and was not available to help over the top. LaFell had so much space, though, because majority of the Dolphins players that backed into coverage were not covering anyone.
The Dolphins stacked 8 players in the box pre-snap, including safety Isa Abdul-Quddus. Both Neville Hewitt and Kiko Alonso dropped into shallow zone coverage, but the only two receivers that ran routes on the play were way too deep for either to be a factor on the play. Edge rushed Jason Jones also dropped back to contain Dalton on the offenses right side in case he scrambled.
Miami attempted to overload the right side of the Bengals pass protecting, rushing four, while only sending Ndamukong Suh on the left side. The right side of the Bengals line was excellent on the play, holding back the rush, and running back Gio Bernard managed to deflect Abdul-Quddus.
Bernard’s block turned out to be crucial to the plays success. Suh quickly did away with Cedric Ogbuehi on the other side of the line, and Tight End Tyler Kroft was distracted by Jones. Suh would have had a free run at Dalton, if not for a block by Ryan Hewitt, who lined up as a Fullback on the play. Hewitt quickly turned around after seeing Abdul-Quddus dispatched by Bernard and managed to throw a crucial block on Suh. Dalton stepped up in the pocket,having space in front of him as the entire Dolphins front eight was now behind him and heaved it towards Green.
The biggest error on the play, though, was made by Dolphins corner Tony Lippet. Lippet is lined up about ten yards in front of LaFell when the ball is snapped, and right at the start of the play immediately begins to drop back. This is understandable as the Dolphins were playing zone coverage, but he should have come forward once he realized the LaFell was running a shallow route. He reacts way too late and removes himself from the play, forcing the Dolphins lone deep safety Jones to move further up the field to cover LaFell, allowing Green single coverage down the sideline. The coverage from the front seven, by Alonso, Jones and Hewit also takes some fault here. Jones may have been playing to contain Dalton but the two linebackers dropped back to cover nobody. They were way to shallow to cover any of the Bengals receivers, and were barley even a part of the play.
For the second time in three weeks the Bengals have had a huge play on the same play call. Both times it was due to a member of the teams secondary reacting late, springing Green free deep. Green is one of the more athletic receivers in the NFL, and can beat almost anyone in single coverage downfield. Saftey’s need to be more aware of Green on deep fade routes, but they need to depend on the coverage up the field to cover more shallow routes if they want the ability to freely drop back in coverage. A team as good as the Bengals will take advantage of any mistake an opponent makes, even if it’s just a corner dropping a few too many steps back.
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