The Bengals host the San Diego Chargers at 1 p.m. Sunday in the home-opener at Paul Brown Stadium while looking to stay unbeaten and atop the AFC North Division standings, where the Browns, Ravens and Steelers share the bottom, all with 0-1 records following season-opening losses.
“We are looking forward to the Chargers. When you say their name, Philip Rivers comes to everyone’s mind," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "He had a ball game last week that shows how good he is. He’s big in the pocket, and has great command of what they want to do offensively, both with the run and pass. They were pretty balanced, running the ball 30 times and throwing it 42."
Lewis said the Chargers' talent doesn't end there.
“With their defensive group, big linemen -- Corey Liuget inside, and Melvin Ingram -- two explosive guys. And a very veteran safety back there (Jaheel Addae), who understands how to play the game. He does a nice job of getting himself in both coverage positions."
On offense, the Chargers use a lot of three-wide sets while deploying standout receiver Keenan Allen, putting the onus on the Bengals' pass-covering linebackers and the secondary.
“We’re going to have different coverages. You’re going to have coverages that are man-to-man, zone coverages, pressures, and different variations of things," Lewis said. "The important thing is we have to tackle the catch. We have to have proper leverage, good angles, and tackle the catch if the ball happens to be completed. Last week (against Oakland) we were in good leverages, good angles, which makes it easier to tackle the catch. We have to continue doing that.
"What you did last week doesn’t get you much the next week. It’s something to build upon or correct, but you have to go out and restart every week.”
Lewis said the Bengals' 2013 Wild Card playoff loss is a distant memory, but that was the last time Cincinnati hosted San Diego, so the memory of the stinging loss for some is still fresh: “Well, it was a disappointing game," the coach said. "But we spend a lot of time talking about the past. Let’s talk about the Chargers here now. We’re not going to get any asterisks here this week for that. This is a new opportunity coming forward.”
Lewis indicated that the playoff loss to the Chargers may or may not be used as additional motivation for the Bengals.
“Emotion goes out of the way once the first blow is thrown," the coach said. "Hopefully we are motivated to have a great week of preparation. That’s the key element; we stick to our process, take care of our business the right way, and scores take care of themselves.”
The coach said that there are different challenges in preparing for a veteran quarterback like Rivers.
“In Rivers, you have an experienced guy who is not going to be rattled, who has been in these huddles and understands the adjustments that may occur," said Lewis. "Hopefully, we take them off-course and they have to alter their plan, and we continue to stay one step ahead. With his experience, there’s nothing that he hasn’t been through already. We have to do a good job of executing and keeping him off balance.”
When asked if Rivers has any tendencies the Bengals can exploit, Lewis said: “Quarterbacks read coverage; they don’t like to do certain things. They read coverage, and the route develops and flows where the ball should go. You have to figure out where they’ve been coached to throw the football, where the read is, where the key is, and where the ball should go."
A key for Cincinnati is this type of QB is nothing new for the Bengals. They have seen Rivers' kind before.
“He’s similar to the guys we play in our division. He’s a lot like Ben (Roethlisberger), (Joe) Flacco, and those big tall guys," Lewis said. "Ben can stand in there and deliver an accurate throw with pressure all around him. He’ll move in the pocket, throw the ball underarm; he’s got a lot of ability to throw the football accurately under pressure. You see Rivers all the time, he makes an accurate throw when he’s not able to get his feet into the throw. Last week they played out of no-huddle the second half, and he did an excellent job of mixing the run with the pass.”