The Bengals play six games per season against 3-4 defenses in the AFC North alone, so they know some of the subtle ways to combat the attacking style that's a hallmark of defenses coordinated by Dom Capers and his ilk.
So, all of the shifting and motion and unbalanced lines that the Bengals' offense ran on Sunday were more than mere window dressing.
"Part of the purpose for doing that offensively is to give the defense more to think about," Capers said after watching film on Monday. "Because the general theory is, the more the guys have to think about, you might slow them down a little bit because they're thinking rather than playing full speed. I think you can probably make a case for, early in the game, that maybe we were doing a little too much thinking and not enough reacting. We've got to do a better job of making sure we're on top of things with great communication."
While it would be overboard to suggest the Bengals' offense knew the Packers' defense better than the Packers' defense knew the Packers' defense, the Bengals' subtle use of pre-snap movement took some starch out of Green Bay's plan. And when the Bengals' Cedric Benson got off and running with three consecutive 12-yard carries on the first drive of the game — running through the vertical seams that Capers' scheme is designed to prevent — it was as if the Green Bay defense had been kicked in the gut.
"I think our reaction has been that of a fast defense," Capers said. "I see us as a fast, reactive defense. What you don't want to do is you don't want to be playing back on your heels to where they're taking the fight to you. I think that through the preseason and the first regular-season game, I thought that we had a lot of the offenses on their heels. It was a little bit of a reverse yesterday. It's all based off of your ability to go out and be stout and stop the run."
Nick Collins holds on against Cedric Benson.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Nonetheless, the problems that plagued the run defense on Sunday weren't all that different than what went wrong last season. Gap control and pad level, the watch words of last season, were the same terms used by Capers. Against the Bengals, the players who helped control the Bears' Matt Forte — defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, for instance — were the same ones getting pushed around by a Bengals offensive line missing two of its preferred starters.
"Things have to fit together like a glove," Capers said. "Everybody has certain gap responsibilities and certain techniques that they have to play those gaps with. You have to play with good pad level, be able to play blocks, get off blocks, and you've got to be able to tackle. Quite frankly, we didn't tackle well enough yesterday."
They'll have to do better this week. The Rams have been awful on offense this season with seven points in two games, but explosive Steven Jackson has rushed for 171 yards with a gaudy 5.2-yard average. If they can't stop Jackson, then they won't be able to attack quarterback Marc Bulger, who's absorbed 38 sacks per season over the last six years even while missing a full season's worth of games — 16 — during that span.
"We've said from the very beginning that the No. 1 thing we have to do is you get tagged as a blitz team and you get all of the blitz things going and everybody loves to do that, but if you don't do the other, you aren't going to be blitzing at all," Capers said.
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