30 Nov 2006
The Bengals and Ravens are playing in tonight's NFL Network game (now available to 3% of American cable subscribers!). It just so happens that last night, while filling holes in our game charting data, I did the first half of the first Bengals-Ravens game, back in Week 9. I thought I would share some notes on things to look for tonight.
Samari Rolle was usually in man coverage on Chad Johnson and was giving him a cushion larger than Terrell Owens' ego. I wonder if this has anything to do with that early charting data, which indicated that Rolle has been giving up a ton of huge plays this season. Do the coaches see that he's declined, and move him back so he won't get beat deep? Is he actually playing zone, but he's just really bad at it? It's always hard to tell without knowing what the actual play calls are.
The Bengals like to run a defensive play where they start by rushing four, but after two steps, right defensive tackle John Thornton will drop into coverage. I noticed this play three times; the Ravens caught two of those three passes, each for nine yards. One of them was a great example of two teams thinking entirely different things. Third-and-6, and the Bengals rush three after Thornton has dropped off. The Ravens are in an empty backfield set but leave both tight ends back to block in max protect, so you have three rushing seven. Somehow, even though there are eight defenders in zone coverage and only three receivers, Steve McNair finds Michael Clayton standing right in front of linebacker Andre Frazier for a first down.
The Bengals like to use tight end Reggie Kelly as a fullback. Sometimes he's a straight-out fullback. Other times he's in a position that I guess is supposed to be H-back, but he's farther back from the offensive line than other H-backs I've seen. In the charting data, I've been marking that as offset I-formation. I can't tell if it is supposed to be two-TE or not. These are the things that try the souls of game charters.
This is the last game where Carson Palmer's mechanics still seem to be a little off because of the knee surgery. He sailed some passes badly by throwing slightly too soon and lifting his foot when he felt pass pressure. Chad Johnson made a leaping catch on one of them for a 15-yard gain. From Week 10 on, Palmer's been back to his fabulous 2005 self.
Rudi Johnson's blitz pickup in this game was terrible, just awful. He led directly to one sack and one play where Bart Scott whacked Palmer big time. Scott is awesome, he was everywhere in this game. He should get some Defensive Player of the Year talk, as should Adalius Thomas.
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?