For that matter, the 2012 Bengals present a near reflection of the Cowboys’ balanced offensive system cemented in place by Jimmy Johnson and Norv Turner in the early 90’s.
Let me clarify just a bit, the Bengals offense is the poor man’s version of the early 90’s Cowboys. They are a respectable bunch no doubt, yet their NFL ranking in scoring (15), rushing (13), and passing (13) all fall outside the top 10 in the league.
Along with the similarities in how their offense finds production, it also provides the Dallas defense with a blueprint on how to defeat them. Sounds great, but as always it’s easier said than done.
Below is a look at the several similarities between this Bengals offense and the early 90’s Cowboys, and also what needs to take place defensively to give Dallas the best chance of winning.
EFFICIENT, POCKET-PASSER QUARTERBACK
What the Bengals ask of quarterback Andy Dalton is very similar to how Dallas used Troy Aikman. Neither is asked to leave the pocket much as they are not threatening scramblers. And neither is expected to put up eye-popping passing totals.
What they are asked to do is command the offense, spread the ball around effectively, and be very efficient with their passing. In only his second season in the NFL, Andy Dalton has begun to impressively take command of his offense.
Dalton has both a respectable QB rating of 91.3, and also an efficient completion percentage of 63.4%. Even more impressive is his protection of the football as he’s recorded 24 TD’s while only surrendering 13 INTs.
To have a much higher chance of beating the Bengals, the Dallas defense must make Dalton uncomfortable and somewhat inconsistent.
When his QB rating is above 96, his team’s record is 6-0. When below 96 they are just 1-5. Rattling Dalton is a big key to victory.
When defenses have allowed Dalton to throw 62% or better completions, the Bengals are 5-1. Anything below 62% and they are 2-4. The key for Dallas is to get him out of rhythm. Make Dalton struggle some with the completions and shake his confidence. It’s very apparent when the young redhead is on fire, opposing teams get burned on the final scoreboard.
WORKHORSE RUNNING BACK
In no way is BenJarvus Green Ellis remotely in the same category as the legendary Emmitt Smith, yet he is having a very effective year. With 4 games remaining, he has already totaled 885 yards, 11th most in the league.
The main similarity between he and Smith is in the way they are used as workhorses for their offenses. Green-Ellis has started all 12 games this season and has carried the rock 226 times.
To put this into perspective, the running back with the second most rushing attempts is Cedric Peerman with 31. Clearly BGE is the Bengals’ man on the ground, and they expect him to carry the load every week.
What the Dallas defense must do is limit his effectiveness. It’s not necessary to shut him down, just limit his total to a modest number.
For instance, when BGE rushes for 75 yards or greater, the Bengals are 5-1. Anything below 75 yards, and they drop to 2-4.
Along those lines, Dallas must also make sure he has no very big gains on one carry. When BGE rips off a rush that is 15 yards or greater in a game, Cincinnati has a record of 4-1. When Green-Ellis records his longest rush of the game at below 15 yards, Cincy becomes a below average 3-4 team.
BIG, DOMINATING WIDE RECEIVER
I hate to say it, but A.J. Green can give Michael Irvin a run for his money in terms of talent and production. This monster (6’4, 207) has the total package of size, speed, and ability to get open. Green currently ranks 6th in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,107, yet also leads the entire league with 10 TD’s.
When Green records greater than 85 yards in a game the Bengals are an imposing 6-2. When Green is held in check below 85 yards, Cincy falls off dramatically to 1-3.
This highly conflicting stat screams to make another wide receiver beat you. The next wide receiver below Green is Andrew Hawkins with a modest 441 yards on the year.
Simply force Hawkins and the tight end to try to beat the defense in the passing game.
What happens when Green gets loose and records a reception of 40 yards or greater in a game? Cincinnati has a team record of 5-1. When a defense can take the big play away from him and keep his long below 40 yards, the Bengals are 2-4. By all means double up on A.J. Green and give the team a solid chance to win.
TIGHT END SERVES AS SECOND RECEIVER
Just as the early 90’s Cowboys relied heavily on tight end Jay Novacek to be their second leading receiver, the Bengals look to tight end Jermaine Gresham to fill the same shoes.
I’d absolutely want Andy Dalton relying on Gresham, and the rest of the receiving crew who are far behind A.J. Green’s prowess. When Gresham has a big day, it really doesn’t correlate much with wins.
For example, if the big tight end catches over 60 yards in a game, Cincy has a record of 2-3. His highest game total by far of 108 receiving yards took place during an 8-point loss to Denver.
This week the Dallas defense will seek to contain Cincinnati’s own version of the Triplets. Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and A.J. Green are the crucial cogs in this offense. Just like the early 90’s Cowboys, whenever Cincy needs a second receiving option, the tight end Gresham is where they likely turn.
Dallas must force Andy Dalton out of a solid rhythm and prevent him from reaching 62% completions. With Jay Ratliff back this week, the Cowboys should have a fighting chance at limiting Green-Ellis.
With A.J. Green, Rob Ryan must realize the need to continuously provide help to the opposing CB. To hold Green under 85 receiving yards and without a huge gain would skyrocket the chances for stealing a victory.
I feel Dallas will play a respectable game defensively, but still endure troublesome, costly moments facing such a balanced offense. With the capable Cincinnati defense holding down the inconsistent Cowboys offense quite a bit, the extra offensive possessions will help the Bengals tremendously.
When the smoke clears, I have to lean towards the resurgent Bengals taking the win at home, finally overcoming a game Cowboys effort.
CINCINNATI 26, DALLAS 23