I think the Bengal defense is vastly underrated and underappreciated. The single best in-game coaching adjustments I’ve seen throughout the playoffs were the ones that Cincy DC Lou Anarumo dialed up in the second half against the Chiefs.
Anarumo just quit trying to pressure Mahomes, and instead rushed three and dropped eight into zone coverage. It was brilliant. Mahomes had all day to throw, but no place to throw it. He got frustrated, and made some jaw-droppingly stupid mistakes. When Mahomes pulled it down and tried to run, there were eight guys in white jerseys squared up to him.
A few times Anarumo brought some very linebacker pressure up the middle, and Mahomes became even more befuddled.
I expect that the Bengal D will at least start out with a similar approach against the Rams.
Yes, Matthew Stafford has been solid in three straight playoff games (and brilliant in the last two), but let’s not forget that during the regular season he made a number of inexplicable, panicky gaffes. Stafford threw four pick-sixes, the most by any NFL quarterback.
It makes no sense to play man-to-man coverage against the Rams. You’re not going to get to Stafford (the Bucs’ vaunted front seven barely got a sniff) and you sure as heck don’t want to leave Cooper Cupp manned-up. Cupp runs the shallow cross better than any other receiver in football, a route that is much better defended in zone coverage.
Cupp is still gonna get ten catches or so, but the idea is to keep him from getting “explosive” plays of 20 yards or more.
Something tells me it may be an OBJ kinda day for the Rams, if he can remain cool and patient.
Cam Akers and Sony Michel are going to get a ton of catches out of the backfield, but their yards-after-catch will be limited because of that Bengal zone.
One more thing. Sean McVay, we all concede, is very innovative and creative as a play designer and play caller. And he does as good a job of scripting his first 15 plays as anyone ever not named Bill Walsh or Andy Reid. But many times when the Rams hit the end of the script, McVay seems to have no place to go from there.
I had the same impression when watching Sarkisian at Texas this season.