Bengals vs. Chiefs: Sketching Out a Game Plan for Kansas City

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystNovember 15, 2012

The Chiefs must cautiously use the passing game to take some pressure off the running game in the second half.
The Chiefs must cautiously use the passing game to take some pressure off the running game in the second half.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs played some of their best football of the season on Monday. An old habit reared its ugly head in overtime and the Chiefs lost, but the defense was great and the offense didn’t turn the ball over in regulation. At one point in the game the Chiefs had a 2-to-1 run to pass ratio and were getting positive offensive production. Pittsburgh’s defense clamped down on the run in the second half and the Chiefs couldn’t get much going after that.

If the Chiefs are going to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, a team who just hammered the New York Giants, then they will need to slowly and cautiously open up the passing game, continue to protect the football and slow down A.J. Green.

The passing game is needed to open up things for Jamaal Charles once the defense adjusts to him in the first half. The Chiefs have to be able to take advantage through the air to keep the defense from loading the box with eight and nine defenders.

The Bengals picked off Eli Manning twice and turned the interceptions into 14 points. The Bengals also had a long punt return that set up another touchdown. Without those three plays the Bengals generate just 10 points and it’s a completely different game. Seven of those 10 points came on a 56-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green.



Passing Game

With a good running game, the play-action pass can be useful in down-and-distance situations that would normally call for a run. In obvious passing situations you have to be able to throw the ball without play action.

The Chiefs haven’t really been able to do either this season, but they did execute a beautiful play-action pass to Tony Moeaki in Week 10 that set up their only touchdown and gave them their first lead of the season.

Any good play-action pass starts with getting the running game going and then a good fake. The Chiefs get a very nice fake and the defensive back on the left is fooled and worried about Charles getting the edge.

Once the defensive back realizes his error, Moeaki is already running past him at full speed. Also, it is wise to note that Matt Cassel could have flipped it out to Charles had the defensive back not fallen for the fake.

Cassel identifies Moeaki running wide open and gets the ball to him. It’s a good gain right there and something you will take all day if available.

Moeaki fought for extra yards by breaking the tackle attempts and two plays later Charles sliced into the end zone for the Chiefs’ first lead of the season.

That’s how it’s done, but the quarterback has to execute and find the open receivers. Defenses aren’t going to stop worrying about Charles any time soon, so the Chiefs need to learn to take advantage of that with more play-action passes. Imagine if the Chiefs could get a faster guy like McCluster into space like that instead of a tight end? Play-action passes have big-play potential and the Chiefs need to use it more often.

It’s not always prudent to use a play action and the Chiefs needs to find other ways of making plays in the passing game. As long as Cassel or Brady Quinn are under center the Chiefs will not be a pass-heavy team, but they can still find ways to make plays in the passing game.

Rookie Brandon Weeden found openings in Cincinnati’s secondary in Week 6 and the Chiefs could take some notes from the way they attacked. Once concept I’d like to see the Chiefs use more of is the wide receiver rub.

On this play the slow receiver is going to run around as close as he can to the inside receiver coming on a slant. This is the "rub" and in some cases if the outside receiver intentionally blocks it can be an illegal pick play.

Against man coverage as the Bengals used here, the inside defensive back can’t quickly or easily get around the outside receiver and outside defensive back to cover the slot receiver.  This creates a natural separation and gives the quarterback an easy read and target. The safety was late to help because he was concerned about the tight end coming through the linebackers up the middle.

Rookie receiver Josh Cooper made the catch that was short and on his back shoulder. Weeden had an entire sideline and could have made it an even bigger play with a better throw. This play neither requires a high level of quarterback skill or wide receiver skill. It’s these types of plays that can be dangerous with the bigger, taller wide receivers like Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin opening things up for Dexter McCluster.



Limiting Turnovers

Just like the Chiefs did in Week 10, the best way to limit turnovers is to put the ball in the hands of the running backs to limit their exposure to Cassel’s fumbles and interceptions.

In Week 7 versus the Steelers, the Bengals allowed 167 yards rushing by a team that doesn’t exactly have the greatest running game. The Steelers executed their blocking well and the Bengals were often caught out of position or filling the wrong gaps.

The Steelers used two double teams at the point of attack. Since defensive tackle Geno Atkins is the Bengals’ best defensive player, the double team is almost a requirement. The center does a good job of getting the second level to block the linebacker. The safety assumes the tight end is a lead blocker and takes himself out of the play by running nearly 10 yards to the non-play side.

Well-executed blocking gives Jonathan Dwyer a huge running lane and he scampers for 21 yards. If the Bengals give Charles that kind of running room he’s going to make a big play.

The Chiefs have to avoid playing from behind as to not put the pressure on Cassel and the passing game to generate the offense. If the Chiefs can score early and have Cassel manage the game they should have a decent chance at a victory on Sunday.



The A.J. Green Machine

Bengals’ wide receiver A.J. Green has almost been unstoppable. Green is currently accounting for 26.3 percent of Cincinnati’s offensive yards and 28.7 percent of the scoring.

Stop or slow down Green and the path the victory is that much easier. That job will go to Brandon Flowers on Sunday and they pay him the big bucks to stop receivers like Green. According to ProFootballFocus, Flowers has allowed just 16 receptions and two touchdowns this season on 36 passes in his direction. Flowers also has two interceptions.

The key is to avoid the big play. The Bengals have won only one game in which Green didn’t catch a pass longer than 40 yards and lost only one game in which he has caught one. The Chiefs may have to occasionally give Flowers help to keep Green from breaking free, but that will be well worth the extra body.

There’s no good magical scheme that is going to slow down Green. Flowers will have to use good technique and keep Green from getting behind him. If Green is allowed to get past Flowers the Chiefs better have a safety there to help. Failure to contain Green will make the path to victory very difficult.