The Cincinnati Bengals put on a defensive clinic against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Whenever Tom Brady is on the football field he usually eats up the headlines. The Bengals masterfully executed defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s game plan.
For that reason, Zimmer is my Impact Performer of Week 5.
First, let’s talk about what they did and why it is so impressive.
The Patriot offense was held to 248 total yards, limited to ball possession of less than 26 minutes, and no touchdowns.
Brady’s personal streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown pass was broken, which was the second-longest streak in NFL history, two games away from Drew Brees’s record of 54. The game marked the first time in four years the Pats failed to reach the end zone.
Most importantly the Bengals’ performance handed the Pats their first ‘L’ of the season.
Coach Zimmer’s game plan called for smart, physical play. More than anything else it called for execution of the multiple defenses and techniques called throughout.
Brady was sacked four times two belonging to six-year vet defensive end Wallace Gilberry.
Brady was sacked because the back seven smothered receivers. There was nowhere to throw the ball.
This is how the front end of a defense is tied to the back end. With nowhere to throw the ball, results are sacks or passess thrown out of bounds. Brady was 18 for 38 with an interception.
On his career, Brady owns a 63.5 percent completion rate. On Sunday, he was held 15 points below that mark.
Zimmer threw the kitchen sink at the Pats. The danger of doing this is one mistake can lead to a touchdown. Also, with so many different defenses in the game plan it can lead to mental errors.
Coaches hesitate to carry deep playbooks, especially against strong teams for this reason. Coordinators prefer to do a few things great instead of a whole lot of things good. This tells me that Zimmer believes and trust his players, on the flip side the players are diligent and meticulous in their off-field studies.
The Bengals have been playing great defense since Marvin Lewis took over 11 seasons ago.
Their defensive philosophy is an old-school approach; no one is going to run the football on them. Inclination would tell you that perhaps they would be susceptible to the pass. By properly keying their reads on defense, the Bengals are allowed to play aggressive on run and pass.
This all starts with proper coaching. Along with pressures, Zimmer also threw in some eight-man drops to mix things up. There are nuances in every defense and what the Bengals did great was playing their leverage in coverage and also playing to their help.
For example on man coverages, you can play inside man or outside man. This means you stay on one shoulder or the other of the man you are covering, knowing that you have help either inside or outside opposite the side of your leverage. The back seven did a great job all day of not getting beat in their leverage and playing to their help.
Every defensive coordinator prays to have his team come out and perform to the level of the Bengals on Sunday. Every team tries but few succeed in shutting down who my esteemed colleague Donovan McNabb and many others considers to be the best quarterback to ever play the game.