Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer simplified the game plan against Baltimore to enable a faster-playing Cincinnati unit, and that helped limit big plays by the Ravens. The result: The Bengals’ first victory of the season against a talented Ravens offensive unit.
Cincinnati will try to use a similar formula this week, at a faster pace and with a little more scheme, against the Panthers, who have three players – receiver Steve Smith and running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart – who can rip off a big gainer at any moment.
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Zimmer said he was happy with the way the defense responded, while improvising in the wake of injures, following the New England debacle. He stayed true to his vow to keep things simple after the Bengals played tentatively while thinking too much, instead of reacting, against the Patriots. “It was good,” Zimmer said. “I was going to put something in on the sideline (against Baltimore) and I backed off.”
Aside from Derrick Mason’s 31-yard touchdown catch, the only other Baltimore play carrying more than 20 yards was halfback Ray Rice’s 30-yard fourth-quarter run. The longest Ravens play from scrimmage in the first half went for just 10 yards on a Joe Flacco second-quarter pass to Anquan Boldin.
The Bengals will need a repeat performance Sunday with regard to limiting big plays against Carolina.
“Offensively, they do a good job of packaging their plays together well and really put challenges on the defense,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of the Panthers. “We have to play a very good game to go down there and win on the road.”
Smith has five career 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the last in 2008 when he averaged 18.2 yards per catch. He had 65 receptions for 982 yards (15.1 average) last season and has eight catches for 141 yards (17.6) with two touchdowns so far this season.
Williams (1,117) and Stewart (1,133) both went over 1,000 yards rushing in 2009. Williams, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards in 2008, has averaged over 5.0 yards per carry each of the past two seasons. He has rushed for 116 yards on 33 carries (3.5 average) this season. Stewart, averaging 4.9 yards per carry in his pro career, is averaging 4.2 this season on 13 carries for 55 yards.