Re-Focused – Bengals @ Broncos, Week 2

| September 21, 2011

On paper it wasn’t a match up that excited many casual fans.
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On one side of the ball you had a Denver Broncos team coming off the back of a demoralizing defeat to the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football, and on the other side, you have an inexperienced Cincinnati Bengals team that is led by a rookie quarterback.
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The end result?  A close and fun game, that ultimately saw the Bengals come up short in their attempt to upset the home team.
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But what did we learn about both teams?  Let’s take a look at some performances of note.
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Bengals:  Three Performances of Note
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The Rookie Connection

The Bengals’ core of young players are sure making fans forget about the Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer days.  Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton (+4.1) was far from perfect, but he showed enough poise in the pocket to suggest that he won’t be going down the same road as Jimmy Clausen did in his rookie campaign.  Judging by this game, Dalton seemed to have developed a nice rapport with fellow rookie A.J. Green (+2.6), as he completed 10 of the 14 passes that he threw at the first round pick.  With that being said, Dalton really struggled whenever pressure came his way.  In those nine situations, he only completed two passes and was sacked two times.

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Earning A Benching?

It may have eluded some people, but middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (-4.1) was taken off the field for three plays on Sunday.  While it may have been because of an injury, if you were watch himthe former USC Trojan on the 10 plays he played before he was taken out, you’ll understand why he had to come off the field.  Not only did he manage to miss two tackles, but he was caught badly out of position with 9:32 left in the first quarter.  Even though he returned shortly afterwards, he didn’t fair much better.  Maualuga missed another tackle, and had little impact when a defender got their hands on him.  We’ve seen him play much better than this and will be looking to see what happens with him in week three.

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Depth on the Line

It’s amazing how much better the Bengals defensive line can look without Robert Geathers stealing the other linemen’s snaps.  Sure, Jonathan Fanene (-2.5) played poorly for the most part, but the rest of the rotation combined for a +13.6 overall rating.  Geno Atkins (+2.7 pass rush) got plenty of push up the middle, as he picked up a sack, a quarterback hit and a pressure against Zane Beadles.  Meanwhile, left end Carlos Dunlap (+2.3) had plenty of success when he was left one on one with Daniels Fells in the run game. Pat Sims (+2.6) was handful for the interior offensive linemen, and Frostee Rucker (+3.3) batted two passes away at the line of scrimmafe. Overall, a very nice day for this unit.
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Broncos:  Three Performances of Note

Miller … Heavy?

I wrote about Von Miller (+4.5) last week, and if I continue writing about the Broncos, I may be forced to write about him every week.  It’s not just the impact plays like the forced fumble he caused last week, or the sack that he recorded this week that makes Miller such a special player.  What makes Miller so intriguing is that he has avoided all the rookie mistakes that we’ve come to expect from early round linebackers like Aaron Curry and Sean Weatherspoon.  For example, take what he would do to tight ends when left one on one (he bull rushed Colin Cochart to redirect a run with 3:57 left in the first quarter).  That was symptomatic of the every down impact Miller has, even when his name isn’t appearing on the stat sheet.  That he can supplement that consistent performance with highlight reel plays like the tackle for no gain he picked up by going around Andrew Whitworth with 4:51 left in the game, is why he’s already shown himself to be a very special talent.

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A Slip Up

In a game that featured two of the top left tackles in the league, one walked away with his head relatively high.  That man was not Ryan Clady (-2.6).  The Broncos star offensive lineman had a day to forget, as he was called for two holding penalties, in addition to having given up a sack that resulted in a fumble.  Worse than that, was the fact that his work in the run game wasn’t very good.  He had plenty of trouble guarding Michael Johnson, who on three separate occasions managed to beat him to make a tackle.  On an offensive line that is short on proven talent, the Broncos can’t afford to have the one truly good player they have play so poorly.

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How Long Does Kyle Have?

After a poor week one, the pressure is mounting on Kyle Orton (+4.6), with the fans ready to jump on for every little mistake that he makes.  Much like his rookie counterpart, Orton had some noticeable struggles when the Bengals were able to get pressure on him.  When under pressure, Orton managed to complete just one of seven passes that he attempted, compared to 14 of 18 when he wasn’t.  So while his performance was solid and he improved under the blitz (+2.5 with two touchdowns), he needs to do more when the going gets tough if he’s going to win over the naysayers.
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Games Notes

● The Broncos missed as many tackles combined (three) as Rey Maualuga did.

● Nate Clements gave up 122 yards on six receptions (two of which were touchdowns).

● Tim Tebow was on the field for four snaps.  He lined up as out wide on the right side twice, and in the slot and on the left side once each.
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PFF Game Ball:

Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos

The rookie linebacker isn’t just one to watch for the future.  He’s one to watch now.

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Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed: @ProFootbalFocus . .
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