CINCINNATI -- OK, shameless plug alert.
That question was posed Tuesday afternoon on our "NFL Nation TV" Spreecast (if you haven't seen any of our 22 episodes, you're really missing out), and unfortunately we didn't have time to get to it. Actually, there were a couple of Bengals-related questions we couldn't get to. Between the discussion on Ray Rice and getting updates from and into debates with the parade of guests we had on, we just couldn't quite hit everything.
My promise on the show was to address a couple of those questions on the blog. Here's the first one.
How can the Cincinnati Bengals prevent a shootout against the Falcons?
I took the liberty of paraphrasing that question a bit. Hopefully Joshua Tucker, the man who asked it, can forgive me.
Like many of you, Joshua saw the scoring fest the Falcons had with the Saints last weekend in Atlanta, rallying to tie it at 34 before the game went to overtime. Less than two minutes into the overtime period, Matt Bryant hit a 52-yard field goal to give the Falcons the 37-34 win. The victory made quarterback Matt Ryan's 448-yard, three-touchdown performance stand out even more.
It was certainly clear that the Falcons' high-octane offense got off to a strong start. Ryan was so good for fantasy owners that he led all players in the league in scoring, collecting 30 points for those who played him.
So how can Cincinnati's defense slow the Falcons down and prevent a similar shootout, or even a blowout, from taking place?
With its offense.
That's right, in this case, the best defense will be a good offense. It'll take several long, clock-eating drives by the Bengals' offense to keep the Falcons off the field and out of rhythm. After last week's opener at Baltimore, it's clear the Bengals can incorporate those types of plays into their game plan.
By halftime of their Week 1 contest the Bengals outpaced the Ravens by about 10 minutes in time of possession. Through the first 30 minutes, the Bengals had the ball for 20 minutes and 19 seconds. The Ravens possessed it for nine minutes, 41 seconds.
In the fourth quarter, though, the Ravens had the ball for 11:18, while Cincinnati had it for only 3:42. It was in that final quarter when the Ravens rallied, took a brief lead, and even had a chance to tie it back up with about a minute to go. The Bengals' quick, two-play scoring drive on the go-ahead 77-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green played a role in that time of possession disparity.
Against Ryan and the Falcons, the Bengals' best defense will be to play keep away, and also, naturally, to get into the end zone. The Bengals struggled last week with finishing drives that either made it to the red zone, or were close to it. They had six drives that ended inside Baltimore's 31, and all six resulted in field goal attempts. Five of the field goals were made, another was blocked.
If the Bengals can get similar downfield movement, eat clock and get touchdowns, they have a good chance to keep this game well within reach.
Another way they can prevent a shootout? Simply play good defense and put pressure on Ryan. As we pointed out earlier this week, Ryan was good against both the blitz and a standard pass rush versus New Orleans.
With cooler temperatures expected in Cincinnati this weekend, perhaps the Bengals' defenders won't get quite as gassed late in the game and can get even more fourth-quarter pressure on Ryan than they had on Joe Flacco. Tired or not, they still got to Flacco on the drive that counted. Imagine if they were fresher.
One way to keep them fresh? Keep the Falcons' defense on the field all day.