Perhaps with posts from Comrades Showtime and Buck touching on the poor strategy and tactics of the Bengals offense and with an entire post dedicated to ripping Brat by Sly, enough has been said about this topic.
But I don't feel that way. In fact, I don't think we can give it enough space. Brat should be gone. I'd rather have some high school whiz at Madden calling plays than him. After I'm done with this, I'll probably even petition the WDR writers to add "Fire Brat" to the WDR Manifesto on the left.
Big picture first. As C Trent notes, the Bengals said this offseason that there will be a commitment to running the ball and having a balanced attack. Balanced attack...hmmmm...sounds good, right?
As Showtime said, "The run game is established. It's terrible. That's it. We don't need to establish it any further." Meanwhile, we have a stud QB and terrific receivers (disappointing game from Coles aside). How about a strategy that involves emphasizing passing until the other team proves they can stop it? Do the Patriots worry about "balancing" the attack with Tom Brady & friends?
The point is on the macro level Brat just cannot see beyond old, tired, conventional wisdoms about balance. That lack of vision has no place in the hyper-competitive NFL. Worst part is you don't even have to see outside the city boundaries to find an example of how powerful a role offensive strategy can play when placed in the right hands.
Read Doc's article on Brian Kelly and his assistants at UC, orchestrators of a Big East championship using 5 different quarterbacks last year and what appears to be a offensive juggernaut this year. Here are some key quotes about offense (non-bold parentheses are my added comments):
Kelly knew only what made defensive coordinators uncomfortable. “If you lined up in vanilla formations, it made (the opposing defense’s) job easier,” Kelly said. “I’ve always tried to push that envelope.” (i.e., do what you know would make the opposing team the most nervous, good common sense, but you don't feel the Bengals' gameplans leave any NFL defense sweating)
Kelly said his coaching style would be vanilla if that were what it took to win. “If it’s about eating up clock, I’d be happy to run two backs, two tight ends and a flanker.” (notice Kelly's flexibility according to context)
“He felt it was our best chance of winning. We were on the cutting edge. Nobody in Division II was doing it. We went no-huddle, a real fast-paced attack. Teams were caught off guard.” (again, a strategy designed to give the best chance of winning...not to have "balance". On a related note, remember how we have a smart, super-talented QB who can run the no-huddle? Me too.)
Quinn has a simple explanation for why Kelly’s offense makes sense: “How many games in the NFL are won in the last two minutes?” he said. Well, a bunch. “So why not play that way all the time?” (I almost guarantee every person reading this has thought the same thing while watching teams run the two-minute drill.)
Situations dictate play calls. There isn’t a situation Kelly hasn’t seen or been able to control. He has a play, a formation, an answer for every situation. “The beauty of Brian,” Quinn calls it. (have plays ready for very specific situations? crazy talk, says Brat)
I think even a poorly informed fan could tell that something was off with the offensive gameplan versus the Broncos yesterday. As Sly mentioned, on the very first drive the first 2 major yard gainers came on passes to Henry and Chad, prompting him to comment to me that it looks like they are giving our receivers some space, particularly over the middle. Carson confirms this (via Cincy Jungle) by saying:
“They weren’t going to let the ball go over their heads. They played two deep safeties — as deep as a safety that I’ve ever seen. Their mind set was to not let us throw the ball downfield...They lined up 25 yards deep and started backpedaling. They weren’t going to let the ball go over their heads. They wanted to keep the ball in front of them, and they did a good job of that.”
Okay, so why not exploit that? Why not just throw into the space they give us until they prove they can stop it? I don't know, do something like what Comrade Buck suggests and maybe throw it into the flats with 1 of the 4 running backs you kept and then decided not to play?
Also, doesn't the Denver strategy sound awfully familiar to the old Bresnahan "no big plays" philosophy we used to run against teams like the Colts? If you'll recall, that strategy led to stat nights for Peyton where he went like 80-81for about 8 yards a pass and while destroying us. Want proof, check out these quotes from the old ESPN game recap from 2006:
Manning, 5-0 against Cincinnati, had one of the sharpest outings of his brilliant career, although he never looked deep because the Bengals couldn't cover anyone on quick-hitting routes.
More than half his completions came on short patterns where a Colt was wide open.
The game became a poke-and-probe chess match in which Manning's patience and Harrison's polish were decisive.
Peyton Manning was deadly accurate, efficient and patient. He was continually checking down when his primary option was taken away.
But, sure, run Ced Benson 21 times for 76 yards instead.
The defense played well. As Showtime mentioned, Denver boasts a premiere set of NFL tackles yet we still had an okay pass rush and played well in all other aspects too. That's encouraging. I don't think the Bengals are great but with luck we have a chance at the playoffs.
Brat's offense cost us what will likely turn out to be one of our easiest games this entire year. To have hope, we need to win those types of games. Now we have to steal one against a team that will be heavily favored over us. With Brat still calling the shots on offense, that hope is currently non-existent.