Bolts & Bengals - Game Preview Part 2

Part 2 of our preview of Sunday's matchup between the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. In today's post, we examine the Bengals' impressive defense and look at what the Chargers do best on offense.


When you look at the Cincinnati Bengals' defense, it reminds you of the type of unit Marvin Lewis had in Baltimore during his years as their defensive coordinator. The Bengals give up very few total yards (5th best in the NFL) and points (2nd in the NFL), and are incredible tough to run on (3rd ranked run D). They also excel at getting to the quarterback. Their 31 sacks on the year tie them with the Chargers for 5th best in the AFC. Cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Vista High's Leon Hall combine to form an elite pair of ballhawking, shutdown covermen, each with 5 interceptions on the year so far. Watching them fly to the football on game day, it's clear the Bengals are an elite defense and will be a true test for the Chargers. Statistically , they'd be ranked even higher had they not uncharacteristically given up 30 points to Minnesota last week. The Bengals nonetheless are a confident bunch who are young, athletic, and very talented. The fact of the matter is the Cincinnati Bengals might be the toughest defense the Chargers have faced all year.


By now it is well-documented that the San Diego Chargers look get the ball down field and score quickly. In terms of total offensive plays from scrimmage among AFC teams, the Chargers find themselves bunched in with the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, and Buffalo Bills. Yet while those teams have anemic offenses that sputter out and die, the Chargers on the other hand are a model of efficiency.

Norv Turner commands a disciplined group; the Chargers grade out highly when evaluating interceptions given away, and penalties committed on offense. While it's clear the Chargers' simply cannot run the ball effectively, they are more than making up for it through the air, as Philip Rivers carries the offense on his back.

Coach Turner and Philip Rivers have formed a unique relationship that has continues to blossom over the years, the fruits of which are clearly evident on gameday:

“Over the time we’ve been together, he has a much greater understanding now than he did two years ago of the direction we’re going and what we’re trying to get done in a game and how we’re trying to attack people and the things that matter in terms of him playing at a high level,” explain Coach Turner. “He lives to go out and play and play at a high level. He’s a great competitor.”

Rivers will be facing an attacking defense when the Bengals come to town, but he's shown that he is more than capable of handling the pressure. In fact, the Chargers have excelled at beating the blitz and it's an area of the offense that the team spends extra time preparing for each week.

“As a quarterback in any level, you kind of hope they come after you,” explain Rivers. “If you have plays up that you’re able to beat them with it. Depends on what you have called and who you have to get it to quick. Certainly when teams come after you it allows you to…it eliminates who can get double covered, how many different coverage schemes they can run. Then you like your match-ups, especially with the guys we have to throw the football to. Our offensive line does such a great job of picking up the blitz, it’s not always going to be a guy coming free, just because a team is bringing pressure. We do a great job picking up that extra guy, which allows us to buy a little extra time to make a throw down the field.”


For the Chargers, the fact that the Bengals play such stout run defense doesn't necessarily take anything away from San Diego. The Chargers won't look to run the ball much; through 13 weeks they have managed to average only 3.2 yards per carry - embarrassingly low but a handicap the Chargers have learned to live with.

Considering the Chargers will look to pass the ball to generate offense, they'll need to contend with a fierce pass rush and an opportunistic secondary looking to create turnovers. If Nick Hardwick and Jon Runyan are available this week, their experience should help against a young defensive group.

Offensively, the Chargers won't get away from what has worked for them thus far, so I imagine we will see the same Chargers we've seen all year; high flying, high scoring, with some gimmicks here and there to mix things up.

Chargers 31, Bengals 17

That's how I see it, what's your take? I'd love to hear from you, so please drop a comment and let your voice be heard!

December 16, 2009

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Nahum said... Dec 16, 2009, 10:46:00 AM

I havent heard much of the bengals defense on any of the sports networks or hilights on the nightly news, it's just always their offense, 'cause of Chad Ochocinco. I don't really know what to say about their defense 'cause you never get a look at their defense unless of course you watch the game. However, they are ranked th in overall defense I think, I didnt bother to check so correct me if I'm wrong, ranked 3rd in the run and 12th in passing. Now, I'm not saying that we're gonna win easily, or lose horribly, but we did beat the broncos ranked 3rd in total defense 2nd in passing and 15th in rushing. Now, bengals are 3rd in the run, we can't run the ball all that well, even broncos rush defense, ranked 15th, was able to stop us. But! We dominated them in the passing game, and they're ranked 2nd in the league in passing. We beat them pretty much easily, and hopefully we will dominate the bengals as well as we did against the broncos 2nd overall defense.

Anonymous said... Dec 16, 2009, 12:59:00 PM

My Guess: Our Bolts match up well with the Bengals, except for our troubling lack of run-stopping skills. But offensively, nobody can stop our passing attack if everyone stays healthy, NObody. That and our great kicking game should be the difference, in our favor; by a little.
I like our corners matching up on their outside receivers (Ochocinco be damned), but worry about every tight end that any team suits up.
Meanwhile, I pray Weddle is capable of returning at TOP form (Ellison and Gregory have been playing okay), our rotating defense can play in top form, and I can't wait to see more of my two new favorite Charger bad-asses, Siler and Dobbins! So as long as there are no stupid mistakes (somebody please remind Cromartie to take his 5-hour energy drink) and no teflon tackles (Spillman, Oliver, that means you), the Chargers WILL PREVAIL, THEREBY CINCHING A PLAYOFF BERTH AND A BYE WEEK!!! C'mon, Can-do Kids! SUPER BOWL!! You can DO it, dammit!

Rob Zepeda said... Dec 16, 2009, 2:57:00 PM

Nahum and JLM, great takes. Defensively they do have a couple of really nice corners, so there should be some interesting battles to watch downfield.

As far as the Bengals offensively, their passing game lives and dies by Chad Ochocinco. If he hold him in check, they don't really have anyone else to go to.

I hope we get up on them early and take away their willingness to run the ball.

Mike Pickett said... Dec 16, 2009, 7:57:00 PM

Story going up here tomorrow that predicts a 51-16 blowout by the Chargers.
Say what you want about the Bengals defense - here is what we at (we provide the odds pages here at Bolthype (link in top navigation) know about Cincy: they are 0-4 ATS in past four games, lost to Oakland, barely beat the Lions and Browns and got hammered by Brett Favre last week.
Check it out tomorrow when Rob Z posts the story.
Lots of Chargers stuff over at including searchable historical databases with 30 years of odds and scores, game logs and more

jasper said... Dec 17, 2009, 1:08:00 AM

The biggest SD weakness is not just run defense, but 3rd down defense. They have been flat and unable to make stops at times this year, but some of that could be the soft zone they had used more. This was not the case last week, as they took care of business on 3rd down in Dallas, which i think was key to the win.

SD's secondary plays much better in attack mode and man coverage, which allows them to focus on the run if needed. Cromartie has been flat out nasty of late, and Jammer is probably our most consistent player on D (phillips too). Look to see lots of rookie Ellison at the line of scrimmage, where he has been very effective.

Carson Palmer has been bland and Cinci has only scored 20 a few times this year, while for the Chargers that is the minimun. I see SD making the few big passing plays that Cinci, like Dallas, wont be able to match. 24-16 CHARGERS

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