Week 6 of the 2022 NFL season looks like a lifetime in the past.
For those who can bear in mind again that far, the Cincinnati Bengals had been 2-3, coming off a loss on Sunday Night time Soccer to the Baltimore Ravens, and the vultures had been circling. A deluge of tales was written debating whether or not the Bengals had been the newest sufferer of the dreaded “Tremendous Bowl hangover,” and chuckleheads like me had been questioning what was improper with their offense.
Quick-forward to now, and the Bengals are on the cusp of their second-straight Tremendous Bowl. A lot for hangovers.
Relating to that offense, a significant sticking level was their operating sport. By way of 5 video games, the Bengals had been struggling to run the soccer and had been looking for solutions. As Week 6 beckoned, the Bengals had the fourth-worst success charge within the league on operating performs, and the fourth-worst Anticipated Factors Added per Dashing Try:
Since then? The Bengals had probably the greatest operating video games within the league. In Weeks 6 via 18, Cincinnati utterly reversed their fortunes within the run sport, posting the fourth-best EPA/A within the NFL throughout that stretch — higher than even the San Francisco 49ers — and the seventh-best success charge within the NFL:
This can be a development that has continued into the postseason. Out of all of the playoff groups, the Bengals have posted the fifth-best EPA/A within the operating sport, and have the third-best success charge on operating performs over their two playoff victories.
One issue that many, together with this writer, pointed to was their lack of a shotgun operating sport. Early within the 12 months, the Bengals had been a fairly simple offense to determine: If Burrow was underneath middle, they had been operating the soccer. If he was within the shotgun, they had been throwing it. After the Bengals began 0-2, these numbers stood out:
Cincinnati, at the least from a run/cross perspective, is fairly simple to determine. If Burrow is within the shotgun, odds are they will throw. In opposition to Pittsburgh in Week 1, Cincinnati tried simply two passing performs with Burrow aligned underneath middle. Of their 70 passing performs, 68 of these occurred with Burrow within the shotgun.
That development largely continued into Week 2. Of their 46 passing performs, Burrow was within the shotgun for 39 of them.
When the Bengals did attempt to run out of shotgun throughout that early-season stretch, the outcomes had been combined at greatest. In keeping with Sports activities Data Options, the Bengals averaged 4.4 yards per try when operating out of shotgun throughout their 2-3 begin, and so they averaged 0.02 EPA/A on these runs.
Since then? Cincinnati has averaged 4.9 yards per try on shotgun runs, and their 0.09 EPA/A on these designs is nice for eighth-best within the NFL.
Of their march to a second-straight AFC Championship Sport, the Bengals broke a few of their very own tendencies and located a recipe for fulfillment on the bottom. That culminated in final week’s win over the Buffalo Payments, the place the Bengals racked up 172 yards on the bottom, with Joe Mixon speeding for over 100 yards for the primary time since Week 9.
How have the Bengals remodeled their operating sport? By leaning into extra hole and energy designs, slightly than the zone-blocking ideas that had been staples of their offense in recent times:
Bengal’s run idea frequency since Zac Taylor took over:
Inside Zone: 32%
Outdoors Zone: 26%
Outdoors Zone: 16%
Inside Zone: 15%
They’ve executed an amazing job of becoming the run sport to the personnel.
— Andrew Russell (@Andrew_Russell7) January 23, 2023
In keeping with SIS, since Week 6 the Bengals have run the third-most hole and energy designs out of the shotgun within the league.
What do these designs appear to be on the sector? Take this run from Mixon in opposition to the Panthers in Week 9:
This can be a GT Counter design, with left deal with Jonah Williams and rookie left guard Cordell Volson pulling in entrance of the operating again. Mixon makes use of counter footwork on the play, taking a step to his left earlier than aiming to the correct aspect. The again settles in behind the pullers and rips off a 29-yard acquire.
One of many issues the Bengals have executed so properly within the operating sport in current weeks is about up advantageous angles for his or her blockers, and this play is a main instance. Volson is the primary puller, and he takes on the defensive finish. Williams climbs via the outlet, and when linebacker Frankie Luvu steps into the outlet, the left deal with handles the linebacker, giving Mixon a path into the secondary.
These advantageous angles present up on this 14-yard run from Samaje Perine in opposition to the Cleveland Browns in Week 14. Watch because the three inside linemen all transfer in unison, creating an enormous lane for Perine within the run sport:
In opposition to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 19, the Bengals discovered continued success with designs like these, organising good blocking angles for the blokes up entrance and creating house for the backs. On this design, typically termed Crunch, you see Volson, proper guard Max Scharping, and tight finish Hayden Hurst work in unison from proper to left, making a wave in entrance of Mixon:
Then there was final week when the Bengals arrange these angles within the snow. Maybe one of the best instance is that this lead energy design, which sees proper deal with Hakeem Adeniji pull in entrance of Mixon to the left aspect:
In fact, standing within the Bengals’ means of that second-straight Tremendous Bowl are the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. Over the following few days, lots can be written and mentioned about Patrick Mahomes’ proper ankle, Joe Burrow’s success in opposition to the Chiefs the previous two years, and the passing video games from each groups.
However again in Week 13, when Cincinnati gained 27-24, their operating sport performed an enormous position. The Bengals racked up 152 yards on the bottom, their third-highest whole all season.
And a number of the designs we simply noticed had been a part of their sport plan that afternoon. For instance, listed below are the Bengals operating Crunch in opposition to the Chiefs from Week 13:
Again in Week 13, Mixon was inactive with a concussion, so it was Perine who carried the load for Cincinnati. Now, Mixon is again, and the Bengals have a reworked run sport they refined all through the course of the season.
There are a variety of storylines to look at on this sport Sunday night time. However the Bengals’ operating sport — and the angles they create up entrance — must be on the high of your watch checklist.