Keys to the game: Bengals at Seahawks
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Three keys to Seahawks victory
1. Find your playmakers.
Want to know why Charlie Whitehurst completed only one pass of more than 11 yards last week in Cleveland? He targeted seven passes to tight ends Anthony McCoy, whose dropsies are well known, and Cameron Morrah who'd practiced all of four days, while throwing nine passes toward starting wide receivers Sidney Rice and Mike Williams. Seattle has weapons on offense, but the quarterback has to give them a chance to make plays, and that starts by looking downfield.
2. Turn up the heat on Andy Dalton.
The Bengals have allowed only 11 sacks this season, tied for seventh-fewest in the league. Seattle absolutely has to dial-up the pressure on Dalton to take full advantage of CenturyLink Field. There is no quicker way to creating turnovers than rushing the quarterback. Not only that, but with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner starting at the corners against a dangerous group of wideouts, Seattle has to keep Dalton from having the time to pick the secondary apart.
3. Hold the special-teams advantage.
Seattle was a bad penalty away from a game-winning punt return last week, but Leon Washington isn't the only dangerous return man on the field this weekend. Cincinnati's Brandon Tate is averaging more than 10 yards a punt return, and he has the ability to change a game, too. In a game with two stout defenses, special teams will go a long way in deciding the field-position battle.
Three keys to Bengals victory
1. Look deep.
Cincinnati rookie receiver A.J. Green leads all rookies with 29 catches and four touchdowns, and the Seahawks are starting two corners in their first full NFL season. Browner has improved, but Sherman is a rookie in just his third year playing cornerback. With Seattle dialing up the pressure, expect the Bengals to try and go over the top of the Seahawks defense.
2. Protect the ball.
Cincinnati has been one of the league's best in that regard, turning the ball over only six times, which is tied for second-fewest in the league. Seattle has forced only eight turnovers all season, but that's a bit deceiving. Six of those have come in the past two games. Given Seattle's offensive struggles, the best way for Cincinnati to keep Seattle off the scoreboard is to play keep-away with the football.
3. Keep a lid on Seattle's ground game.
That sounds easy. Seattle ranks second-to-last in the league in rushing yards while the Bengals are allowing only 89.5 rushing yards, fifth fewest in the league. But the Seahawks were showing signs of life in the ground game before Marshawn Lynch's late scratch last week because of back spasms. He's expected to be available this week, and the Bengals must make sure the Seahawks don't get their footing in the ground game.
S Earl Thomas vs. QB Andy Dalton.
Thomas is Seattle's star-in-waiting at safety, but he hasn't had a game-changing play this season. Dalton is starting in a stadium that is notoriously tough of rookies. With Seattle's starting quarterback a question mark until the game time, the Seahawks offense could use a boost and Thomas is the best bet to provide that.
Not only have the Bengals have lost the last three games they played in Seattle, but October has not been a kind month to the Bengals. Over the previous seven seasons, Cincinnati is 8-20 (.286) in the month of October, and 44-39-1 (.524) in all other months.
Dec 24 - 6:10 AM Looking back: Revisiting Sunday's scouting report
Dec 24 - 1:09 AM Seahawks' scoring binge
Dec 24 - 1:01 AM Video: Summing Seattle's victory
Dec 24 - 12:58 AM Video: Russell Wilson post-game comments
Dec 24 - 12:21 AM Rookie passing roll call