Munich/Cincinnati – It was an afternoon for the history books as the Cincinnati Bengals won the divisional playoffs at the Tennessee Titans.
Not only did the guests from Ohio end their long dry spell in terms of away wins in the playoffs, but the Titans also set a record: Joe Burrow was sacked nine times, a playoff high. The reason for this lies not only in the Titans’ excellent pass rush, but also in the Bengals’ holey offensive line.
Burrow injured by weak O-Line – Chase over Sewell in draft
This isn’t a new problem with the Bengals. Already in 2020, the protection for the Bengals quarterback was almost non-existent. Cincinnati’s tackles were and are maliciously referred to as “revolving doors.”
It was not for nothing that Joe Burrow, first pick in the 2020 draft, had to watch almost half of the season. Against Washington, who are known for being excellent pass rushers, defensive end Chase Young fell on the playmaker’s knee, tearing Burrow’s cruciate and medial ligaments. Whether he would be fit for the start of the season was in limbo for a long time.
Not only because of this, some pundits expected the Bengals to invest in their offensive line with their first pick in the 2021 draft and bring in tackle Penei Sewell, the best offensive lineman in his class. However, Cincinnati decided against it and got receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
That Chase is a record receiver and essential to the Ohio franchise’s success, but of course he doesn’t help his quarterback to block opposing pass rushers.
Values of the O-Line at most average – Vollmer: “You can’t afford it”
The numbers are staggering: Burrow had 51 sacks in the regular season, that’s more than three per game. For comparison, Tom Brady, the least-grounded quarterback with at least 15 starts, was in the dirt just 22 times, a little over a sack per game.
Sebastian Vollmer, Brady’s longtime tackle with the New England Patriots, sharply criticized the ran web show “Champion Check”: “It’s not possible, you can’t afford it. Everyone looks at you and asks: ‘What are we paying you for actually?'”
It doesn’t look good on an individual basis either. The Pro Football Focus portal did not list any of the Bengals linemen in the top 20 by position.
The starting left tackle Jonah Williams, who is supposed to protect Burrow’s so-called blind side, allowed 42 pressures on his quarterback alone. With almost 1000 snaps that he has played, that makes a permitted pressure situation every 25th snap, i.e. around three per game. And that from a single player!
Center Trey Hopkins isn’t doing much better. From “PFF” he is listed as the 36th center out of 40 qualified, on a scale from 0 to 100 he only gets a grade of 51.9 from the portal.
Quarterbacks don’t like constant pressure from the middle or from the blind side, or even both, and it also explains the amount of sacks against Burrow. It is all the more impressive that despite everything, he leads the league in appropriate balls (70 percent).
The Chiefs as a mismatch – but Bengals are not without a chance
Cincinnati’s “turnstiles” visiting the dominant defensive front of the Kansas City Chiefs (LIVE on Sunday from 8:45 p.m. on ProSieben and in the live stream on ran.de) sounds exactly like what it is: a mismatch. Defensive tackle Chris Jones in particular, who is one of the best in this position behind Aaron Donald, could cause serious problems for the shaky center Hopkins.
This duel already took place in week 17. Almost as expected, Burrow was knocked down four times. His counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, not once. Nevertheless: In the end, the Bengals won the game 34:31. Mainly because the defense came up trumps in the second half and held the offensive line at important moments.
For the guests from Cincinnati, it will be about using mostly quick pass concepts to give the defense no time to get to Burrow. Head coach Zac Taylor saw what else is thriving for him and his young quarterback in the divisional round against the Titans.
Without an absolute cream day from everyone involved, it will be very difficult for the Bengals anyway. Above all, the five offensive linemen need one. But they have already shown that they have the quality to assert themselves in certain situations.
Also against Kansas City.