The Cincinnati Bengals escaped a tough contest against the San Diego Chargers last Sunday to keep their journey to the playoffs on the right track. The Bengals exposed the Chargers, and used their advantages to force turnovers on defense and put up points on offense. Against the Dallas Cowboys this weekend, the Bengals will be hoping to carry out something similar.
The Turnover Battle
Against the Chargers, the Bengals’ defense forced two fumbles and an interception, while limiting the offense to just six points on two field goals. The Bengals have forced nine turnovers in their past four games. Only a game against the Kansas City Chiefs, who run a very conservative offense, didn’t result in multiple turnovers in the Bengals’ favor. Against the offense that most resembles the Cowboys’ style during that stretch (the New York Giants‘), the Bengals forced four turnovers.
The Cowboys have 25 turnovers this season for a -10 ratio; however, they have only coughed up possession four times in the past four weeks. That is a pretty good record, until you consider that two of those games came against the inept defense of the Philadelphia Eagles. Neither of the games against the Eagles saw a turnover go against the Cowboys, so essentially the Cowboys have four turnovers in just two games.
With the Bengals’ defense matching up so well to the Cowboys’ offense, there should be no risk of them keeping the ball for 60 minutes this weekend.
Outside of DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys have a very limited pass rush. Ware has just 10 sacks this year, a low number for a player of his calibre, while only three other players have even registered a sack for Rob Ryan’s defense. Anthony Spencer is second on the team with 6.5 sacks, with Jason Hatcher having three and Josh Brent adding just 1.5.
The Cowboys’ threat will definitely be most prominent on the edges, which suits the Bengals. Although, these days there is no matchup against the offensive line that doesn’t suit the Bengals. Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith will both likely see a lot of Ware as the Cowboys look to move him around the field, but both should also be trusted to handle him with minimal help. In the past Ware would dominate any opponent, but this season has been much less inspiring for him.
If the Cowboys can contain Ware without double-teaming him with two offensive linemen, they should be able to give Andy Dalton plenty of time in the pocket.
Defensive Line Depth
The Bengals’ defensive line’s pursuit of sacks was recently compared to the pursuit of food in the film The Hunger Games. The target is obviously different, but the results have been similarly intense. The Bengals have a flurry of defensive linemen contributing as pass rushers, while the Cowboys’ offensive line has failed to handle much lesser units throughout this season.
Romo has been sacked 28 times this year, and was sacked seven times in one game just three weeks ago. That game came against the Cleveland Browns, who have a similarly deep rotation on the defensive line. If anything, the Bengals are exactly like the Browns, except with better individual talent. The Bengals’ defensive line has an incredible 39 sacks this season.