After watching the Cincinnati Bengals defeat the San Francisco 49ers 24-14 last week, I came away feeling fairly confident that the Denver Broncos would match up well against a Bengals offense led by AJ McCarron. There is only so much a young quarterback can do to be successful early in their career.
That said, McCarron does a few things very well and the Broncos defense would do well to take notice. First, he is careful with the football. Like Brock Osweiler, he is all about that dink and dunk mentality. That will reduce the opportunity for a turnover, but it does limit the ability for the offense to consistently sustain drives.
That inability was definitely evident against the languishing 49ers squad. Of the four scoring drives, only one started on the Bengals side of the field. That one drive was the one that ended in a field goal. Here are the starting positions of the other three Bengals scoring drives:
- 49ers 11 yard line. This drive was due to the Bengals stripping the ball from Anquan Bolden and returning the fumble down inside the red zone.
- 49ers 36 yard line. The 49ers shanked a punt that traveled a mere 18 yards.
- 49ers 20 yard line. A Blaine Garrett pass hit his target right in the chest, but it bounced off the 49ers receiver right into the hands of Vontaze Burfict.
All three of those drives resulted in touchdowns, mostly due to the running of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill. The good news for the Broncos defense is that they can stop of the run. This puts the pressure back on McCarron.
One thing from this game that really stood out is that McCarron seems to understand that the big play is what really wins games in the NFL and he is not afraid to push the ball down the field. He also picks the right spots, though the sample size is fairly small.
McCarron was 2/3 with the deep ball through the third quarter. I stopped watching there as the score was 24-0 and I felt the game dynamic would ultimately change from there as the Bengals went into lead protection mode.
The first offensive success of the day came when McCarron found A.J. Green open down the field.
After an interception, McCarron tried to go for the home run ball, but it was well covered that time.
McCarron's best throw of the day came on the opening drive of the third quarter when he hit Marvin Jones for a huge gain.
This young quarterback shows plenty of poise and football acumen. Even so, he should be very wary going up against the best defense in football. The Broncos, despite a bad game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be looking to rebound.
McCarron will find that his wide receivers will not be as open as they were against the 49ers and if he takes shots down the field the Broncos could come down with one. More than likely, the Bengals will continue to play it ultra conservative. There was a lot of run, run, pass kind of play calling and that could become more evident against a defense like the Broncos and with the Bengals putting up just 242 yards against the 49ers it could be a frustrating day for them on Monday Night Football.
For the Broncos, all they need to focus on is stuffing the Bengals rushing attack. All of McCarron success came from a running game that kept the 49ers defense off balance in the first half. From there, the pressure will fall squarely on the shoulders of the young, inexperienced quarterback and mostly bad things will come from that against the No Fly Zone.