CINCINNATI — Standing in front of his locker room last week, days after his team’s 24-17 wild card win over the Ravens, Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase praised coach Zac Taylor for developing a system that allowed him to play in a variety of situations. The game plan moved in formation and resulted in nine receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.
“Zach did a great job last race, getting me around and getting me close to the RPO,” Chase said. “That’s pretty cool. It’s one of the best game plans he’s ever had.”
It took just four days for it to slip a notch in Chase’s rankings.
What Taylor, offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, quarterbacks coach Dan Pitchell and offensive line coach Frank Pollack have in store for the Chase in Sunday’s 27-10 divisional game is nothing new, but it The frequency is.
The result certainly is.
In nine games — including four of the first 12 — Chase spent time in the offensive backfield before the snap. He sometimes moves from there. A few times he stayed put. Mostly, he’d start open and move into orbit behind quarterback Joe Burrow and any running back in the game at the time, forcing defenses to make difficult adjustments that were often flawed and sometimes fatal of.
“Sometimes you change his passing power in the backfield, so they have to make a decision, how are they going to approach that situation,” Taylor said. “Sometimes it prevents duels. Sometimes it messes you up.”
Sunday at Highmark Stadium, the Bills were basically a mess.
On those nine snaps where Chase occupied backfield space, the Bengals gained 107 yards at an incredible 11.9 yards per game.
Four of those were passes, and Burrow completed all four passes for 66 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown to Chase to close out the opener.
In five games, Joe Mixon had 3 carries for 31 yards, Samaje Perine had 7 carries and Chase had 3 carries.
“It’s the movement that forms the middle finger,” former Tigers quarterback and QB School founder JT O’Sullivan said while breaking down footage of the game on the QB School YouTube channel.
“That’s beautiful. That’s art. A world-class offensive structure,” O’Sullivan continued to deconstruct the formation as Mixon produced his longest 16-yard run of the day.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the nine shows.
Game 1: Game 1 and 10, Cincinnati 32 with 13:45 left in the first quarter (third play of the game).
Chase enters orbit from right to left, with no receiver on the right side of the formation. He sat at No. 28 as a swing option to tie the field, drawing coverage from Bills guard Tremayne Edmonds. But Burrow hit Tyler Boyd, who, along with Tee Higgins, made a conversion release for a 23-yard gain at the corner to put the Bengals in Buffalo territory.
Game 2: Games 2 and 3, Buffalo 28 points with 11:48 left in the first quarter (sixth play of the game).
Chase started in the backfield and then moved to the left.
The Bills are in zone play, with Chase and tight end Hayden Hurst sitting in the zone, Hurst on the flat, and Chase about 5 yards down the middle of the field. When Burrow felt the pressure on the left edge, he stepped up and two Buffalo defensemen were expected to check Hurst. Chase turned and sprinted into midfield and was wide open when he received the ball in the No. 9 before breaking through safety to find his first point of the game.
“It’s a nice little package,” Pitcher said.
Game 3: Game 2 and 5, Cincinnati 33 with 9:24 left in the first quarter (8th play of the game).
Chase lined up left and then ran in circles behind Burrow, dragging nickel corner Tarun Johnson into the box, while the two guards slid left to leave the defense wide open.
Right tackle Hakeem Adeniji pulled and eliminated Johnson, leaving Mixon a huge gap to run for 16 yards.
“I’m not a defensive fanatic, but I can tell you I don’t want a tackle running on my nickel DB trying to fill the B gap,” O’Sullivan said. “All these moves are saying swing screens, swing screens, swing screens, so you get the linebacker running there, you run, and you get this nickel with the NFL tackle package.”
“If the defense is going to keep two high safetys, there’s a lot of responsibility on the nickel,” Pitcher said. “And Buffalo doesn’t really play base defense, so it doesn’t matter who you put on the field, the nickel is there. There, they asked him to do a lot of things. We were able to get into some good positions with that.”
It was one of five designed runs of 10 or more yards on Sunday (Burrow also had a 21-yard scramble), two of which were completed with Chase in the backfield.
Game 4: Game 1 and 10, Buffalo 30 with 6:48 left in the first quarter (12th play of the game).
The least efficient play of the entire set came when Chase ran behind Burrow for a deep throw seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. He tried to wait for his block before turning to the downfield, but the play was too long and only carried 3 yards.
It’s a reminder of why Taylor and the rest of the staff waited so long to rely more on using Chase in the backfield after starting to tinker last season.
“The first time we played Baltimore, it didn’t put us in a good position,” Taylor said, referring to Games 2 and 12 in Week 5 of the year, in which Chase and Mixon took a shotgun The formation flanked Burrow, while Chase made the transition and widened through internal penetration, resulting in no gains.
The Bengals’ offensive line should be a liability. So how does it govern the bill?
The Tigers suffered two similar losses in the same series against the Jets two weeks ago. On the first play off the kickoff, Chase lined up in the pitch zone and ran a jet sweep for a 1-yard loss. In Game 11, Game 4 and 1 of 19 for the Jets, Chase lined up left, orbited behind Barrow, threw the ball 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and couldn’t Reached the mark and lost a yard to a heave error.
But Taylor remained confident in the plan and continued to add.
“The initial part of the package is there for a reason, and then there’s what you need to carry to supplement it,” Taylor said. It’s more about the plan they’re going to show on the defensive end, whether that gives us an advantage or not. But the initial intention is always that we think we can put pressure on them that way, and then you have to build on that, And be prepared for some adjustments they might make. There’s a lot in there.”
Game 5: Game 1 and 10, Cincinnati 25 with 7:25 left in the second quarter.
It was Buffalo’s first play after a touchdown that cut Cincinnati’s lead to 14-7. Chase and Perine flank Burrow with shotguns.
Burrow changed tactics, Chase moved into position to the right, Higgins slid farther to the right, and Perine flipped to Burrow’s left.
Burrow looks for Chase down the middle, but he’s screened by Johnson, so he checks Perine for 4 yards.
Game 6: 2nd and 1st quarter, Buffalo 26 points with 4:02 left in the second quarter.
Chase and Perine outflanked Burrow again, who moved Chase to the left behind him when the ball was intercepted.
Burrow passed Perine through the middle to another chunk. Perine gained 5 or 6 yards before he was touched and finished with a 7 gain.
“It’s hard because if you want to do any kind of double-teaming or anything like that, now you have to add this element of, ‘Well, what if he lines up in the backfield? What do you do?'” Bengals Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said, explaining the dilemma in his view of the program. “Usually, it really changes the coverage because you don’t want to double-team the guys in the backfield because generally, those guys don’t go very far. So now it’s all down there, or passing the ball to They or something. If you’re just trying to plan and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to double-team him in this game, it just adds another layer to your preparation. Generally, you don’t talk about it, okay Well, he’s in the backcourt now.”
Game 7: 2nd and 10th, Buffalo 20 points with 3:22 left in the second quarter.
Those were just two snaps after Perine’s 7-yard gain and the Bengals started again.
Chase was in position on the left and circled behind the formation. Johnson followed him.
Digging to Mixon, who ran to the area vacated by the open corner for 6 points.
The Tigers entered the red zone and eventually Evan McPherson scored a field goal to take a 17-7 lead entering the half.
Game 8: Game 1 and 10, Cincinnati 38 with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
Chase starts in the right slot. He moved to the backfield, to Burrow’s left and Trayveon Williams to the right.
Buffalo does not change its alignment.
Chase moved behind Burrow and Burrow hit him on the screen 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, which he turned into a 12-yard gain.
“There are a few different kinds of packages,” Taylor said. “Some games are live, some games are not. He’s proven to us that he has the ability to understand wherever we want to put him, and he can do it, whether it’s catching the bubble, making people miss it, or making something out of nothing.” . That’s the weapon we got with Ja’Marr. So you have to figure out how to get creative and use him.”
Game 9: Games 1 and 10, 50-yard line, 15:00 remainder of fourth quarter.
Chase is on the left, rounding behind Burrow. Johnson, slot corner, go with him.
Mixon ran again into the zone vacated by Johnson for 9 yards, went on 9 plays for 61 yards and finished with a McPherson field goal to extend the lead to the final score 27-10.
With the wrinkle, the Bengals will be eclipsed by nearly 400 yards in their next series. They finished with 412 points, the second-most total in franchise history behind their 439 points in a wild-card loss to the Chargers in 2013.
Chase finished with five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown (and a 10-yard touchdown that was overturned on a replay), plus all the action and time spent in the backfield created more offense.
“Sometimes you go into a package like this, maybe it gets called a few times, sometimes it succeeds early on, and it gets called a lot more,” Pitcher said. “I just think Zach does a really good job of seeing how the defense adjusts and takes advantage of what’s working in the moment.”
On Sunday, everything works fine. Burrow was accurate, getting the ball to everyone. The team with three new starters has been holding on. The running game is both efficient and explosive. When that happens, the opposing defensive coordinator basically throws his hands up and finds himself overwhelmed.
“Anytime you pass the ball to various people, we have a lot of different arms, and everyone feels like they’re a part of it,” Pitcher said. “We’re going down one after the other, the confidence and the momentum is building and you get a sense of deflation and frustration from the defense. It’s a game played by people with emotion, in There are definitely moments in the game where you can feel that from your opponents.”
(Photo: Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)