The Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders are making strides as organizations, but they’re still miles apart. That was evident this past Sunday, as the Bengals tormented their opponent with a throttling 34-10 victory. Cincinnati now sits at 6-5 and is on the verge of entering the knockout stages of the National Football League, while Oakland sulks near the basement of the AFC West once again with a mere three wins to their name, although I’m not entirely sure if they’re truly that poor of a club.
While the Raiders were rebuilding, the Bengals kept on building their lead. They threw touchdown after touchdown with short pass after short pass, which was akin to a rolling ball of paper cuts. Ins, outs, shoots, and slants were the routes of choice for the Bengals, and the Raiders seemingly had no answer for them. The slants, in particular, were detrimental to the Raiders’ defense, especially the Double Slants concept.
Double Slants is a relatively simple concept, holding true to its name in that there are two pass catchers that together run slants from the same side of the field. Simple, right? Indeed, but it’s not easy to defend, especially if you’re defending with Cover 2 Man or, as it’s simply called in football parlance, “Man-Under”.
Man-Under is a two deep zone safety set that features inside alignment by the accompanying underneath defenders, who are left to play man coverage. Ideally, the underneath defenders will trail the potential pass receivers by staying attached to either hip while the safeties patrol over the top, emphatically putting a lid on any vertical threats.
Just after the midpoint of the first quarter, the Bengals were faced with Man-Under coverage from the Raiders. Quarterback Andy Dalton was in shotgun while three sets of receivers were aligned to his right to form a “Trips” or “Trey” set. To Dalton’s left were two other potential targets, but they weren’t going to be factors in this play other than to take up space and stretch the Raiders’ defenders pancake thin.
The targets who were going to be factors were the No. 2 and 3 receivers, who are numbered from the sideline-in to the three receiver side. With the ball in Dalton’s hands, the No. 3 receiver (white) initially released outside before breaking it back across the face of the Raiders’ dime (sixth defensive back) defender and running a slant underneath. This route was pivotal on this play because it’s the biggest reason — barring a miscommunication from the defense — it would workas designed.
By running the slant route underneath, the No. 3 receiver occupied the defensive back, naturally creating a gargantuan, vacant zone in the middle of the field. What further exacerbated this vacancy was a miscommunication from the nickel cornerback responsible for the No. 2 receiver, who just happens to be stud A.J. Green. Green completed the concept by running the second slant uncovered and catching the pass, eventually eluding the deep safety (Tyvon Branch) who had to come to an abrupt halt in an attempt to make a tackle — which he missed and cost the Raiders 44-yards.
One interval later, the Bengals were back driving up the field, and they unleashed the Double Slants concept again. It was successful, but defensively there was no mix up on the Raiders’ part; they simply happened to be in the wrong coverage at the wrong time as the Bengals concept is the ideal and league-wide favored Cover 2 (five under, two deep zone) beater.
The Bengals were a little compressed with their formation on this play, relying on “Doubles” sets (two catchers to each side) to each side but without the tight end detached to Dalton’s left. There was also a potential ball-carrier on this play, who stood by Dalton’s right in the shotgun. However, there was little difference in execution, with tight end Jermaine Gresham serving as the first slant runner underneath, occupying the strongside linebackers while receiver Green ran a slant route in between the cornerback and linebacker for a pick up of 19-yards a missed tackle later.
Cincinnati sliced and diced the Raiders’ defense on Sunday, and now the Bengals are only slightly out of the playoffs due to a tie breaker with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, who they meet later this year. Dalton has continued to make plays over the last three weeks — all wins — and be mistake-free. Conversely, the Oakland Raiders are making mistakes as they rebuild their once proud franchise, but despite the loss, they appear to be on the right track under the guidance of head coach Dennis Allen.