Game Preview

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Game Preview: Bengals at Rams | Week 8

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Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air on CBS-TV. In the Bengals’ home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Trent Green (analyst) and Melanie Collins (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

Setting the scene: The Bengals this week travel to London, England, as part of the NFL’s International Series, and take on the Los Angeles Rams at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Cincinnati is coming off of a 27-17 home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and currently stands at 0-7.

“It’s a frustrating loss,” said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. “It was the type of game we envisioned it being, and there were opportunities in front of us, but we didn’t do enough to take advantage of it. Give the Jaguars credit.”

Despite the 10-point final margin, the Bengals and Jaguars were locked in a closely contested battle for much of the game. Cincinnati held a 10-9 lead after three quarters, but then threw three fourth-quarter interceptions, including one inside the red zone and another that was returned for a TD, allowing Jacksonville to coast to a win.

Among the Bengals’ highest priorities this week will be jump-starting the running game, which Zac Taylor has said is essential to his offensive philosophy. Last week against Jacksonville, Cincinnati was held to just 33 net rushing yards, and HB Joe Mixon, the AFC’s leading rusher a year ago, totaled 10 rushes for two yards.

“We don’t want to play the game dropping back (43) times,” said Taylor of his team’s run-pass ratio against Jacksonville. “We’ve got to be accountable in the run game. We called some runs, and they’re good runs, but then we lose the point of attack right as the (running) back is hitting the line of scrimmage.”

Among the bright spots for the Bengals the last few weeks has been the play of Cincinnati’s defense inside the red zone. Although the Bengals have surrendered more than 400 yards in each of the last three games, the defense has kept each contest close by holding those three opponents to a combined three touchdowns on 14 total trips inside the 20-yard line. Overall this season, Cincinnati has allowed just 11 TDs on 27 red-zone possessions, good for a 40.7 defensive red-zone TD percentage that ranks fourth in NFL.

Sunday’s game against the Rams will feature several reunions. Taylor, who was named the Bengals’ 10th head coach on Feb. 4 of this year, spent the last two seasons (2017-18) as a member of the Rams’ coaching staff. He served as assistant wide receivers coach in 2017, before moving into the role of quarterbacks coach last season and helping the team to a Super Bowl berth.

The Bengals will also see a familiar face on Sunday. Rams OT Andrew Whitworth was originally a second-round draft selection of the Bengals in 2006, and spent his first 11 seasons (’06-16) with Cincinnati. During his time in Cincinnati, Whitworth was a central figure on six Bengals playoff teams, including three that won AFC North titles.

In focusing on earning their first win on Sunday before entering the Week 9 bye, Taylor and the Bengals will need players originally slotted as reserves to step into larger roles. Last week vs. Jacksonville, injuries held out six players who started in the team’s season-opener at Seattle, as well as another valuable defensive contributor in DE Carl Lawson. And, of course, the Bengals are still awaiting the return of star WR A.J. Green, who has not yet played this season due to a ankle injury suffered in the team’s first training camp practice in July.

“I know this community really, really wants to support a winner,” Taylor said of his trying to get in the win column. “We’re going to fight our tails off every single day. I want to win for the players, because they put in the work. I want to win for the fans, because they want us to be a winner.”

The Rams are 4-3 after defeating the Atlanta Falcons last week.

The series: The Bengals lead 8-5 overall.

This week’s game will be the first played between the two teams at a neutral site, though the Rams will be considered the home team. The series is tied 3-3 overall with the Bengals as the visiting team.

The Bengals have won the last three meetings, 19-10 at Paul Brown Stadium in 2007, 20-13 at St. Louis in ’11, and 31-7 at PBS in ’15. This week’s game will be the Bengals’ first against the second Los Angeles edition of the Rams. The Bengals were 5-2 against the first Los Angeles edition of the Rams and were 2-3 against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams franchise originally played in Cleveland from 1936-45, and then L.A. from ’46-94, and then St. Louis from ’95-2015. They returned to L.A. in ’16.

Bengals-Rams connections: Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was on the Rams’ coaching staff from 2017-18. He served as assistant wide receivers coach in 2017, and quarterbacks coach in ’18 ... Rams T Andrew Whitworth was originally a second-round draft pick (55th overall) of Cincinnati in 2006, and was with the Bengals through the ’16 season ... Rams head coach Sean McVay played wide receiver at Miami (Ohio) University ... Rams CB Troy Hill was originally a college free agent signee of the Bengals in 2015, and was with the team during the ’15 season ... Rams LS Jake McQuaide is from Cincinnati (Elder High School) and played at Ohio State University ...Bengals WR John Ross (Reserve/Injured) is from Long Beach, Calif. (Jordan High School) ... Bengals CB Torry McTyer is from Los Angeles (Cathedral High School) ... Bengals G Alex Redmond is from Cerritos, Calif. (Los Alamitos High School) ... Bengals DT Josh Tupou is from Long Beach, Calif. (Buena Park High School) ... Bengals WR Trenton Irwin (practice squad) is from Valencia, Calif. (Hart High School) ... Rams DT Marquise Copeland (practice squad) played at the University of Cincinnati ... Rams assistant quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson played for the Bengals from 2011-13 ... Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson played DE/LB for the Bengals from 2007-08 ... Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan played (2002-05) and coached (’06-07) at UCLA ...Bengals strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese coached at Fresno State University from 2012-15 ... Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Todd Hunt played (2012-15) and coached (’16-17) at Fresno State University ...Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Garrett Swanson played at Fresno State University from 2012-15 ... Rams outside linebackers coach Chris Shula played linebacker at Miami (Ohio) University from 2004-08 ... Rams run game coordinator Aaron Kromer is from Sandusky, Ohio, and played (1986-89) and coached (’90-98) at Miami (Ohio) University ... Rams director of strength and conditioning Ted Rath played (2003-06) and coached (’07-09) at the University of Toledo ... Rams assistant strength and conditioning coach Edward Grayer coached at the University of Louisville in 2007.

Hey, Mr. Wilson: Coming into the 2019 season, Bengals S Brandon Wilson had just one career kickoff return — he was on the receiving end of a 36-yard pooch kick designed to run out the clock in the first half of Game 9 vs. New Orleans last season. But opportunity came knocking in Game 5 this season, when the Bengals, who were already down their No. 1 KOR Darius Phillips (Reserve/Injured; knee), lost their No. 2 KOR, Alex Erickson, to a concussion.

On his first opportunity, Wilson, a third-year pro from the University of Houston, returned a kickoff 52 yards and nearly broke free for a TD. He later added a 40-yarder that was called back by a penalty. The next week at Baltimore, Wilson bolted 92 yards for a TD on the game’s opening kickoff, marking the first time in team history a Bengal has opened a game with a kickoff-return TD. The NFL’s Next Gen Stats service, which tracks players’ speed by using GPS, clocked Wilson’s TD dash at 22.03 MPH, the third-fastest speed in the NFL this year and the fastest by a Bengal since NGS’ launch in 2016.

And then in Game 7 vs. Jacksonville, Wilson nearly scored again, but had to settle for a 61-yard return thanks to a shoestring tackle as he broke into the clear.

Wilson now has 10 career kickoff returns for 334 yards (33.4 average). He stands as the first NFL player in eight seasons to have his first 10 career kickoff returns include three of 40 or more yards and at least one TD (Jets RB Joe McKnight, 2010-11).

Keep an eye on Andy: QB Andy Dalton owns a 68-57-2 record as a starter, good for the top winning percentage (.543) of any Bengals QB with 10 or more starts. And as the numbers have shown, the Bengals’ success is tied closely to that of their QB.

The Bengals are 39-9 (.813) when Dalton achieves a passer rating of at least 100, with wins in 11 of their last 16 such instances. Conversely, Cincinnati is just 10-27 (.270) when Dalton’s passer rating is 70 or lower, with losses in the last 15 such instances.

Dalton has thrown at least two TDs 63 times in his career. and the Bengals are 41-21-1 (.659) in those contests. In his 23 games with at least three TD passes, the Bengals are 22-1 (.957), with the only outlier coming in a 2012 loss at Cleveland. Conversely, the Bengals are just 6-17 (.261) when Dalton is held without a TD pass, and haven’t won such a game since 2014 at Cleveland.

A similar trend is true with passing yardage. In the 51 instances of Dalton topping 250 passing yards, the Bengals are 29-20-2 (.588). He’s topped 300 yards 26 times, with Cincinnati going 15-10-1 (.596) in those contests. But when he is held under 150 passing yards, Cincinnati is just 6-11 (.353).

Cincinnati has also proven tough to beat when Dalton is at his most accurate. When he completes at least 65 percent of his passes (minimum 20 attempts), the Bengals are 36-15-1 (.702), including wins in eight of their last 12 such games. And when that completion percentage jumps to at least 70, the Bengals are 21-6-1 (.768), with wins in 12 of their last 15 such games. Cincinnati, however, is just 5-18 (.217) when Dalton’s completion percentage is 55 or lower.

Dalton passes Kenny in TDs: QB Andy Dalton’s three rushing touchdowns this season have given him 22 total TDs for his career, the most by a QB in Bengals history. Dalton tied former Bengals QB Ken Anderson (20) for the lead in Game 3 at Buffalo, and then moved ahead of him in Game 6 at Baltimore with a two-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter. Dalton in 2019 is playing his ninth season, while Anderson played 16 Bengals seasons (1971-86).

Dalton’s 21 career rushing TDs are now also the most ever by a Bengals QB, ahead of Anderson (20). All of Anderson’s TDs were rushing scores, while Dalton has 22 total by virtue of being the only Bengals QB ever to catch a touchdown pass. He scored on an 18-yard gadget connection from WR Mohamed Sanu vs. Tennessee in 2014. The next-most total TDs by a Bengals QB is 10, by Jeff Blake. Dalton and Jack Thompson share the Bengals season record for touchdowns by a QB, at five. Dalton had five in 2014, tying the record first set by Thompson in 1979.

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