The Patriots had to give up running the ball because of the score, but they seemed to be having success in the middle as well. Corey Simon is there in the middle, but big deal (really big deal)...he's only in for half the plays. Any thoughts?
Secondly, and this is no real surprise either, if you get pressure on Manning you can beat him. Well, that and you have to beat up the receivers a little. I like the way our secondary matches up against anyone, but my concern is Edgerrin James. If we commit the safeties to the pass consistanly, I don't know if we can stop him from having 150 yards against us. He's also dynamite in short yardage, and we absolutely have to get our defense off the field on third down. Any thoughts?
No matter what though, I hope I never see Marvin give up on our defense the way Belichick did (last) Monday. Sorry this is so long.
**Brian, Dayton, OH
BRIAN:** Warning. Warning. The Colts are no longer a finesse team. They have the stats and record to prove it. Corey Simon is more than a big deal. He's the real deal. But, you're right. The key to the game is stopping the outside pass rush, yet the game is going to be decided inside on the running game because that dictates how many shots those sackers get.
As for getting pressure on Manning, you'll die trying. He simply won't take a sack as six in 276 pass attempts attest.
That's the one stat matchup the Bengals may have to concede in this one. They're 29th in the league in getting sacks per pass vs. a Colts' team that is far and away No. 1 in preventing sacks. But what bodes well is the Bengals' marvelous ability to cover receivers and play the ball. Despite the few sacks, they have a league-high 20 interceptions.
Two things it seems like you can't do against Manning. Teams tried all last year blitzing him, and he responded with a NFL record 49 touchdown passes. Now they've backed off and with Edge flirting with a 400-carry pace, Manning is second only to Carson Palmer in NFL completion percentage.
So, you can't pressure him and you can't confuse him. The Bengals may be better off clogging the line of scrimmage and passing lanes with their playmakers. On Monday, Marvin alluded to the Colts averaging 133 yards per game rushing. If the Bengals can keep him around there, and bend but don't break in the passing game with a few tips and picks. . .
I just don't think you can take Simon lightly. Here is a defense that is ranked 10th against the rush a year after it finished 24th. Sure, their young backers are emerging, but Simon is clearly the biggest difference. You can make an argument that the highest-rated rush offense they have faced are the Jaguars at No. 11, but numbers are numbers and they have conquered physical teams like the Ravens, Titans, and Patriots.
But, you've hit it on the head. Keep the ball away from Edge and get it in Rudi's hands. If he can get the 4.2 yards per carry the Colts are giving up on the ground with the magic number of 22 rushes (they are 14-5 when he carries at least that), that computes to 92 yards. Is that enough clock to keep it away from Manning? Maybe, maybe not. But it looks to be the right formula.
This is going to be an AFC North game. The Bengals are going to have be as physical as when they beat the Ravens two weeks ago. They have to move Simon, freeze the active backers with play-action, tackle Edge, and hog the clock.
In the Colts' last three losses, they've had the ball less than 23 minutes in all three games.