Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals are no strangers to post season play. They have made the playoffs every year since drafting the young gun out of Texas Christian University (TCU) in 2011. Dalton has since become their franchise quarterback. Together, they will be making their third consecutive appearance. With an eighth division title under their belts and Dalton under center, they are still looking for that first win in the dreaded Wild Card round. In his last two playoff starts, Dalton and company were sent packing, falling both times at Reliant Stadium to the Houston Texans.
However, this time around, the Bengals will be playing from home in Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium. Their opponent is the number six seeded San Diego Chargers. They narrowly defeated San Diego (17-10) in their previous meeting on December 1st. Cincinnati accumulated a total of 164 yards on the ground and exposed a soft Chargers secondary. This was due to San Diego’s inability to tackle in the open field and control the line of scrimmage. They won’t, however, be taking their opponent lightly, even though they rank as early seven point favorites. Head coach Marvin Lewis knows all too well what the Chargers will be bringing to the table for Sunday afternoon’s rematch. Coach Lewis expects to see a very different and much improved Charger defense this time around. He will also have to deal with a surging Phillip Rivers on offense.
Coach Lewis found a video of the Chargers post game locker celebration after defeating the Chiefs in the season finale to clinch their final playoff spot.
He stated, “Listening to them in the locker room after they won the last game … they’re pointing to us. They feel like they owe us. So we’ll be ready to go.”
The key for a Bengals victory is simple. Cincinnati’s defense must continue to pressure and keep Rivers from getting into any sort of rhythm. The defense must simply shut down his top play-makers, like receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Antonio Gates. Taking away River’s crutch will certainly make him prone to committing errors. If they can manage to control the tempo of San Diego’s offense, the Bengals will be punching their tickets to Foxborough for a divisional round date on January 11th with the New England Patriots.
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Sports-Kings Down and Distance Contributor Stephn Baldetti