Bengals' Defensive Keys Super Bowl 2022: Can Lou Anarumo Scheme Winning Formula?

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson. / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals Must Win Early Downs Defensively

After trading for Matthew Stafford, the Los Angeles Rams became a more pass-happy team, but it's going to be on the Cincinnati Bengals to put their opponent in obvious passing situations and win on third down.

The team was very weak against the run in the AFC Championship, allowing the Chiefs to average 6.7 yards per carry and set up in second or third and short situations where the team can open up the playbook.

However, will L.A. attack this part of the defense? The Rams core duo of running backs, Cam Akers and Sony Michel, have been uninspiring in the postseason. Akers made a miraculous recovery from an Achilles injury, but is averaging less than three yards per carry while Michel is 25th in the league in success rate this season by running backs that have at least 100 carries.

If neither running back is able to get much burst and get to the second level, the Bengals can shorten their defensive drives to third down. If Cincy is able to force the Rams into obvious passing situations on third down, say 3rd-and-7, the team can look to win those on a play by play basis.

For what it's worth, Los Angels is fifth in the league in third down conversion percentage and the Bengals are 21st on the defensive side of the ball.

That being said, stuffing the run game will make it easier on the Bengals defense, who are the less talented unit, and allow defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, who is a secondary coach by trade, to scheme up unique coverages on the likes of Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr.

How to Find Pressure on Matthew Stafford, Create Plays

Anarumo made a fantastic adjustment in the second half of the Bengals AFC title victory, rushing three and dropping eight in coverage. Patrick Mahomes was rendered ineffective in the second half as the Chiefs offense sputtered. Over the course of the game on 18 snaps where he rushed three, Anarumo's defense forced Mahomes into a pedestrian 7-for-14 for 72 yards and four sacks.

The Rams have the best offensive line in terms of pass rush win rate this season, and it will be tough sledding for the Bengals defensive front, anchored by Trey Hendrickson, but they are best suited rushing with three or four instead of sending heavy pressure, Stafford was the best quarterback in the league on an EPA/Play perspective, so I don't expect extra added defenders in the box from Anarumo's defense.

I expect the team to show some similar looks as the team looks to play zone coverage and limit the explosive plays of Kupp, Beckham and Van Jefferson. The Rams are surely going to get their fair share, but the key will be to limiting the explosiveness of those plays.

Of course, with more men in coverage, the Bengals defense is in better position to create turnovers.

Stafford led the league in interceptions this season and the Cincinnati defense is likely going to need one or two in order to hang in this game and give them a chance. I don't expect the Bengals secondary, who allowed over 200 yards to Davante Adams earlier this season, to win in man coverage against the likes of Kupp, but they can play zone coverage and look to win by committee.

The Rams have the superior offensive line and the unforgiving route running to win in the passing game, but the Bengals can maximize their chances and give Joe Burrow a chance by causing some turnover-worthy plays as well as getting off the field on third down to hang around in this game.

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