Cam Newton, check.
Andrew Luck, check.
Andy Dalton, up next.
Surely the latter would be the least worrisome of the group, right? So far, Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals are actually the toughest passing game the Broncos have faced.
“They are the No. 1 passing team in football after two weeks,” head coach Gary Kubiak said.
In the first two games, the Bengals, 1-1, have almost entirely relied on the passing game, throwing the ball 84 times to only 37 rushes, nearly 70 percent pass. Although the Bengals have been down in both games, they haven’t been in positions where they needed to completely abandon the run; they just love to rely on the pass.
“They want the ball to go down field,” Kubiak said. “They are very complementary [in the passing game]. They have a lot of things going on, a lot of guys making plays.”
Green, a five-time pro bowler, poses a nightmare matchup for any team in the league, even the “No Fly Zone.” At 6-foot-4 and a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, Green commands the eyes of the entire defense, not just one defensive back.
“[Green] is a big time player. If he gets in jump ball situations, it’s really hard to deal with,” Kubiak said.
In the Bengals first game against the New York Jets, Green was the difference maker in the game, torching the Jets secondary for 12 catches on 13 targets for 180 yards and a touchdown. The next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green was held to two receptions on eight targets for only 38 yards.
The difference between the two games was the game plan. While the Jets allowed Green to run freely off of the line of scrimmage, the Steelers played him physical, not giving him any room to move freely. However, the “No Fly Zone” won’t change their game plan based on what other teams have done.
“We are going to do what we do,” cornerback Bradley Roby said. “We are one of the best defenses in the league. Why would we see what someone else is doing and try to mimic them? They need to try to mimic us.”
Roby does indeed have a point. After the first two games the Broncos have given up the second fewest passing yards (346) in the league, even while facing two elite quarterbacks. Although Green is a tough matchup, Roby thinks that a previous matchup earlier in the year was more difficult.
“(Green is) not the biggest guy I’ve ever seen — [Carolina Panther wide receiver] [Kelvin] Benjamin was a pretty tough matchup,” Roby said.
The “No Fly Zone” will play this game just like every other game they have played in this scheme — one-on-one.
“We are a great man-coverage team, it’s hard to get open against us, no matter who you are,” Roby said.
Although the Bengals have the second fewest yards rushing through the first two games (103), that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent in the backfield. In fact, one receiving threat the “No Fly Zone” won’t have much control over is Bernard, who will be the primary responsibility of linebackers Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis out of the backfield.
“They have good receiving backs out of the backfield, and their guys are quick, especially Bernard; he’s very fast,” Roby said. “They will try to use him in the check down game to try and get extra yards here and there.”
Davis said that both he and Marshall will have responsibilities covering Bernard, but their recently acquired nickname of “thunder and lightning” help give the nod to who will have the primary responsibility.
“I am thunder, he is lightning, so I guess lightning is a little bit quicker than thunder, so I will give him that,” David said.
Through the first two games of the season Green and Bernard lead the team in targets, receptions, receiving touchdowns and yards from scrimmage. If the Broncos are able to take away, or even limit, Dalton’s two favorite weapons, then the Broncos will have a very good chance of walking away from Cincinnati with their first road victory of the season.