Bengals win their way, but Seahawks secondary makes strides

Oct 30, 2011, 10:11 PM | Updated: 10:36 pm

Green-TD
Bengals receiver A.J. Green hauls in a 43-yard touchdown pass over Earl Thomas. (Jane Gershovich / 710Sports.com)

By Matt Pitman

There were all sorts side stories worthy of keeping an eye on coming into this one.

The Bengals were coming off a bye and a week ago we witnessed the Seahawks’ post-bye lethargy in a road game. How would rookie quarterback Andy Dalton respond to the hostility of the 12th Man, where even the most veteran NFL quarterbacks have been rattled to the point of catastrophe? Would the bye week work against a young, upstart Bengals team in derailing any rhythm cultivated from a 4-2 start?

Is a 34-12 shellacking convincing enough?

That’s a pretty clear answer to most of those questions. But there were plenty of questions for the Seahawks entering this game, beyond who would start at quarterback. Would the Seahawks defense pin its ears back against the rookie Dalton? Was first-year corner Richard Sherman ready for center stage, having been thrust into the starting corner position with Walter Thurmond placed on injured reserve last week?

The simple answer: the Bengals were ready for anything early on. Especially overcoming an early, raucous CenturyLink Field crowd, according to Dalton.

“It’s something that we knew was something that we had to be ready for,” he said. “I thought we did a good job handling it. We communicated well up front and I thought we handled it well.”

The Bengals established control early, scoring on both of their opening drives for a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. They are 5-2 for a reason. They’re as good as their record reflects. Playing on the road is no easy chore for any team in the NFL. Dalton said Cincy’s plan was simple, and not unlike that of many teams playing away from home.

“We wanted to start fast,” he said. “It was good to get that first drive going and it kind of set the tempo of the game.”

The battle between the Bengals’ passing offense and the Seahawks’ pass defense was intriguing to watch. We’ve seen good and bad from Brandon Browner this season, while Sherman has a lot of promise but has yet to be tested as a starting corner.

Early on, it was all Dalton and the Bengals. He was 6 of 6 in the first quarter and finished the first half 13 of 18 with two touchdowns. The second score was a phenomenal 43-yard pass and catch with fellow rookie sensation A.J. Green.

But the second half was a different story. Dalton ended the first half with a passer rating of 128.2. He ended the game with a passer rating of 72.2 thanks in large part to a pair of second-half interceptions, one by Kam Chancellor on a ball intended for Green and the other by Sherman — his first career pick.

Green said despite the early success, the Seahawks secondary — with Sherman and Chancellor listed at 6-foot-3 and Browner an inch taller — caused problems all game long.

“They’re long and it’s hard to get on top because they get their hands on you,” Green said. “We had to do some quick stuff to get them in and out of their breaks, but they did a great job just getting on top of us.”

As for the pick by Chancellor, Green gave the Seahawks safety credit but also thinks he’d win that battle if given another chance.

“That’s a play I should have made,” he said. “I make that play nine out of 10 (times). But hats off to the DB, he did a good job and the safety came over and got over the top.”

Seriously though, I know it isn’t fun right now, 12th Man. But for a second, imagine having a first-year combo of Dalton and Green jelling together on offense for what could be a classic tandem for years to come. At the same time, we saw more of what this young Seahawks secondary is capable of.

Sherman and Browner more than held their own over four quarters. Chancellor once again displayed a knack for being a ball hawk. Oh, and Earl Thomas led the Seahawks with 10 total tackles. We talk all the time about how good the Seahawks offense will be in a year or so when they’ve played together and “jell” over time.

Imagine the Seahawks’ young secondary in a year. Even later this season. I think it’s the most exciting group of players on this developing team.

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Bengals win their way, but Seahawks secondary makes strides