Ed’s Note: Pausing the Vine videos below by clicking on them once may help your browser run faster.
Without A.J. Green on the field this past Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens knew the ball was going to Mohamed Sanu. Yet even despite double-teaming him for much of the game, they still couldn’t slow him down. Sanu made two game-changing catches of over 45 yards that helped set up touchdowns on the first and last drives of the game, and also ran a successful 26-yard end-around during the Bengals other touchdown drive.
Additionally, the Bengals may have found their third wide receiver in the wake of Marvin Jones’ season ending injury. Newly signed free-agent receiver Greg Little made several important catches to keep drives going. Little was within six inches of stretching the ball over the goal line on one play, and he was wide open in the endzone on another play where Dalton overthrew him. Still, both Sanu and Little proved to be major factors in the Bengals 27-24 victory.
On the fourth play of the game, Sanu ran an intermediate post pattern where he ran straight down the field about twelve yards before planting his right foot in the ground to make a simple move inside on Ravens corner Lardarius Webb.
Meanwhile, one of the Ravens safeties, Darian Stewart, is moving forward just before the snap, suggesting he might blitz. Stewart blitzes, leaving the right side of the field wide open. Dalton fakes the handoff to Gio Bernard then drops back to throw. Bernard notices the free blitzer and cuts him to impede his progress. It was just enough time for Dalton to make the drop and throw.
By watching Dalton’s head, it’s clear Sanu was his first read. Dalton’s eyes never leave the right side of the field, releasing the ball just before Sanu makes his break inside. The throw is a little too high. In fact, Lardarius Webb tries to play the ball by leaning away from Sanu, but Sanu makes an extraordinary catch by tipping the ball to himself with one hand.
— Lance McAlister (@LanceMcAlister) October 27, 2014
He runs another 30 yards before he is tackled, setting the Bengals up in the redzone. The next two plays don’t go so well for the Bengals. On first down, Dalton is sacked by Terrell Suggs, who beat the right tackle Andre Smith easily. On second down, Dalton hands the ball off to Gio Bernard, who gains about a yard before running into a wall of lineman and defenders. It’s now 3rd & 15. It feels like the Bengals will settle for a few yards and attempt the short field goal. Enter Greg Little, who’s Bengals career to this point has been an important drop on third down and one garbage-time catch in his debut game against the Indianapolis Colts. Dalton’s eyes start to the middle-left. He’s looking at Sanu in the slot, but he is well covered. Dalton turns his head to the right side of the field and delivers the ball before Little even gets out of his break. Dalton gets slammed by interior pressure just after he releases the ball. The center Russell Bodine was completely overwhelmed by a stunt. Little’s route is very simple. He just runs straight down the field for 20 yards, then stops and looks for the ball. Little just needs to jump and catch the ball.
He makes the catch and puts back-to-back stiff arms on the Ravens defensive backs attempting to tackle him. Little slips by one, but is tackled by the legs by the second defender. He reaches the ball out and is within inches of the endzone. The Bengals would score a touchdown on a quarterback sneak two plays later.
In the second quarter, the Bengals were facing 3rd & 9 from their own 35-yard line. Dalton would again go to Greg Little, who makes a nice double move to get open in double coverage.
Little runs what is called a seven route. He fakes inside, then opens his hips back to the sideline. Both Lardarius Webb and Darian Stewart bite hard on the first move. This leaves Little wide open for a 20 yard gain.
Facing over-under coverage, Greg Little gets open on a deep 7 route. Play was called back to OL holding https://t.co/4GCA8ximjf
— Brennen Warner (@JustBeWarned) October 28, 2014
Unfortunately, the play would be called back due to offensive holding on Andre Smith. Including this play, Little’s real stat line would have been four catches for 62 yards. The Ravens got the ball first coming out of halftime, but quickly turned it over when Flacco stared down his receiver and threw the ball right into Emmanuel Lamur’s chest. The Bengals had the ball in Ravens territory, and Hue Jackson dialed up a reverse for Sanu. The Ravens were very aggressive in defending what they thought was a Gio Bernard run to the right side. Instead, Bernard flips it to Sanu who had an alley and a huge convoy of blockers. Sanu’s hesitation at the start of the play, where he looked like he was about to block, really sold it.
If two offensive linemen were able to make their blocks downfield, it might have gone for a touchdown.
At the start of the 4th quarter, the Bengals were in the red zone again. It was 3rd & 3 from the Ravens 15-yard line, and the Bengals decided to go for a touchdown.
Little runs an amazing route, sprinting upfield, then doing a little hesitation and head fake to act as if he’s stopping or cutting across the middle of the field. Lardarius Webb bites hard on this move, swinging his hips the wrong way.
Dalton misses Little on 3rd down for a TD. Watch Little’s route. Great fake, burned Webb. https://t.co/V70WCwcenb
— Brennen Warner (@JustBeWarned) October 30, 2014
Little then runs upfield toward the endzone as Webb is left flailing his arms trying to catch up. It really should have been a touchdown. Dalton’s throw was too strong and out of bounds. This is obviously a throw Dalton would like to have back and he showed a lot of frustration as he walked off the field to the sideline. On the final Bengals drive of the game, down 24-20 with four minutes were left, they obviously needed a touchdown. The first two throws of the drive fell incomplete. The third throw changed the game completely. A lot of credit goes to Dalton on this play. He felt the interior pressure allowed by both Clint Boling and Russell Bodine and stepped up in the pocket perfectly to avoid it. Pocket presence had been an issue in Dalton’s past, and this play showed how much he has improved in this area. Dalton kept his eyes up and made the throw exactly where it needed to be, because the corner was running up the sideline without looking back at the ball. He threw it more inside, so Sanu could adjust and make a play on it. It’s even more impressive that Dalton threw on the run and got leveled after the throw.
Sanu was double-covered by the Ravens. The corner on that side played the intermediate throw and the sideline route. Sanu drove towards the sideline and convinced this corner to stay in his assigned zone. Then Sanu exploded upfield towards the endzone to begin working on the safety, Terrence Brooks.
Sanu’s route on the huge 53 yd catch. Drives the sideline then explodes upfield and makes a play on the ball https://t.co/zvuneVQNAc
— Brennen Warner (@JustBeWarned) October 30, 2014
Brooks made the rookie mistake of not looking for the ball, and it cost his team big time. Sanu makes the adjustment on the inside ball and secures the catch to give the Bengals the ball on the Ravens 27-yard line with three minutes remaining.
A few plays later, Dalton would successfully pull of another quarterback sneak for a score. This time, it was on 4th down and for the win.
The Bengals got a crucial division win against the Ravens last Sunday that helps set up their playoff chances down the road. Perhaps even more important is that a receiver is finally emerging as a potential No. 3 receiver. With Marvin Jones down for the year, and backup receivers like Brandon Tate, James Wright, and Dane Sanzenbacher not getting open, someone had to step up.
There might be a few drops along the way, but getting open is paramount, and because of that, Greg Little has proven that he could be an important player in the Bengals playoff push.