Over the course of the game last week, the Cincinnati Bengals ran 14 meaningful drives before the final lateral attempt with eight seconds remaining. They produced four scores, and on each of those drives, three of which were field goals, they traveled more than 50 yards down the field, two of them traveling over 70 yards.
This combined 268 yards, however, only accounts for about two thirds of their offensive output, as they recorded 412 yards in total on the day. Taking out the seven yards from the final drive, the Bengals split the remaining 137 yards across 10 drives during the game.
They had five additional drives that gained at least 15 yards, and three that went for at least 30 yards. Two of them went over 40 yards before the drive ultimately came to an end. So how did they fail to score on these drives? Part of the answer is field position.
The Pittsburgh Steelers for the most of the day did a very good job of controlling the field position battle, as the Bengals never started a single drive in Steelers territory. In fact, their best starting field position on the entire afternoon was their own 32-yard line, and that came as a result of an interception.
Six times throughout the game, the Bengals started from their 25-yard line following a kickoff, and, unsurprisingly, they turned three of these drives, as well as the drive following the above-mentioned turnover, into points.
On not drive in which they began the series inside of their own 25-yard line did they manage to come away with points. That includes the opening and closing drives on which they began from the 20-yard line, both drives starting after punts.
In fact, on five of their drives, the Steelers’ special-teams units forced Cincinnati to start at or inside their own 10-yard line, and on these drives, the defense did its part to ensure that the Bengals would not be able to flip the field.
The Bengals only gained more than nine yards on one of those five drives, and on that they gained 16, to the 25-yard line, before having to punt. On the flip side, the Steelers began two drives in Bengals territory—plus a third drive from their own 49—and beyond the 30-yard line an impressive seven times.
Three of the team’s scores came on those drives that began beyond their own 30-yard line, though they did manage to drive 91 yards for a touchdown, and for that they should be commended as well. But throughout most of the day, the Steelers were able to stay ahead by literally staying ahead when it came to field position.
Through two games, Pittsburgh has had an average starting field position of their own 29.3-yard line, while they have held their opponents to an average starting field position of the 23.4-yard line. That nearly six-yard advantage is not to be overlooked, and is a trend that they must continue today against the Eagles. They have managed to hold an average starting field position of the 38.1-yard line, largely due to turnovers, and that must not happen this evening.