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Key matchup: Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers
The Chiefs are coming off their best defensive performance of the season (249 yards allowed), knocking out Ben Roethlisberger, shutting down the Steelers’ run game and holding Pittsburgh to 16 points in an overtime loss. Among the standouts in the game was CB Brandon Flowers, who allowed an acrobatic TD catch to Mike Wallace (that might go down as one of the five best catches of the season) but otherwise was terrific.
The Chiefs keep their corners in fixed spots — Flowers at left corner, Javier Arenas now at right corner; Jalil Brown is now the nickel — and have done so all season. That means Flowers should see a lot of Green, who most often lines up as the flanker, although he has played some split end and slipped into the slot at times.
But when Green and Flowers are matched up, it should be a good battle. The Chiefs’ safeties have struggled with deep coverage, and the Bengals love throwing it to Green downfield for him to make a play on the ball in the air over everyone else, but Flowers can flip his hips and run with almost any wideout. Proof: Wallace is one of the three or four fastest in the league, and Flowers hung with him, step for step, most of the night on Monday when they were matched up.
“I told them to get back, because (Green) is pretty fast,” Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel said. “You just understand that you have to concede some things to a big, fast receiver like that and the thing that you don’t want him to do is, you don’t want him to run past you and give up touchdowns. Make him catch the ball in front of you so that help can rally to him and make the tackle before he can run for a touchdown.”
That’s what the Chiefs will do: give up the slant to prevent the go route. Of course, a smart offensive coordinator — and Jay Gruden certainly qualifies — will build in some double moves, so keep an eye on the slant-and-go in the second half if the Bengals run a lot of quick in-cuts early and see Flowers squatting on them.
Flowers (two interceptions in eight games) has not been perfect this season, suffering from a few bouts of inconsistency, and though he battles he’s not the biggest corner out there. Green has the reach and wingspan to go up high on him and also outreach him for passes if Andy Dalton can be on point with his throws.
Green now has scored in eight consecutive games. The Chiefs often have left Flowers alone in single coverage, but it almost certainly won’t happen when Green is matched up with him. Few teams have thrown Flowers’ way recently — why would they? — but when these two are matched up, it should be a terrific battle. And Dalton loves forcing the ball to his best wideout. Why wouldn’t he?