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Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Bengals factoid: Explosive plays

By Coley Harvey

A term you'll hear a lot if you hang around football teams long enough is "explosive plays."

Football coaches like mentioning them. Football fans like watching them. Football players like running them. And football offenses hinge on them; those seemingly out-of-the-blue, yard-gobbling runs and passes that can change a game's momentum or keep it tilted significantly in one team's favor.

What specifically constitutes an "explosive play?" Different teams, different schemes and different people have differing thoughts.

Perhaps the most common definition of an explosive play is any run that goes 15 yards or more and any pass that goes 20 yards or more. The idea is that gains that big are typically locks for being key first downs and help produce touchdowns.

With that particular definition of an explosive play in mind, here's Wednesday's factoid: 11.

Eleven represents the amount of explosive runs (15 yards or more) the Bengals had last season. Keep in mind, they had 18 runs of that sort in 2012, and 24 during the offense's prolific 2009 season. So yes, 11 is a pretty low number for this statistic.

Alternatively, while they may have struggled to produce explosive plays on the ground last season, the Bengals excelled doing so in the air. They completed 57 passes of 20 yards or more 2013. That's the most completions of 20 yards or more they've had under coach Marvin Lewis. The 53 they had in 2006 had been the most they had in the Lewis Era.

Of the 57 passes of 20 yards or more and 11 runs of 15 yards or more last season, 13 ended as touchdowns. That's the same number of explosive-play touchdowns as the Bengals had in 2006, and two shy of the 15 they had in 2005.

In all, the Bengals collected 2,073 yards in explosive-play production last season. That equates to 35.2 percent of all the yards the Bengals amassed last season.

That percentage could be even higher this season. Lewis and new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson hopes so, at least.

Part of Jackson's new scheme will rely on occasional big plays to jolt opposing defenses out of the slumber a steady rushing diet can lull them into. Those plays also can come at times when the Bengals' quickened tempo gets to a tired opposing defense. After rhythmically rushing a defense to the line only to have it defend against short runs and short and intermediate routes, the Bengals could suddenly break their foes by calling a well-timed and well blocked screen that gets yards after the catch, or a sudden deep ball that falls to an open receiver who is well behind the oxygen-weary secondary.

Jackson's offense will earn its pay by making its share of explosive plays. In theory, that 11-rush explosive play total from last year will be a thing of the past. Just look at Jackson's offenses in Oakland as evidence.

During the two seasons he served as the Raiders' offensive coordinator and head coach, Jackson's backs rushed for 15 yards or more a total of 65 times. They had 37 such carries when he was the offensive coordinator in 2010, and 28 when he was the head coach the year after.

Similarly, his quarterbacks completed their share of big-gain passes. In 2010 they completed 45 passes of 20 yards or more. In 2011, they completed 63.

The 5,277 yards the Raiders gained on explosive plays in 2010 and 2011 comprised 44.9 percent of their overall yard production those two seasons.

Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.