Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:21 am

CIN/WAS Footnote: goal-line stand. BAL/PIT

I didn't want to close the book on today's Bengals versus Redskins matchup without giving the Bengals' defense one more pat on the back.

A little more than midway through the third quarter, with the score 17-10 Bengals, the Redskins had the ball second-and-goal at the Bengals'  1 yard line. Mike Sellers ran the ball up the middle into a pile of players with 6:27 left in the quarter for what looked to be a touchdown. But wait! Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who has typically been hesitant to throw the challenge flag this season, dropped one to challenge whether Sellers had broken the plane of the goal with the ball before he was down on the play. After consideration, the ruling was reversed, with the referee saying Sellers' knee was down before he extended the ball over the goal line. The Redskins went to third-and-goal at the 1/4-yard line.

On third down, the Redskins ran Sellers up the middle again, into a pile of players again, and, in the process of descending through that pile of players, still working to find the goal line, the ball was literally taken out of Sellers' hands by Bengals' linebacker Corey Mays. A fumble, turnover and touchback was ruled for the Bengals. But wait! Redskins head coach Jim Zorn challenged this ruling, believing the ball had broken the plane of the goal before Mays took the ball out of Sellers' hands. The call on the field was upheld, and the Bengals took over on their own 20.

In the fourth quarter, the teams would trade field goals, but that would be the rest of the scoring for the game. If not for the goal line stand, this game could have gone to overtime. Congrats to the Bengals' defense on the first goal-line stand. Congrats to the D on the second goal-line stand and particularly to Corey Mays for the takeaway. Congrats to the officials for getting the calls right on both plays. And congrats to Marvin Lewis for winning two challenges today, including this one.

Around the AFC North . . .

Steelers versus Ravens -- This game was all it was billed to be. These two teams beat each others' brains out for a full 60 minutes, with the Steelers coming out on top 13-9, after a controversial call on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes with less than a minute left in the game. With the win, the Steelers nab their second consecutive AFC North championship, grab a first-round playoff bye, and force the Ravens to continue their fight for a wild card bid. The Steelers travel to play the Titans next Sunday, and the Ravens play the Cowboys at Dallas in a Saturday night matchup.

Browns versus Eagles -- The Browns line up against the Eagles in Philadelphia in the Monday night matchup.

Posted on: December 4, 2008 12:48 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2008 12:55 pm

Bengals@Colts - It is but to laugh - prelude

I checked the line this morning on the impending matchup between the Bengals and the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Las Vegas has the Colts by 13 1/2. Not sure why they don't just bump it to two touchdowns and leave it there. Chances are good it will be there by game time, and chances may be better that the Colts will roll over the Bengals like the Ravens did last Sunday.

That's the first clue that another beatdown of possibly horrific proportions could be coming Sunday. I decided to read the CBS preview, and, while I will dig into the stats a little more with a "By The Numbers" preview blog sometime before the game (because I enjoy torturing myself), I only had to see one feature on the preview page to tell me how this one will likely go.


Look on the right hand side of the page. Scroll down almost to the bottom. Check out the "Key Players" section. Peyton Manning for the Colts (281 for 445 -- 2,948 yards -- 19 passing TDs), and Cedric Benson (114 carries for 335 yards and 1 TD, 13 catches for 77 yards) for the Bengals. The Colts throw Manning out there, and the best the Bengals can come up with is Cedric Benson? Should they even bother making the trip up I-74? Ye gods!

Posted on: November 22, 2008 10:43 am
Edited on: November 23, 2008 2:03 am

NFL's favorite dysfunctional family growing up?

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to begin the climb back up. This year may be rock bottom, as the Bengals face the worst season in the Marvin Lewis era. After coming to Cincinnati in 2003, Lewis' teams went 8-8 in 2003 and 2004, before the breakout year when the Bengals were 11-5 and in the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Football fans know how that season ended, with a serious, perhaps career-changing injury to Carson Palmer in an AFC Wild Card game. The team fell back into its old ways after that, going 8-8 in 2006 and 7-9 in 2007. Eleven games into the 2008 season, the Bengals are 1-9-1.

A chronic behavior issue that surfaced out of the public eye during the playoff game in 2005, then appeared very publicly in the off-season last year, reared its ugly head again this week when Lewis deactivated Chad Johnson for Thursday's game against the Steelers. According to reports, Johnson arrived late for a Wednesday evening team meeting, then was "insubordinate," appearing more inclined to sleep than to participate. Again, according to reports, Marvin and Chad exchanged words, and Marvin had had enough. To his credit, Marvin found a spine, and sent Chad home to Cincinnati. Some have said Marvin would not have done it if the Bengals actually had something at stake in the Steelers' game, other than player development and team pride. I choose to believe that Marvin simply had it up to his eyeballs and can no longer afford to have Chad Johnson being a bad apple, especially in front of a team with a lot of up-and-coming players who need a better example of how to be a professional football player.

Papa Marvin had to do what a papa has to do. He sent the prodigal son home without supper. Some have said Chad would have been upset with being sent home. Part of me believes Chad is still lobbying to get himself out of Cincinnati. In the current environment, there is less room for Chad's antics than in the past. There are now younger players in the wide receiver corps who will make Chad expendable. I said early this year, when Chad was making an ass of himself and trying to land anywhere but in Cincinnati, that the Bengals should keep him and bench him to deliver the message that a contract will not be torn up just because you can't act like a man and live up to your word.

Uncle Mike Zimmer has done wonderful work with the defense. He has brought a degree of cohesion not seen on this unit for a long time. Most games, these players are the ones who keep the Bengals in it if they're going to be in it. Because of the anemic offense right now, the defense oftentimes begins to wear out late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter, offering the opposition a chance to either pull away or come from behind. Zimmer has a lot of talent to work with, both veterans and youngsters, players who appear to be wiling to put forth effort every week. I like Zimmer. He is a disciplinarian who has brought some fire with him to the job, and he has done his job, crafting a group with a mindset that helps the Bengals be better able to compete. And with some depth to work with, even moreso when everyone's healthy, he can bring in the right guys for the right plays. I look for him to continue to bring the defense along.

Uncle Bob Bratkowski may be the one upper-level coach who should be concerned about his job. The talent is there, albeit without Carson Palmer to lead, which is a huge factor. However, many critics, including fans, myself among them, are baffled by the sometimes-bizarre play calling decisions of Bratkowski. Many times, on, say, a 3rd and 6 down, the Bengals will run, using a play on which any defense worth its salt would not give up the yards for a first down. Bratkowski has not used the pass enough, in general, in my opinion. I don't know how much of this has to do with his comfort level with Ryan Fitzpatrick, missing Carson Palmer, or a misbegotten belief that the team has a consistent and productive running game. Whatever it is, it doesn't work, and Bratkowski has not learned that lesson yet. Even in the absence of Carson Palmer, with the talent Bratkowski has at his disposal, the Bengals should be able to do better. It is inexplicable to me how the Bengals could score on their first drive Thursday night against the Steelers, on a nice pass play over the middle, and then completely forget how to do it again. Bottom line is that it is Bratkowski's job to bring the consistency and the ability to repeat that perfomance, and he hasn't done that well enough.

Grandpa Mike is, well, Grandpa Mike. He's set in his ways. He is a difficult man to figure out. Does he want to win, or does he just want to make boatloads of money? He's got the boatloads of money thing down pat. I sometimes wonder what kind of legacy he wants. If it's a winning team, that dream would be close to gone now. If it's respectability, ditto. If it's to be remembered as the man who fleeced a city and a county and a fan base, bingo! I hope he sees this himself and takes what time he may have left to approach things differently and give someone a chance to get the Bengals back in the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl, where they were twice in the 1980s.

Then there's Great Aunt Katie. Will she be the one to step out of her father's long shadow and finally bring the Bengals back out of the shadow with her? The "ownership" group of the Bengals is a quiet bunch, so we don't know for sure what's on their minds. She has to see and hear the same things her father does. Hopefully, she can touch base with the fan base and make some better things happen when the time comes.

Marvin has two years left on his contract, and Mr. Brown hasn't shown any signs of wanting to fire Marvin. Marvin will have to define HIS legacy with the Bengals with the rest of this year and the next two. There is talent in the pipeline. The defense has greatly improved, and there will never be any way to tell how the season COULD have gone with a healthy Carson Palmer and a healthier team in general. If the offense can get its act together, and Carson Palmer can come back strong next year, who knows, maybe the NFL's favorite dysfunctional family can try to overstay its welcome and find their way back into the playoffs.

Posted on: November 16, 2008 8:17 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2008 10:05 am

Bengals let Eagles off hook, settle for tie--II

The Bengals should have won this game, the first NFL tie in six  years. The defense held Brian Westbrook to just 60 rushing yards and 11 receiving yards, a key to stopping the Eagles' offensive attack. I was fairly sure Westbrook would put up 100+ on the ground. Too bad the Bengals couldn't make this achievement stand up on its own, but that unfortunately fails to account for Donovan McNabb.

The defensive line could not consistently pressure McNabb. Safety Chris Crocker, a defensive standout for the game for the Bengals, got a sack, and so did defensive end Robert Geathers, but that was not enough to stop McNabb from going 28 of 58 for 339 yards and a touchdown. McNabb also threw three interceptions, which the Bengals were able to turn into 10 points, but those were mistakes by McNabb with a Bengals defender in the right place at the right time. McNabb threw to 10 different receivers, three of them for 60+ yards each. So, even with the three interceptions, McNabb was the difference in this game for the Eagles.

There were more than a few opportunities for the Bengals to score and finish this one off, but the offense just couldn't quite get it done. Ryan Fitzpatrick played well, hitting 29 of 44 for 261 yards and a touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Housh had 12 catches for 149 yards and the TD. And Fitz did not throw an interception today! On the disappointing side, Cedric Benson ran the ball 23 times for 42 yards. Chris Perry and Kenny Watson had a combined two carries for 5 yards, and Perry was absolutely horrible on his one and only reception, a failed screen pass for -4 yards.

Dropped balls didn't help the Bengals effort either, with more than one receiver giving up easily catchable balls. I noted in another thread that Fitz wasn't a very good back-up to Carson Palmer. He has improved every time out, but still has not played what I would consider a "complete" game. Just a little more from him today could have put the Bengals over the top. Maybe that little more could have come from a few more catches by the receivers.

Can't say much for their play calling either. The Bengals are very predictable on the offensive side of the ball, which seems to handicap them regularly. And clock management ruined a potential fake punt play, which resulted in a delay of game call instead.

For the Bengals, a tie is almost as good as a win. The team avoided their typical late-game letdown. The defense stayed in it for four quarters. Too bad the offense couldn't back it up again. It shouldn't have come down to a 47-yard field goal attempt by Shayne Graham. Graham had already put up 6 points in the game, and they should have at least been able to get him a little closer.

Now the Bengals head to Pittsburgh for a Thursday night game against the Steelers. Can't wait to see the line on this one!

Around the AFC North . . .

--Speaking of the Steelers, they just pulled out a squeaker against the Chargers 11-10, the first time in NFL history a game has ended in that score. Ben Roethlisberger had his sixth career 300-yard game in the victory. The Steelers' next game is against the Bengals at Pittsburgh this Thursday night.

--The Ravens lost to the Giants 30-10. I thought this game would be much closer, but it looks as if somebody finally solved the run defense of the Ravens, with Ahmad Bradshaw getting nine carries for 96 yards and Brandon Jacobs getting 11 carries for 73 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens have Philadelphia at home next Sunday.

--The Browns play the Bills tomorrow night at Buffalo in the Monday Night feature.

Posted on: November 12, 2008 8:51 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2008 11:21 pm

Eagles vs. Bengals -- By The Numbers

Here are the head-to-head stats from CBS on the Eagles versus Bengals matchup this Sunday

Points/Game -- Eagles 28/Bengals 14

Passing Yards/Game -- Eagles 262/Bengals 151

Rushing Yards/Game -- Eagles 98/Bengals 87

Points Allowed/Game -- Eagles 20/Bengals 26

Passing Yards Allowed/Game -- Eagles 190/Bengals 194

Rushing Yards Allowed/Game -- Eagles 103/Bengals 138

Total Offense -- Eagles 361/Bengals 238

Total Defense -- Eagles 294/Bengals 331

The Bengals, on average, are showing about 125 yards less in total offense per game than the Eagles. The two are close in passing yards allowed per game, but the Bengals give up about 35 yards more rushing yards on average. The Eagles also are showing over 100 more passing yards on average per game than the Bengals, while the per-game rushing stat for both teams is near 100 yards.

The Bengals will need every bit of yardage their passing game can generate. If Cedric Benson is able to perform this week like he did last week, it may open the passing game enough to get those passing yards. They need to stay tight on the run and clamp down on the pass on defense to have a shot at winning this game. I said earlier this week (http://www.sportsline.com/mcc/blogs
)  that the Bengals CAN win this game. I'm just not sure they will.

The line CBS uses has this game now at the Eagles by 9.


--The CBS line has the Giants by 6 1/2 over the Ravens.

--The CBS line has the Steelers by 4 1/2 over the Chargers.

--The CBS line has the Bills by 5 over the Browns on Monday night.

Posted on: November 5, 2008 4:57 pm

BP gets first GG! Woweeee!!

Cincinnati Reds second basemen Brandon Phillips earned his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award for his play during the 2008 season. Among Phillips' season highlights: a National League-leading .990 fielding percentage and a 78-game streak without an error.

Here is a link to the story at www.cincinnati.reds.mlb.com:


Congrats, BP! You deserve it. May it be the first of many for you in a Reds uniform!

Posted on: October 23, 2008 12:25 am

Bengals @ Texans -- Can the Bengals get a win?

Five of the six CBS experts have picked the Bengals to win this game (SPIN is the lone dissenter picking the Texans to win). The Bengals have improved in each game they've played, the notable exception being a tendency for the defense to break down in the fourth quarter because lack of offensive production forces them to be on the field for too long.

Here's how they match up:

Points scored per game: Bengals 14 (NFL rank: 31); Texans 23 (NFL rank 14)

Points allowed: Bengals 26 (25); Texans 29 (31)

Total offense: Bengals 225 (32); Texans 369 (5)

Rush offense: Bengals 73 (31); Texans 120 (12)

Pass offense: Bengals 151 (30); Texans 249 (6)

Total defense: Bengals 331 (T-19); Texans 338 (22)

Rush defense: Bengals 152 (27); Texans 122 (22)

Pass defense: Bengals179 (6); Texans 216 (17)

Turnover differential: Bengals -3 (T-22); Texans -9 (T-31)


Statistically, the Texans have a significant offensive advantage over the Bengals, with an average total offense per game of 369 yards to the Bengals' 225 yards. They're getting about 50 more yards per game from the rush and about 100 more yards per game from the pass. The Texans have won two straight games at home, so they are on a roll with confidence running high.

The Bengals will have to take advantage of the only notable strength they have at the moment, the pass defense. If the offense can do better than three-and-out nearly every time they are on the field and give the defense a chance to catch their breath once in a while, the defense may be able to do what they've done in most games so far this year and keep them in it with at least a fighting chance. The Bengals also will need to work to keep Texans rushers below 100 yards for the game and beat that 120 per game average the Texans are carrying.

The Texans are also -9 in turnover differential, so the Bengals may be able to take advantage of that. The defense had two interceptions against the Jets go to waste because the offense couldn't capitalize. Perhaps if they get those chances against the Texans, it won't be for nothing.

Another week, another game. A win for the Bengals?



Category: NFL
Posted on: October 19, 2008 10:24 am
Edited on: October 19, 2008 12:31 pm

Bengals' D keeps 'em close; offense must catch up

In spite of being 0-6 so far in 2008 -- and with a good chance of continuing that streak over the next two weeks in the absence of Carson Palmer -- the Bengals defense has been able to keep them in most games, usually until the third quarter, by which time the D has been on the field for too long because of an ineffective offense, and they almost inevitably begin to break down.

Right now, the defense is ranked 16th in the league, its highest rank in seven years. They are 4th against the pass, but a brutal 28th against the run. This year is proving not much different from the last few years, with the Bengals not being able to stop the run at the point of attack, allowing opposing rushers to get into the second and third layer of the defense too often to effectively contain. The team has yet to find the defensive lineman who can clog up the middle for the stop and/or to allow the linebackers and safeties to come up before a rusher gets five yards deep in the defense.

Here is an analysis from bengals.com:


Despite being burned on occasion (again, usually late in a game after they've been on the field for too long), the Bengals secondary has shown vast improvement. The defensive line is showing some ability to put pressure on most passers, which shows up in the number four ranking against the pass, in spite of  the fact that the team ranks near the bottom in sacks at 31st, with only five for the year so far.

Many who follow the team believe the Bengals could have won a couple of games already this year if the offense had been able to match the performance of the defense, even marginally in a couple of close games. However, this is not to look past the fact that the team as a whole has not played well.

The Bengals have many issues to address, most importantly the long-term status of Carson Palmer, who will be out this week against the Steelers and likely next week against the Texans. The extent of the injury to the elbow of Palmer's throwing arm has not yet been clearly determined and/or revealed. Another critical issue is to get better play from the offensive line. Right now, any quarterback playing for the Bengals is at a disadvantage because the O line is a sieve and gives up way too many sacks for anyone's comfort. Improved play from the O line would help the offense a great deal.

Three hours 'til game time. No fair weather fan here. I'll be tuned in, rooting for the Boys in Orange & Black.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com