Tough campaign

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on November 2, 2010 – 3:25 pm

Election Day. Or election day, depending how you feel about it.

This year? Call it election day. When the campaign worker offered me some literature going in, I told him, “I’m just here for damage control.”

Which is about where the Bengals are, aren’t they? This isn’t the biggest flop in franchise history, which is the Doc-induced theme this week. There’s too much time left to put together a run. I would think the 4-12 team of ’78, the 7-9 team of ’83, the 8-8 team of ’89, the 7-9 team of ’97, the 8-8 team of ’06 and the 7-9 team of ’07 would have to lead the ballot.

But look around. The Bengals have been caught up in a classic NFL redistricting. Six of the defending division champs are in third or fourth place. Five of them have losing records. There are tears in San Diego, revolts in Minnesota and Washington, voter unrest in Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco.

The Bengals need a Give ‘Em Hell Harry finish like Truman beat Dewey ‘in 48 to pull anything out before the whistle stops. Here’s an Election Day (sorry, election day) swing through a campaign seeking traction.

NO ROSE GARDEN STRATEGY: While embattled President Obama searches for the magic of ‘08, quarterback Carson Palmer is searching for the karma of ’09 and it’s not exactly coming up roses.

Last year, Palmer seemed to have all the answers late in the fourth quarter. But in the Tampa Bay and Miami games, the old adage seemed to be in play. Sometimes your best throw is the one you don’t make.

It’s so easy to second guess. But with Terrell Owens covered on interceptions at the end of the Tampa Bay and Miami games, it reminds you that what makes Palmer so good in crunch time is that he usually makes the cool decision to live to fight another day and not risk a pick.

It’s a sign of how tight and up against it the Bengals have felt ever since they lost to Cleveland. The only time you ever really see Palmer visibly frustrated is when he tries to make a play when there is nothing there.   

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski alluded to it Monday when asked how well he thought Palmer played against the Dolphins.

“I think when you start off like that, you expect it to be like that the whole day then you get to a certain point where it’s not that way and then a little frustration is building,” Bratkowski said. “Take some chances you couldn’t take. It happened a little bit yesterday.”

THE BILL CLINTON-SARAH PALIN LONG BALL: Both sides are pulling out the big guns and that’s what the Bengals did Sunday when they took a lot of shots deep downfield, especially on first down.

Go back to Palmer’s underthrow to Owens on a 39-yard bomb that would have tied the Atlanta game early in the fourth quarter and the murmurings are growing about Palmer’s arm strength. You could even go back to halftime of the opener when his Hail Mary only made it to the 3.

Bratkowski says there is nothing wrong with the wing. He says Palmer underthrew one ball Sunday (just by “a touch” on the Bengals sideline), but the others had nothing to do with arm strength.

 The tipped 37-yard TD pass to Owens, he says, was a misread of the coverage. The 37-yard bomb on the last drive where Owens had the safety beat by five yards in the end zone and had to wait on the ball was because defensive tackle Randy Starks got off a block up the middle of the line and hit Palmer as he threw it. A deep ball to the middle of the field didn’t get to the middle enough.

If you’re thinking Palmer used to make all those throws with ease, that’s what I’m thinking, too. The fact they’ve got him chucking it deep often shows you they think he’s fine physically. But his accuracy going deep isn’t as sharp as it once was.

Maybe it’s because he’s still trying to get the timing with Owens. He had great deep timing with Chris Henry, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ochocinco back in the day, but that’s because they were together more than one training camp. Maybe it’s because he’s 30. Maybe it’s because he’s got 88 games of NFL pounding.

But don’t take this as they’ve got to get rid of him. He’s had some issues, but he remains the least of their problems and keeps them a viable entity with all hell breaking loose around him.

THE NANCY PELOSI-HARRY REID EMBATTLED INCUMBENT:  Speaking of The Ocho, never mind when is the last long ball he caught. When is the last time Palmer even looked at him deep?

The guess is on his last catch longer than 18 yards, the 42-yarder in Cleveland on Oct. 3. Right after the 78-yarder to Owens when it looked like they were going to bomb the Browns into submission.

Suddenly, nothing. Even when he’d been double-covered Ochocinco had been known to outrun it a few times a game and Palmer would take a few shots. He took one on Sunday at The Ocho down the right sideline but the bracket coverage was too much, and it just seems like Owens is the only consistent deep threat.

The Ocho is also taking some heat for dropping some easy balls. Owens has dropped far more, but that’s his M.O., and you can overlook it with his production.  Chad has had his share of drops in the past, but he’s been more sure-handed than this.

And, look, The Ocho doesn’t get enough credit for being a competitor. He’s putting in the time watching tape with Marvin Lewis weekly and he’s a very prideful guy when it comes to football. He’s always around. And you get the sense that he’s pressing, too, and that he just needs some big catches in a win to get over the hump.

He knows Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, the head coach that drafted him in Cincinnati, knows him inside-and-out. He has yet to have a 100-yard game in his 12 matchups with the Old Coach. That should get him simmering.

MR. SPEAKER: They say John Boehner of Cincinnati, the greatest ninth-inning flamethrower in these parts since Rob Dibble, is going to have to be more diplomatic when he becomes Speaker of the House. He can take notes from Owens, the fiery radical that gained a reputation for blowing up bridges with missiles from his lips.

But on Sunday, Owens played the role of an old-time, consensus-building Speaker of the House, like Joe Martin or Tip O’Neill, and reached across the aisle and took the blame for the two big misses in the fourth quarter. He said all the right things about the play in the end zone and the pick.

While everybody waits for him to blow up, anyone notice he’s having a hell of a year? Sure, you wish he was more consistent catching the ball (if he was, he’d be Jerry Rice) and he could adjust a little better to the ball in the air. But I love watching the guy play. He’s competitive and exciting and he’s been their MVP, hands down. Just think if they didn’t have him.

THE ELIOT SPITZER CLOCK STRATEGY: How do you go from being a national joke to getting your own cable TV show in two years?

You just hand it off and let time take care of it.

Which is what the Bengals have to be thinking after the clock has blown up on them like health care in three of the four losses.

Just hand it off.

RICHARD NIXON RETURN EDITION: Remember how well the Bengals returned in the preseason? They were like Nixon in ’52, ’68, and in the ‘80s.  You couldn’t stop them. If it wasn’t Adam Jones, it was Quan Cosby. If it wasn’t Jordan Shipley, it was Bernard Scott.

Anybody saying on Labor Day that the Bengals would be 27th returning punts and 30th returning kicks on election day would have a head MRI.

But that’s where they are. And with Jones out for the year and Shipley one of their best receivers, they now go back to Cosby and Scott, two guys that were key to their success last season. Now Scott meets the Steelers he beat last year with a kick return the last time they met.

Posted in Hobson's Choice | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “Tough campaign”

  1. By 34inXXIII on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    THE JON STEWART-STEPHEN COLBERT VIEW FROM AFAR: This team needs to seriously rally to restore the sanity of the fans. Otherwise, fair or not, they will be keeping many of the fans’ fears of alive and disenfranchising the populace.

    There certainly seem to be many things holding them back that they can fix (i.e. penalties, play-calling and on-field decisions, adjustments & intensity). I do believe this team can play better, but there are also serious concerns that have me wondering just what their potential truly is. Nothing concerns me more than the lack of a pass rush, particularly in light of the secondary playing musical chairs in the trainers room.

  2. By officiallyfedup on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    All the holes can never be filled. It would take a real NFL front office and an actual scouting staff to do that. And the Bengals possess neither. No o line. Overpaid overhill QB. Mediocre d line. Old receivers. I can’t wait for 2017 when hopefully Mike Brown will sell the team.

  3. By officiallyfedup on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    So, the bengals have the money to upgrade the faciltity at midway school but not the money to upgrade their own facilities. Or just have actual facilities in the first place. They practice on fields under a bridge and when it snows or is to cold they have to take a 2 hour bus ride like a high school team. Disgraceful.

  4. By bengalpirate on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    It is a tough campaign, mentally and physically, for the Bengals. Last year they made the 3rd and 2 conversions on offense and 3rd down stops on defense. That’s the way some seasons roll out sometimes and this year we are a few 3rd down conversions, better clock management and a few lucky breaks away from a 5-2 record, instead of 2-5 record. That’s the way the dice roll out sometimes in the NFL. The better teams though, seem to make the odds more in their favor year in and year out. I agree with you that perhaps the one thing stopping even more production between TO and Carson is timing. Hopefully they sync up soon and I think that will help Ocho, Shipley and Gresham too. One thing about Carson not throwing the ball up for grabs sometimes, is that I would like to see him run the ball more often, like he did last year. It helps keep the opposing defense from focusing only on the receivers and if he can convert a few first downs, that’s what we need. I don’t want to see him get his head taken off by someone like James Harrison, but Carson is a pretty savvy runner and knows when to slide. One of these games, maybe the offense, defense and special teams will all sync up and get a much needed win. It couldn’t come at a better time than this coming Monday night. Don’t want to hear things like “same old Bengals” and ” We Dey” at the game and on National TV. Go Bengals, beat the Steelers!!!

  5. By 2ndboot on Nov 2, 2010 | Reply

    Just like the populace some of the fans must get their Bengals news the same way they get their history lessons, Fox news which is usually finger pointing at the people who didn’t cause the train wreck to begin with.
    As it sits now even IF Palmer threw for 600 yards and 8 TDs a game I have to wonder if the defense wouldn’t just hand every single gain they make right back to the other side. It seems to me Palmer has to throw a TD every time he steps on the field because the D right now couldn’t stop a sleeping dog with a .44 magnum.
    As the saying goes, A good scapegoat is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem.

  6. By naitjungle on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    Maybe we should just be thinking of Dick Chaney and shoot someone in the face.

    Ever heard of “If it anit broke dont fix it”? What was wrong with Running Ced Benson down the field behind max blocking last year? Not only did that work for us last year but it kept our defense off the field.Didn’t Bernard Scott have a 100 yard game last year as a rookie? Why is it that we have a run block Oline but the bengals want to pass the ball on first down?Why is it that The bengals Won last year with a run first offense but yet refuse to sign a FB this year?At what point do we as bengal fans decide to stay home on sundays and stop wearing black and orange?How many more times do we have to get our hopes up to later bet let down?

  7. By hobsonschoice1 on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    Definition of Fed Up_ Ripping an organization for donating money to upgade a public school’s facilities.

  8. By tepidfan31 on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    They beat us handily, 22 to 7 (minus the fluke TD, ala Denver)
    Palmer 9 for 30 in the last 3 1/2 quarters – total yds run and pass, 133
    0 Sacks, and 1 pressure
    Passing on every 3rd down play – 6 of those with 3 yds or less
    Passing every time in the shotgun
    Dolphins significant pressure with only 4 down linemen
    Benson’s 3.5 yds against a 6 man front
    The most incriminating against Brat – Whit’s comments after the game: What happened after the 1st possession? They made adjustments and we didn’t. Can you believe that?
    It’s not the little things, it’s the talent and the coaching!!!

  9. By meangreenbean on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    Uninspired. If I were coach for a day, I would make one move – Bench Ocho. His stats look like he’s getting decent yards, but he has obviously checked out on commitment. If I see him duck one more pass over the middle in fear of the hit, I’m gonna puke. And secondly, how long has he been playing with Carson, and more so with Brat? And you still get that stupid look on your face, and put your open hands up by your head when you run the wrong route like “What did I do?”. It’s a commitment problem and it is evident throughout the team. There are other changes that could be made, but this one would send a message and not really hurt the team. Get someone in there who is hungry to make the catch. Jerome anyone? Couldn’t hurt.

  10. By thecincinnatikid45140 on Nov 3, 2010 | Reply

    I could go on and say a bunch of fancy things but I believe it comes down to something very simple. Mike Brown looks at this like a business. If he is making money than he doesn’t really care about the winning part. Its been 42 years now and Cincinnati does not have a championship yet. Brown owes his dad and the city a championship. He needs to spend some money and try and get Cower. Brown should then step back and let Cower run the show. If we cannot get Cower than Brown should seriously think about hiring the Tuna. Brown should step back and let them do their thing until they win a championship. Once we have one he can take back over and run his business again. Main theme here is Brown should step completely aside. I would say our coaching staff has been pretty comfy. Most of them have been there over 10 years. Why have they been there that long, what have we won that makes them worth keeping? Its election year and we deserve 1 championship, Vote Tuna!!

  11. By mwindle1973 on Nov 4, 2010 | Reply

    Hobs, what do you think will happen from here with Lewis? Any inclination whether it’s Brown or Lewis holding up a re-signing? Many have started the Lewis is out in CIncy after this season talk. I’m not sure you can blame this mess on him. You at least have to see how it plays out first. Others have suggested he has a lack of interest due to the fact he knows he not coming back?

    I know this if we bring in a new coach it’s going to be hard to find the caliber that we’ve had here the last 8 seasons. And it will be a re-building process. A whole hearted one. I mean if Cowher isn’t coming to CIncy then Marvin is probably the best guy we will get here. Cowher absolutely will not come to Cincy.

    But whatever Brown does, he better modernize the facilities and get out of the way of the team winning. He’ s always been a great spotter of talent, but doesn’t always assemble the best group.

  12. By tepidfan31 on Nov 5, 2010 | Reply

    Geoff, How can time of possession be the reason? Time of possession is a result of making plays on both side of the ball. You don’t go out and stress to the team, “let’s get time of possession”, that’s stupid.

  13. By 34inXXIII on Nov 5, 2010 | Reply

    tepidfan31, I think that’s the point….largely, anyway. They’re not making enough plays to accumulate that valuable time of possession. The defense isn’t doing enough to get the offense on the field and the offense isn’t doing enough to keep the defense off of it.

    Part of it is also playcalling, though. An offense cannot sustain as many incompletions as they had against Miami and expect to hold the ball for very long. That was also a by-product of abandoning the running game. Maybe it’s not quite as effective as it was last year, but you can’t just dismiss it unless the passing game it hitting on all cylinders.

    Of course, trying to get the running game back on track against the best rushing defense in the league isn’t exactly a promising proposition, but they need something to keep that clock moving against the Steelers, whether that be short pounding runs or quick passes that keep their dynamic zone blitz off of Palmer. At opportune times, they can try to find Chad or TO on those deep to intermediate routes to keep the defense honest.

  14. By whodeysteve on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    I just had to comment on your Ken Anderson should be in the Hall of Fame, Hobson. When Bill Walsh came here as the quarterback coach of Cincinnati it was his mission to get Paul Brown to draft him as Walsh says, “Everything Kenny did was perfect, the way I see it.” The physical attributes like a cannon arm, great strength are the least necessary assets for success, he says. “I need intelligent people, people without hang-ups that make it difficult to communicate. I don’t mean players must have genius IQs. But they need quick, resourceful minds. Joe is exceptionally good at spontaneous decision-making. Kenny is very bright. Every successful quarterback I’ve had has been very sharp.”Walsh felt so good about Anderson’s mental and physical development that when he left Cincinnati in 1976 to coach at San Diego, he took ever film of Anderson with him to use as teaching guides. Walsh showed them to Fouts at a time when “Fouts really needed help.” Fouts number’s were 57 Int’s to 34 Td’s just horrendous. He told him if you want the Hall of Fame this is how you will play and made him watch every snap of Anderson and guess you is in the Hall of Fame now. He even done the same thing to Joe Montana. “Kenny and Joe have similar traits,” says Walsh of the two quarterbacks he has worked with longest. “Both will move under pressure, find receivers and hit them when things look worst. Both will hold the ball and not throw big interceptions. Especially Kenny. I think Joe is the quarterback of the future, an active player who may not always run but who always presents the threat of running. And I think Kenny is the best downfield passer we’ve seen in the NFL.” And who can argue with Walsh, the celebrated “offensive genius” of the NFL if he say’s Anderson was better than Anderson was better. I already posted this on and ESPN because heck if there wasn’t a Ken Anderson(The first west coast offense Quarterback ever) there wouldn’t have ever been a Joe Montana and that’s a fact.

  15. By mwindle1973 on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    TOP is also a valid strategy. It requires patience. You have to do things to shorten the game. Like using all the time clock, every play, whether in the no-huddle or not. It means coming out in the first quarter and running lots of runs and short passes to keep the clock going. A good example is the first 2 drives of the Miami game, but I was disappointed to see us going for the throat at that point. And we did we went agressively after a quick score on the next three drives.

    Once you have a lead, a TOP advantage & a field position advantage. You should become concious of consuming the clock and keep the clock moving on every down. Which allows your D to try and slow a team down instead of stopping them. Our D is at it’s best when you ask them to hold the score and pace down, and not expect them to shutdown teams on their own. Give them a long field. This also keeps the turnovers down on offense.

    The Pats don’t exactly play that game now, but they rode it to 3 Super Bowl victories ’01, ’03 & ’04. The ’05 & ’08 Steelers used TOP ball to win it all. The ’00 Ravens and ’02 Bucs definitely used it. In ’06 the Colts used a form of it, although they were more agressive than your basic TOP team, they did do plenty to keep clock control and shorten games and lower overall scores. The ’07 Giants fit the mold as well. The ’09 Saints stand alone as the only champions of the 2000s to not be a TOP team. But they used the TOP tactic a lot in the second half of games.

    I don’t think you can make much of an argument against the style of play. Even West Coast style champions like the 49ers and Packers went to running late in games. It’s hard to be a good team and not be able to put in clock consumption mode once you have a good lead. And as we see several great teams have just made the style their whole identity.

  16. By mwindle1973 on Nov 6, 2010 | Reply

    Hobs, good article on the perfect Blake game in ’95. Great memories, back then that was something. I mean just getting a win against the Steelers. It was like we had won the Super Bowl or something. It remids one of what things were like before Marvin Lewis arrived here. When the playoffs were not a possibility and division titles were for yesteryear. The pinnacle of a season was beating a playoff bound team at some point during the season.

    It reminds me that if we were to have one of those devine moments this Monday night. We would be 3-5 and have the talent to carry that momentum to a playoff spot unlike the ’95 Bengals. I still believe if we play just one complete game from start to finish ad man out a win, that we will be able to recreate it each week. Last year we were unsteady and once we went into Baltimore then we had a swagger, and it took off from there. By the time we had beat them twice and the Steelers twice we were playing solid on every down of every game.

    Let’s hope for the best, because 2-6 is one foot in the grave just waiting to be pushed in. 3-5 is not great but it gives you a chance to try for 4-0 or 3-1 before you play the Steelers again to begin the last 4 games of the season. That would put us at 7-5 or 6-6. It would take a lot too. The Bills at home is the only one that’s easy and they play tough. We would have to take the Saints at home and the Jets & Colts on the road.

    But I don’t doubt that we could beat any of those teams. It’s just a matter of whether we can and will get all the pistons firing at the same time or not. There is no team in the league playing very solid or consistent football right now.

    Right now the only good thing about being 2-5 is you can’t look ahead though. Hopefully we have our sights fully set on the Steelers and ready to play the game of the season on Monday night. Or we will be 2-6 and ready to fall into oblivion with one more loss. 7 losses doesn’t put you out of the playoffs, but in our division it does.

  17. By tepidfan31 on Nov 7, 2010 | Reply

    Interesting! according to LaBeau’s defensive bench marks for yards allowed per attempt to win games: Runs – 3.7; Plays – 4.7; and Pass – 5.7, the Bengals are Runs – 4.5; Plays – 5.5; and Pass – 6.2. If his bench marks make sense, you can easily see why we are losing.

  18. By mwindle1973 on Nov 8, 2010 | Reply

    40-32. That’s the combined record of the remaining teams we have to face, including tomorrow’s game. 31-25. That’s the combined record of the teams we have faced already. That’s a .556 winning % for teams left on the schedule versus a .554 for teams already played.

    So a half a season has finally proved a point I have long been trying to make. Teams like Cleveland, the Pats, and especially Tampa and Atlanta were overlooked coming into the season. Teams like Indy, the Saints, the Chargers, Jets and more have been over rated somewhat and underperformed expectations.

    Now while you have to face the fact that we have to go 8-1 or so against the same competition that we have started 2-5 against to make the playoffs. You also have to face the fact that we didn’t just blow the easy part of the schedule and now have to face to tough part. I believe by the time the season ends the win %s will increase proving that the first 7 games were actually tougher than the last 9.

  19. By tepidfan31 on Nov 9, 2010 | Reply

    Pittsburgh, every one of us were irked about some plays in this game and why we lost. But, the series that really irked me was at the end of the first half. Nugent misses a FG, giving Pitt the ball in good field position with a little time left. Then, Reed kicks a FG. If Nugent makes the FG, then the kick off, Pitt doesn’t have time to move the ball into FG position. Rather than being 17 to 10, we wind up being 20 to 7, that difference would have giving us a FG and a win, rather than needing a TD at the end of the game. I hope Nugent doesn’t become a Graham – not performing in the clutch!

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