Jigsaw puzzle

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on December 6, 2010 – 11:08 am

The Bengals woke up this morning to get a “C’mon man” from ESPN’s Cris Carter and that’s about where it is at 2-10 and a nine-game losing streak that matches the longest skein in 12 years.

Carter riffed on the immovable fourth-and-two and he’s not the first or last. When it comes to fodder for the critics, the Bengals are the Santa Claus of the NFL because every week they just give and give.

It may be radio analyst Dave Lapham’s signature moment in 25 years broadcasting Bengals games. With Drew Brees barking Pig Latin and Bengaldom breathless on fourth-and-two, here was Lapham bellowing, “Hold your, hold your, hold your water.”

The next seven days will be consumed by punch lines about time management and staying onsides. After moving the ball against a top 10 defense all day, choking off one of the NFL’s great quarterbacks on his most dangerous down, and getting a winning effort from special teams, most of the questions surround the mechanics of the 34-30 loss.

Not talent or effort, which makes the frustration that much more palpable.

Other questions, of course, hang over the defense. If the offense is a disappointment, the defense is an enigma. They get back two healthy secondary starters, cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Roy Williams, and promptly allow four passes of at least 42 yards. And they go 57 games without allowing a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher, and 100-yard receiver, and now they’ve done it twice in three games.

The other riddle is, how can basically the same defensive cast last season allow just five runs of 20-plus yards in 16 games and then this season allow 16 with four games left? Sure they’ve had some guys hurt, but they did last season, too.

For a team that plays hard and has enough talent that Saints linebacker Scott Shanle allowed after the game, “There is no doubt they have talented players. We talked about that all week. They showed that today,” a nine-game losing streak is well, a mystery is the only way to put it.

Where are they headed?

Pittsburgh is the only known answer.

The Steelers won’t have punter Dan Sepulveda and tight end Heath Miller limped off the field in Baltimore on Sunday night. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, bad foot and broken nose, finished and won the game.

Any doubt next Sunday’s game at Heinz goes right to the nub?

Not here.

Which makes it all that much more confusing.

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