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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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Posted in Hobson's Choice | 18 Comments »


18 Responses to “Jigsaw puzzle”

  1. By bengalpirate on Dec 6, 2010 | Reply

    Geoff,

    The 4th and 2 encroachment penalty and once again poor clock management, especially at the end, seem to reflect a lack of mental discipline, focus and intensity across the team. I would venture to say that more than half of the losses this season are directly attributable to this lack of mental toughness and control, as well as bad clock management. We had the eye of the tiger for most of our games last year, but when and how did we lose it? More importantly, how do we get it back, without a complete overhaul of the team? I remain loyal, but man it hurts to say Who Dey!!! and beat the Steelers, this week.

  2. By hobsonschoice1 on Dec 6, 2010 | Reply

    PIRATE: Yeah, and I thought they were intense much of Sunday. You have to be to get ahead of a team like the Saints. But it is those lulls, as Dave Lapham calls them. They just can’t sustain it for 60 minutes, something they did so well last year.

    Boy, in the last two years this team has experienced the Nirvana and nadir of NFL parity. If you win a couple early, you get confidence, you get on a roll, it makes your season, a la the Bengals last season and the Bucs this season. (The Bucs’ gift win here this year is equivalent to the Bengals’ win here over the Steelers here last year.)

    You lose a couple of close ones early, like Seattle last year and the Vikings and Bengals this year, it is just the opposite.

    I think we all would like that answer. What exacty is the difference between last year and this year? The answer, if there is one, is probably your answer.

  3. By looking4sb1 on Dec 6, 2010 | Reply

    It looks like we are going to have to wait until next season to determine whether this season or last season was a fluke — that is as long as the same pieces remain in place. Geoff, what are some of the major changes you see taking place next year with this franchise? Coaching changes? Player signings and releases? Adding a GM?

    I still hold on to hope that the season will not be a complete waste. For that to happen, we need to beat the Steelers, Ravens and Browns to maintain some relevance within the division.

  4. By mwindle1973 on Dec 7, 2010 | Reply

    I think most people assume that we will make some kind of changes here this offseason. But I just don’t think a total re-build, or even partial is going to happen. With a lockout looming, any incumbents will have immediate advantages.

    Think about it. If we have a lockout, a new head coach wouldn’t be able to contact the players until the lockout ended. Any new coaches will have to wait until August maybe later to install new offenses, defenses, etc.

    Even those that say we have to draft a new QB. And what? Start him his first year? Of course drafting a QB first means not drafting a DLineman or Olineman first. WHich means the new rookie QB will come in and start his first year with terrible protection and no pass rush on the otherside to help him either.

    I say Palmer rebounds from this seaosn anyway. WHether it’s here or with another team. Same with Marvin, he will be coaching next year or the following season with someone. Really include Ocho in this discussion. These guys will be sought after on the open market. The reason why is they have a history of good seasons, and other teams will believe that they can do it again if they get out of Cincy.

  5. By looking4sb1 on Dec 7, 2010 | Reply

    I pray that they do not draft a QB with the first-round pick in the Spring. But I wouldn’t put it past MB. He’s done it time and again in the past. I just hope the lessons have been learned — you cannot bring in a new QB with bad O-line play, no running game and an inconsistent defense and expect him to turn things around. Palmer will be fine with protection. But he HAS to have better O-line play! I think Benson suffered this year due to the O-line, too. The holes just weren’t there this year. Part of that might have been due to predictable play calling. But if the coach doesn’t have faith that we can run it on third and one, and instead chooses to throw, there is no doubt a problem upfront. We need to bring in guys that are dominant on O-line. Keep Whit. Move Smith to Left Guard. (Livings is a backup at best and Smith just makes too many mistakes for a tackle. Plus, Smith is too out of shape to be moving like a tackle — hence the two injuries to his feet.) Find a better center — through draft or FA — but he doesn’t have to start right away. Keep Bobbie for another year or two. Draft with the first pick or sign via FA a dominant Right Tackle. Gresham should be better in the blocking game next year, too. If those changes are made, we could have a shot.

  6. By overthroensamoan on Dec 7, 2010 | Reply

    If a team ever exists that’s an enigma wrapped in a question mark it’s this group. They play hard but they don’t play smart. It’s been as difficult a season to watch as I can remember. Plenty of talent, nice mix of vets and young guys, but no results. I don’t agree getting Roy back is that much of an upgrade. He clearly has seen his better days and #41 looked lost several times in coverage. I think Safety is a main reason this team has struggled so much on D. What looked to be a strength when the season started has become a glaring weakness. My question is will any of them be backed. G Wilson coming off a serious injury, R Williams looks old and slow, Crocker wasn’t playing up to par before he was hurt and # 41 has been exposed by the passing game. Where do they go to fill all the holes that are looming come next year. They seriously could be looking at a turnover of 5 staring spots on offense and 5 on defense. Lets hope the new CBA expands the draft back to 12 rounds.

  7. By bengalmaniac on Dec 7, 2010 | Reply

    I agree that a major overhaul should not be done with the lockout looming. But, I think Marvin should have say in who stays and goes. We fired Leslie Frazier and Chuck Breznahan when their units underachieved, so why is Bratkowski given a free pass year after year. This season proves it AGAIN his offense is slow & predictable. Bring in someone like Jim Harbaugh form Stanford to run the offense. Find someone young & fresh that can give this offensive squad a boost.
    FIRE BRATKOWSKI (I hope security doesn’t find me and make me leave for that)

  8. By whodeysteve on Dec 7, 2010 | Reply

    Here is are total yards offensive ranking since Bob Bratkowski has been are OC, 23rd(01), 18th(02), 13th(03), 18th(04), 6th(05), 8th(06), 10th(07), 32nd(08), 24th(09), 22nd(10), He’s only had 3 years in the top 10 out of 10 years that’s not great. I think he has to go the play’s he run’s in the end zone may be the worse in the NFL. All you have to do is call a play like Sweep Pass Right Z Out in the end zone a couple of times this year and I can guarantee the red zone offense would go to one of the worst to one of the best. He proablly doesn’t know what Sweep Pass Right Z Out is and Paul Brown created the play and offense. I would bring in someone like Randy Sanders(From Kentucky) as the offensive coordinator look at who he’s developed into top quarterbacks in the nation Peyton Manning, Tee Martin, André Woodson, and this year Mike Hartline. All these QB’s got considerably better under him.

  9. By mwindle1973 on Dec 9, 2010 | Reply

    Interesting numbers on Brat. I like most Bengals fans would like to see a change at OC. But I don’t think Brat is the cause of our problems. You just don’t here analysts question our playcalling. The fans do. But on ESPN for instance, I’ve twice heard Jaws say that the offense is a very well designed one. If not too complicated.

    I think the thing is Brat is a great guy if you have tons of fire power and great blocking. Meaning if you have an offense that is dangerous he will maximize it. But when you ask him to get results from the type of personell we have, he’s not so good.

    It’s like we are asking him not to lose the games. And he’s the type of OC that likes to attack. He comes from the Dennis Erickson school. And is very similar to some of the MIke Martz type offenses. Except Brat will power run more and sometimes leave guys in to protect. But similar stuff going on scheme-wise.

    It will be intersting to see how it all goes down. There wil be unhappy fans either way. It seems clear that some want to blow it all up and start over. And some want to stay the course or make smaller adjustments and go for i again next season.

    I guess that’s why I say stay the course. I’m just not convinced that with all the youth on this team already, that it is a good time to re-build. We kind of already done a partial re-build in 09 and this season. I know this staying the course gives you the opportunity to compete for the playoffs next year. Rebuilding almost assuredly sends you into a 2-3 year plan and probably involves another 2-4 win season next year.

  10. By 303bengalguy on Dec 9, 2010 | Reply

    2 things:

    1) if I had to sum up the simplest way possible, the way the Bengals look this year in 1 word, it would be “DUMB”. They flat out look dumb on both sides of the ball. Dumb mistakes by the players and dumb playcalls have doomed this team. This is a preparation and accountability (or lack thereof) issue. Everyone makes excuses for eachother around there it seems. “There’s nobody I’d rather be playing along side of than…” or “that was my fault on that route” or “I made the scheme too tough for those guys”. I think a little more “T.O.” is needed around there and I can’t believe I’m saying that but that’s the one guy who I think wants to win more than anyone in the building there.

    2) The case against Bratkowski is overwhelming at this point. As stated above, it’s a bit of a peculiar scenario where D-coordinators are given such short leashes (one now a Head Coach in Frazier) whereas Bratkowski has been allowed to languish in the bottom tier respectively vs. his peer OC’s. If the time hasn’t come to make a change there, when will it? He’s been here longer than Marvin and that’s just utterly baffling. They say that coaches can “lose a team” but that can happen at the micro-level as well. I wouldn’t think there’s a shred of confidence emanating from a single player on the Bengals regarding Bratkowski. Offensive or defensive players. Hell, if I were a defender, I’d be calling for his head as well, with as tough a position as the defense is constantly put into by the offense. Has ANYONE EVER stepped to the mic and said anything to cover for the offensive playcalling? With as many excuses around there, not one that I can recall has come to the defense of Bratkowski yet he’s the longest standing coach here is he not? Utterly baffling.

  11. By wpgbengal on Dec 9, 2010 | Reply

    I’m tired of listening to the media talk about the Bengals losing their “identity” and pointing to TO and The Ocho wanting the ball as the problem.

    If you want to commit to running the football, you have to be able to execute. No pre-snap penalties. Ball security. Know your Blocking assignments…..and on and on.

    Working out those kinks is what pre-season is supposed to be for.

    When they put themselves in 1st and 15, 2nd and 20, etc…..they can’t be the ’09 Bengals, even if they wanted to.

    If ’09 Bengals identity was “smash mouth”, this year’s version is either “illegal formation” or “false start”.

    At least TO and Ocho give them a chance to convert all those 3rd and longs.

  12. By hobsonschoice1 on Dec 9, 2010 | Reply

    History would say massive changes are on the way, but no matter what they are it is hard for me to see a change at quarterback. Yeah, I hear the Palmer-to-San Franciso rumors, too, but knowing how much ownership values Palmer, the quarterback positon, and stability, it just doesn’t seem characteristic of this club staring at a potential work stoppage.

    Yeah, I agree with you about the identity thing. If they could have run the ball as much and as effectively as they did last season, it would have only enhanced the passing game and the only people that would have been mad would have been the defenses trying to figure it out.

    I don’t know about the small adjustments argument. The Bengals have the double whammy of an underachieving season on top of a potential work stoppage. It’d be a tough offseason to stand pat.

  13. By 2ndboot on Dec 11, 2010 | Reply

    “Boy, in the last two years this team has experienced the Nirvana and nadir of NFL parity” I would say it’s more like experiencing being both the hammer last year and the nail this year.
    Do they wake up in the morning singing “Id rather be a nail than a hammer?…Yes we would, if we could, we surely would..”?
    it makes you wonder, huh?

  14. By whodeysteve on Dec 11, 2010 | Reply

    @ mwindle1973, Yeah I can hear what your saying but I don’t think Jaws is watching the same football game I’m watching. Has an OC ever ran a screen pass for a TE and who try’s to run outside on the Colts with a power back? When you have perfect screen pass receivers in Bernard Scott and Jordan Shipley. I agree with what TO said with the talent we have at the skill position why do we always play small ball? Why aren’t we more aggressive what’s going to happen are we going to lose….I think were past that point already.

    I still believe Palmer is good when I look at this eye test. Look at when he was at his best (371Yards, 2Td’s @ CLE),(412Yards 3Td’s @ ATL), (249Yards, 1Td vs. NO),(248Yards, 2Td’s, 1Int vs. Pit). Now ask yourself what made Palmer look so good in all these game’s. In every one of these game’s Palmer avg. more than 7 yards per pass(ala We threw the ball long) and those are the only game’s that he did. Now why is Palmer only avg less than 6.6 yards per a pass this season because we are not aggressive. I know are O-Lineman(other than Whitworth) have been bad(Understatement of the year) this year but still go down firing.

    We have a TE in Jermaine Gresham that I have still yet to see run a pass route longer than 7 yards and why? It make’s no sense why we don’t use are weapons more down the field. I don’t think Brown gave Palmer 100 million dollars to be in a offense that throw’s checkdowns. But maybe it’s just me venting about the 2-10 record I don’t know.

  15. By mwindle1973 on Dec 12, 2010 | Reply

    HOBS: A work stoppage is a reason to not make changes isn’t it. Owners will be less likely to blow teams up. New coaches means new offenses and defenses. And you are looking at least at July or August before is deal is done. New coach who can’t contact his players or assistants (assistants become part time during stoppages normally and can’t work either) until training camp. Doesn’t sound inviting does it?

    I don’t think you have a parallel in Bengal’s history to this situation do you? I’m not sure what history would suggest in this situation. A 2-14 season does not, in Bengaldom, equal a new coach. Dick LeBeau would have gotten more time, but at the end of the ’02 season there was an enormous coaching pool to pick from. There is one big argument against the Zimmer for Head Coach camp. We’ve just had 11 years coached by 2 of the greatest DCs to coach the game. Zimmer is really good, one the best out there. But Lewis and LeBeau are better, period. So the argument that bringing in a good but lesser DC after that has failed twice doesn’t seem to hold water. What’s the argument..third time is a charm?

  16. By mwindle1973 on Dec 12, 2010 | Reply

    Let’s not forget the where the real problem is. How do you think the fortunes of the Bengals would have faired in ’04, ’05 & ’06 if we hadn’t botched the Sapp deal. He languished in Oakland in a 3-4 he wasn’t built to play and we were a dominate D tackle away from having a decent D to go with our explosive offense at the time.

    Forward to ’08 we botch a Shaun Rogers trade. Again frugality and playing with #s in the contract after final talks led to further discussion which caused mistrust and we all know how it went down. Again, imagine the ’09 Bengals with Peko and Rogers in the middle. Pass rush problems you say?

    I say Marvin has benn pounding his fist on the table for one thing in his 8 year tenure. A dominant DT. And it’s a big problem this year. Peko is playing good but other than him you have a lot of weaknesses in the middle.

    I believe football is won and lost in the trenches. And I don’t care how much talent you assemble and how many great coaches you bring aboard. It won’t amount to anything if you aren’t strong on the O & D lines. We get pushed around at the LOS on both sides of the ball. The first step to winning is winning the LOS battle more times than the other team. You have to block, run, tackle, etc. This team is not winning the little battles that involve the basics of playing football.

  17. By tepidfan31 on Dec 12, 2010 | Reply

    Again, the effort was fine. But, But, But agian, after the first series, nothing. TO in after the game press conference said they made adjustments and we didn’t! How many time do we have to hear this????????????

  18. By mwindle1973 on Dec 13, 2010 | Reply

    The first int of the game yesterday, is typical of the whole season. If you took back in slow mo, it was obivous that TO slipped coming out of his break. Making him late to the ball and giving the Steelers int.

    I swear the bad field there is on purpose. You can’t even attempt a 50 yd FG there. Not positive on the stat but I believe it’s 3 kicks of 50 yds or more in 10 seasons at the stadium. And only 2 of them happened in an NFL game. Everytime there is a poll of worst field in the league, Heinz wins it hands down. It’s a big home field advantage to a team that has relied on running and D over the years.

    I think the Steelers did a great job of exposing our pass protection. Palmer got himself out of several sack situations. They bracketed TO and Chad, and dared us to run or pass short. We can’t do either. Short passing was the problem last year. It takes timing and protection and we have neither. The D shells that teams use against us take away deep and outside passing.

    It’s not a good situation when you have your QB reading the Dline as he drops back instead of the field. But it’s not a situation where the QB can do the proverbial “keep your eyes downfield, and feel the pressure. He would be taking 8-10 sacks a game if he didn’t make early visual checks on the pressure. Most QBs can’t process that much info without making mistakes along the way. Big Ben and Vick can do it, but you don’t want your game plan based on it. It’s just nice to have. On the other hand both those guys can barely call a decent audible, whereas Palmer can call all the plays if needed.

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