SEATTLE — The numbers are 3-9, 2-5-1, 0-4. That’s the record of NFL teams coming off byes this season, the Bengals record the week after byes under head coach Marvin Lewis, and the record when that week came on the road.
The numbers don’t get much play in the Bengals locker room and neither does the Warren Sapp argument that the new rule giving teams off a mandatory four straight days in bye weeks has contributed to the bad bye week records.
Right guard Bobbie Williams has played all the bye games under Lewis but one, but he came to the Bengals from Andy Reid’s Eagles, a perennial playoff team that got a week off during byes.
And Lewis always gave his players four straight days off before giving them five this year. While the game after the bye has usually been a loss, Lewis has a winning record in November/December games and a losing one in September/October games.
“It’s all about mindset,” Williams says. “Our preparation this year has made this a special year for us. If we come out with that mindset and win the game, all that stat stuff isn’t going to matter. We can’t let teams be an ‘if’ or a ‘but.’ We’ve got 10 weeks to play good football and it starts with this game right here.”
The Bengals are loving the extra time off that the new collective bargaining agreement has ordained with fewer padded practices and training camp practices. They believe it’s contributed to the knock-on-wood good luck they’ve had with injuries as well as their three fourth-quarter comebacks.
“I think it’s been beneficial to us,” Williams said. “The body has had a break but the mind has still been working on football.”
As one player said, “If Warren was still playing, ask him if he’d want the four days off.”
On Friday, Lewis recalled what defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said to him earlier in the week about last Sunday’s games and the teams coming off byes. “Except for Kansas City-Oakland, the teams that were supposed to win, won and the teams that were supposed to lose lost.”
THINKING ALOUD: What will have a greater impact on Sunday’s game is the NFL’s loudest stadium as the young and revamped Bengals offense faces its biggest challenge of the season. The good news is that the two guys that played in Seattle the last time (2007) play at one of the most vulnerable positions to the noise with Williams and left tackle Andrew Whitworth on the offensive line. And if tackle is the most vulnerable position, Whitworth played both tackles that day because of injuries.
“It’s really important for us to get off on the ball. They’re going to tee off,” Whitworth said of him and right tackle Andre Smith. “You see them jumping the cadence like crazy when they’re at home, and that’s really what they do. They take you out of your game. They play with the noise and can go off the ball movement and things like that. You play late off the snap and you’re in trouble.
“So just to make sure—not just for us tackles but the whole line—we’ve got to get off the ball on time and can’t be late and can’t be one guy coming off, one guy not and that kind of stuff. So we’ve just got to be on the same page, execute as always. And the main thing is not let it change anything about us, just go out there and do what we do, and crowd noise is crowd noise.”
That most likely means a silent count and radio analyst Dave Lapham, who played all five positions during 10 seasons on the Bengals offensive line, counsels changeups.
“You can’t let the defense pick up the rhythm of the count,” he said.
Lapham says playing well out here would be a huge lift for an offense that still has to face crowds in Pittsburgh and Baltimore as hostile but not as loud as it will experience Sunday.
“I think it’s a great learning tool for us,” Whitworth said. “A young team getting to go on the road before we have to go to Baltimore, before we have to go to Pittsburgh. It gives us a test to go out there and play at a team that’s going to play at a high level and a crowd that’s going to try to keep us out of the game.”
JENNINGS ADVICE: Former Seattle cornerback Kelly Jennings has spent the past two weeks giving his own scouting report on the crowd and the Seahawks receivers to his fellow defensive backs. Jennings started 44 games for them in the previous seasons before he was traded for defensive tackle Clinton McDonald just before this season.
“It’s an advantage,” Jennings said. “Even two years ago when we were 3-13, the stadium was full and the crowd was cheering as loud as if we were 11-3.”
It’s unclear how much Jennings is going to play Sunday against his old mates. He’s barely played this season because of a tender hamstring he tweaked when he was still with the Seahawks, plus the Bengals haven’t seen a lot of three-receiver sets. That’s going to change Sunday since Seattle has the ninth most snaps in the league with three receivers, but it also marks the return of cornerback Adam Jones off PUP.
“Maybe they haven’t put up the great numbers that some other guys have but you really have to keep your eye on them,” Jennings said of the Seattle wideouts. “They have a lot of talent over there. When we’re studying film, I just kind of give them the inside scoop on a lot of guys. What drives guys, what their favorite moves are, things I remember from when I was there.
“Everybody knows Sidney Rice is a great player. Mike Williams is a huge receiver. But 15 (Doug) Baldwin , he’s one that’s slowly coming on the scene that people don’t really know much about. You have to keep your eye on him. He’s real quick and shifty and he can definitely make plays for them.”
Baldwin is one of the great stories of the early NFL season. He played with Bengals rookie receiver Ryan Whalen at Stanford last season and while Whalen, a sixth-round pick, is looking for his first pro catch, Baldwin, a free agent, trails only first-rounders A.J. Green and Julio Jones for most rookie receiving yards with 330 on 20 catches.
Jennings has moved on from his Seattle experience. The head coach and GM that drafted him in the first round in 2006 are no longer. So even though he thought he played well under new coach Pete Carroll last year, he’s not surprised he’s gone.
“Being in this business for six years now, I’ve seen a lot of things happen,” Jennings said. “I guess it was kind of a shock because I did start, but it’s not a surprise because for the simple fact it goes like that sometimes.”
He’s still close to his fellow first-round cornerback Marcus Trufant, as well as defensive end Red Bryant and running back Justin Forsett. But the NFL roulette wheel has done its business in Seattle. Injuries and the new regime now have two youthful corners in first-year NFL players Richard Sherman, a fifth-round pick from Stanford, and Brandon Browner, a 68-game veteran in Canada with 12 career interceptions and a championship with Calgary.
That could briefly set up a Grey Cup matchup with Bengals spot receiver Andrew Hawkins, a winner with Montreal.
HOMETOWN VISIT: Bengals safety Taylor Mays, who grew up in Seattle, hasn’t been back very much since he left for college at USC and looked forward to the visit only because he could visit with his parents.
He also said he plans to talk with Carroll before the game as well as other coaches he knew at USC. The two have been linked in controversy since the 2010 draft because Carroll needed a safety and didn’t take him in the second round.
“It wasn’t really anything. I felt like we had a good relationship then and we have one now,” Mays said.
Mays put in some work during the bye week with secondary coach Kevin Coyle as he continues to try and get used to the scheme. They went in the gym and Coyle represented different offensive formations with chairs.
“It’s different than seeing it on a piece of paper and actually seeing it in front of you,” he said.
VEIL OF NO SECRECY: The unwritten rule in an NFL draft room is the same as it is in the locker room. “What you say here, what you do here, what you see here, let it stay here.”
As it does in many war rooms—NFL and the real ones—that went by the boards Sunday in the Bengals draft room when ESPN cited sources that said club president Mike Brown wanted Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett in this year’s draft but in the end sided with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and others for Andy Dalton when both were available at No. 35.
Which is another example of the tremendous power Brown gives the Bengals assistant coaches and Lewis in the draft, particularly in the early rounds. On a lot of teams, the assistants are in their offices watching the draft on TV, never mind having input in each stage of the process.
Rarely is there unanimity in any draft room and debates become public. An alleged John Harbaugh-Ozzie Newsome divide in Baltimore on first-round pick Jimmy Smith was revealed almost immediately back in April.
That’s why the company line is always, “We disagree, we discuss, we debate, but we leave the room as one.”
And the Bengals got a one, and maybe another, when they debate the picks they got in the Carson Palmer trade next April.
Tags: Bengals bye week, Notes
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