I love the New York Giants. At least for the next six days.
If the Bengals beat Arizona on Sunday and the Jets lose at home to the Giants, Cincinnati will have a one game lead in the Wild Card race going into the final Sunday of the season.
So for the moment, forget about the 11 penalties, 3 fumbles, and inability to move the ball in short yardage situations in Sunday’s 20-13 win over the Rams and enjoy the fact that the Bengals playoff hopes are very much alive.
“Amen brother,” said Andrew Whitworth. “When it’s December in the NFL — a win is a win. We’re trying to get into the playoffs and we have two games at home. Those are going to be exciting games.”
“We started the season with two on the road and the fact that we end with two at home is awesome,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.
And speaking of awesome, there’s A.J. Green.
On a day where Cedric Benson put the ball on the ground three times, Jermaine Gresham had as many false starts as catches, and Andy Dalton had more tackles than touchdown passes, the rookie wide receiver from Georgia finished with six catches for 115 yards to go over 1000 receiving yards for the season.
“I’m just going to continue to get better,” said Green. “I’m just trying to lead this team to the playoffs and potentially to a Super Bowl.”
Green suffered a Grade 3 shoulder sprain in the second quarter and had his right arm in a sling on the flight home, but A.J. left little doubt that he’ll be able to play on Saturday.
“It’s just an AC joint sprain – I’ve had it before and it’s nothing serious,” said Green. “I’m not going to miss these last two games for nothing. You would have to break my leg or something for me to miss these last two games. I’m just ready to get back out there and stay in the playoff hunt.”
“I bet Bengals Nation collectively took a big gulp when A.J. went down – I know I did,” said my broadcasting partner Dave Lapham. “They’re a different team without A.J. on the field. The trickle-down effect on an A.J. Green injury would be dramatic.”
Even with Green, the Bengals are not likely to beat the Cardinals – winners of six of their last seven – if they keep going backward on offense due to penalties.
It’s interesting to note that the Bengals are actually averaging more penalties in their wins (6.6 for 58.6 yards) than in their losses (6 for 53.8 yards). But in the St. Louis game, three drives began with penalties.
“Too many first down penalties,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. “If we want to go where we want to go, we have to play better on first down. We had two or three false starts and two or three holding calls that really set us back. In this league, when you’re first-and-15 or first-and-20, it’s going to be difficult.”
“We’ve got to clean it up if we want to win these last two,” said Whitworth. “It’s not about being good enough – it’s about not shooting yourself in the foot. That’s what the good teams do down the stretch. They don’t hurt themselves.”
The Bengals also have to do a better job in short yardage situations. They failed to move the chains twice on third-and-one and once on fourth-and-one.
“Our short yardage offense was putrid,” said Gruden.
“You have to come off of the line of scrimmage with low pads and they’re not doing that right now,” said Lapham. “They’re not even getting stalemates – they’re getting knocked backwards.
That won’t cut it against a Cardinals team that still has long-shot hopes of going to the playoffs. An overtime win over Cleveland on Sunday evened Arizona’s record at 7-7.
So what’s Marvin’s message this week?
“Just do your job,” said Coach Lewis. “Just make sure you’re being consistent in doing your job all of the time.”
Here’s hoping the Giants do the same thing.
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