Pregame sprints

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on October 3, 2010 – 9:17 am


CLEVELAND –  A few pregame sprints before Sunday’s 1 p.m. game here against the Browns on Cincinnati’s Channel 12:

» This is why it is not entirely a coincidence that the Bengals are 16-10-1 since they worked out safety Chris Crocker the week they fell to 0-8 during the 2008 season.

Crocker has never been afraid to tell his teammates what he thinks is what. Whether at 0-8 or 7-2, which is what the Bengals were going into Oakland last year and lost a ridiculous 20-17 game they had no business losing. He says he’s made sure he and his mates have talked about that this week.

“We don’t want to do like when we went down to Oakland,” Crocker said before Friday’s practice. “I think we’re a better team. I’m not going to say bad things about them. But I think we’re a better team. We need to go up there and take care of business. We talked about how sick the feeling was when we lose to a team where you just feel like we’re better.  It’s the NFL. Any team can win any game. But we feel like we’re matched up on the positive side. We feel like we’re a good team and we should win the game.”

Hasn’t it always been those games that cause the most angst in Bengaldom? Most of the time, they come out ready against the teams with the good records, although this year’s opener in New England was a stark exception. Usually when they lay a total egg, it is against a team that shouldn’t be in the game with them, right?

There was Oakland last year and while they struggled to beat the Browns, Lions and Chiefs late in the season and the Panthers this year, they won. They won because the defense and/or the running game or some intangible showed up. That was almost never the case.

Forget ’08, but look at ’07 when they lost games to the 2-3 Chiefs, 3-4 Bills, 4-5 Cardinals, and 3-10 49ers. Three of those were on the road. Or how about ’06 and the brutal loss to the 0-4 Bucs, also on the road? Beating the Bucs would have put them in the 2006 playoffs and winning three of those games against losing teams in ’07 would have put them at 10-6.

But with more guys like Crocker around those eggs don’t seem to be as scrambled as much.

“They’re going to play hard. We know that,” Crocker said. “They are going to come out and fight all the way. We’ve got to match their intensity.”

» Give Carson Palmer this, if you please. His record in AFC North games of 21-11. (9-3 vs. Baltimore, 8-2 vs. Cleveland, 4-6 vs. Pittsburgh).

Granted, the last couple has been ugly, haven’t they? The 26-20 win in Pittsburgh in September 2006 with four touchdown passes is a long time ago. The big stat there? Since he threw a Bengals-record six touchdown passes here against the Browns on Sept. 16, 2007, he’s thrown eight touchdown passes in the last 11 North games. Of course, they are also 9-2 in those games.

A lot of that simply has to do with the style of the division. Few quarterbacks ever have big-time stats against the Steelers and Ravens. Although, oddly, two of his three worst passer ratings in victories have come against Cleveland in December games at Paul Brown Stadium with 44.8 in 2007 and 53.5 in 2005.

(I made a mistake last Sunday when I wrote the 53.3 against Carolina was his worst rating in a victory. It was his second worst.)

But, ultimately, this is what QBs are supposed to do: Win.

In what other sport does one stat so inaccurately tell you what a player means to his team than how passer rating describes what a quarterback does? It gives you a sense, but not the entire picture. It’s not as telling as the stats for the other quarterback positions in sports.

Earned run average. Assists vs. turnovers. Goals against.

NFL wins don’t grow on trees in any era. Palmer is 44-40 in his 84 starts. In his first seven seasons as a starter for the Bengals, Boomer Esiason was 51-52. Time should never fade what Ken Anderson did for the Bengals. He was 55-37 in his first seven seasons on the way to a 91-81 career won-loss record. Thanks to his 4-1 victory tour in ’97, Esiason got over .500 to finish 62-61 in his 123 career starts in Cincinnati.

No question Palmer has to play better if this team is going anywhere. But don’t underestimate wins, either.

How about on the road in the division? 10-6.

» Kicker Mike Nugent’s first three games as a Bengal have been pretty remarkable. He’s eight-for-eight, the best opening streak of any Bengals kicker when it comes to field goals, and with two field goals of at least 50 yards he’s already in rarefied air. Doug Pelfrey had three seasons where he had two 50s and Jim Breech, the club’s all-time scorer, hit two of 50 in the same season once in 13 years.

But, like the majority of kickers, Breech and Pelfrey are remembered more for their clutch kicks than distance. Breech is 9-for-9 in OT and from 1994-96, Pelfrey’s six walkoff field goals were the final play of 18 Bengals victories.

Nugent is headed that way. Three of his field goals have come in the fourth quarter of tight wins.

By the way, the Bengals record for most 50-yarders in a season is Horst Muhlmann’s four in 1970. Shayne Graham had three in 2004.

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