NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Just a Red Baron throw away from the team hotel, Bengaldom arrived in full force Saturday night to invade the bars and restaurants of Broadway. “Who Dey” could be heard above the who done somebody wrong songs as their Bengals stalked their first five-game winning streak since the last Super Bowl season.
Just more evidence that the Bengals have one of the more diehard fan bases around the NFL. They’ve lost some along the way, but there always seems to be a close-knit, damn-the-torpedoes following no matter the season or venue.
They are at a fever pitch this trip at 5-2 and the Steelers leering at the Bengals next week at Paul Brown Stadium. And the reason is as clear as that tiger-striped pocketbook or those orange and black necklaces, and that old Boomer Esiason No. 7 jersey that made the rounds in the Nashville night.
Likeability. The likeability factor of this team is through the roof. They don’t swagger, they persevere. They don’t boast. They grind. They don’t celebrate. They commiserate like Adam Jones chest-bumping Brandon Tate after his punt return touchdown last week in Seattle.
A much warmer and fuzzier team than the 2009 AFC North champs. After all, there’s nobody on this team that told them to go pound salt.
And this team doesn’t play with that lumbering here-we-go-again burden of the past, when opposing coaches used to tell their teams, “Just stay close. The Bengals will find a way to blow it.”
A 10-game losing streak against Buffalo? Four Bengals were born after it started. A shot at the first five-game winning streak since ’88? The Red Baron was less than a year old.
There are too many guys like safety Reggie Nelson around now. If you’re looking for a face on this faceless team, his is as good as the next. Sentenced as a first-round bust, Nelson was traded before he got cut before the 2010 season and in this his fifth NFL season he’s playing with first-round impact.
Nelson’s day in Seattle is a microcosm of why this team is 5-2. He made a huge play on the last snap of the first half when he prevented a touchdown and he sealed it with 35 seconds left in the game with his first NFL touchdown on a 75-yard interception return.
But before that, in the first quarter, he was struggling. He dropped an interception and his unnecessary roughness penalty ignited Seattle’s only scoring drive of the half.
Plus, he had to deal with head coach Marvin Lewis crawling all over him after the penalty.
“That’s football. I’m not worried about penalties. I moved on as soon as he threw the penalty,” Nelson said. “There are a lot of penalties. If everybody worried about penalties, this would be a messed-up game. Of course Marv got on me. You’ve got to accept that. Everybody’s got a job to do.”
And Nelson moved on in time to make the biggest play of the game. With 14 seconds left in the half on fourth-and-two from the Bengals 3, all Nelson knew is the Bengals had to stop the Seahawks. So when he penetrated the middle on the surprising run play and stopped running back Marshawn Lynch at the 1, he wasn’t caught up in anything but the moment.
He wasn’t even sure it was fourth down or that Seattle got the first down on the play but failed to line up on the ball and let the half run out with no points.
“That was a big play for the defense because they were going to get the second half kickoff, too,” Nelson said.
All Nelson was worried about was the play and he saw that Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson thought the Bengals were in one look when they were actually in another. And when he saw Jackson check at the line, Nelson also saw a gap open on the line and his instincts took over.
“I just went through the gap,”’ he said. “I was focused on just executing the defense.”
But if he didn’t, he would have moved on. Which seems to be one of the many reasons for the likeability factor of these Bengals.
Before it all began in September, the pundits said the Bengals were the worst team in football. No past to haunt. No future to fulfill.
Tags: bengalls fans, Reggie Nelson, who dey
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 15 Comments »
A good friend of mine sent me a text message moments after the Bengals beat the Browns in my first regular season game behind the mic.
“Was it as awesome as you thought it would be?” he wrote.
“Better,” I responded.
A great win for the Bengals was accompanied by a fine whine from the Browns after Bruce Gradkowski’s game-winning touchdown pass to A.J. Green with 4:28 remaining.
With Cleveland’s defense just breaking the huddle on 3rd-and-11, the Bengals used a quick-snap to catch the Browns napping.
“Our coaches knew it would work,” Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham told me. “That’s why Coach Gruden called it. We practiced it and he dialed it up at the right time and it was wide-open like he said it would be.”
“Yeah, they quick-snapped us,” said Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur after the game. “I have to watch the tape, but it’s my understanding that they changed personnel, lined-up and then quick-snapped it. There are rules that go along with that, so we’ll see. My understanding is when the offense changes personnel, the defense is allowed to do so as well and have time to do it. We’ll see if that actually happened.”
Apparently not. On Monday, an NFL source told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the Bengals did not have a substitution violation.
“I have not looked at the game tape to determine exactly what happened in terms of substitutions, but it doesn’t sound like they substituted,” my broadcast partner Dave Lapham explained on Monday. “It’s the umpire’s discretion. If he sees a substitution by the offense, he puts his foot on the football until he feels the defense has had enough time to match that substitution. Once he takes his foot off of the football it’s a live game.
“For the Cleveland Browns, it was just a lack of communication – they didn’t get the play called in the defensive huddle in time. They just kind of looked at the Bengals offense and said, ‘Whoops…this is a do-over.’ It was like a backyard game and they said, ‘We’re not ready. You have to line-up again.’ It ended up costing them the football game.”
It was A.J. Green’s only catch in his NFL debut, and couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It goes down in history,” said Green with a grin. “It feels so good to just give back to the fans because they deserve this win. I’ve told everybody that this team is going to be special. I’m glad we got this win to start the season off right. Now it’s time to get back to work.”
* * * * *
One of the standouts on defense in the Cleveland win was safety Reggie Nelson who led the Bengals with 9 tackles and had one of their two sacks.
But immediately after the victory, Nelson was upset about letting Mohamed Massaquoi get behind him for a 56-yard reception that led to Cleveland’s second touchdown.
“Bad eyes,” said Nelson. “That’s all I’m going to say about that. We can’t have that on defense.”
“He was happy that we won, but he is his own biggest critic, and he was not happy about his own performance,” said defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle. “When I went over and tried to talk to him about it, I could sense that, and I just wanted him to realize that I was glad that he was disappointed about the plays that he didn’t make, but he also needed to understand that the plays that he did make helped us win the game.”
Cincinnati obtained Nelson in a trade with Jacksonville just before the start of last season. After starting five of the last six games last year, Reggie is the clear-cut starter at free safety this year.
“Reggie is a talented athlete and the more experience that he gets in our system, the better he plays,” said Coyle. “As we’ve gone through preseason, we started to see him get more and more comfortable in his role. When he can just line up out there and see the big picture of things and just react, he is really a fine, fine athlete. He’s got good movement, he’s got toughness, and he’s got great ball skills too – we haven’t seen him pick the ball off yet, but that’s coming.”
Nelson was a first-round draft pick (21st overall) by the Jaguars in 2007 after winning the Jack Tatum Award as the nation’s top defensive back at the University of Florida.
“I believe that Reggie has upper-level athletic ability for the position,” said Coyle. “We just have to get it out of him. There’s a difference between having the ability and taking that ability into the role of the position. I think in the preseason, you started to see that occurring, and we saw a lot of it in Cleveland. It’s the consistency level that he still needs to achieve, but if he does, I really believe that you can compare him with guys that are in the upper-level of safeties in the league.”
* * * * *
What can I say – I like nicknames.
As the play-by-play announcer for UC, I occasionally called Melvin Levett “The Helicopter”, Darnell Wilks “The Pogo Stick”, Dominick Goodman “The Wizard”, and Tony Pike “The Pistol.”
And yes, even though I am well-aware of the fact that Andy Dalton is not blessed with an Elway-like howitzer, I thought “The Red Rifle” had a nice ring to it.
Your responses have been abundant and amusing.
I would say that based on e-mail and tweets, the feedback has been 60/40 in favor. However, those of you that don’t like it really don’t like it.
The typical favorable response has been, “Hey Dan…good nickname forDalton.” The typical negative response has been, “THAT’S THE MOST IDIOTIC THING I’VE EVER HEARD AND YOU’RE MAKING ME WANT TO BASH MY RADIO WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER.”
Since Dalton says he likes the nickname and Boomer Esiason used it on the The NFL Today this week, “The Red Rifle” lives.
But I promise to use it sparingly, OK?
* * * * *
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook. Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.
Tags: Andy Dalton nickname, Reggie Nelson
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So the Bengals did end up keeping a former first-round pick of the Jaguars after all on Saturday’s NFL cutdown day.
But it wasn’t wide receiver Matt Jones, released earlier in the day as the Bengals made room for Jerome Simpson and Quan Cosby.
It turned out to be safety Reggie Nelson, acquired for cornerback David Jones and a conditional draft pick about 30 minutes after the 6 p.m. deadline to get rosters to 53.
In the wake of the season-ending injury to Gibril Wilson and the decision to cut all three veterans vying to take his place as one of the four safeties, the Bengals turned to the Jaguars No. 1 pick from 2007.
The Bengals know the 5-11, 206-pound Nelson well.
The move now gives the Bengals secondary five first-round picks and one they almost had when the Jaguars took Florida’s Nelson with the 21st pick. The Bengals ended up taking Michigan cornerback Leon Hall at No. 18, but had Nelson on their radar as one of their Plan Bs if Hall slipped through.
He ended up tying Hall to lead all NFL rookies with five interceptions that season.
Now Nelson joins Hall and three other first-rounders in the Bengals secondary. There is Johnathan Joseph at the corner opposite Hall, a ’06 first rounder, as well as 2005 first-rounder Adam Jones at the third corner and 2002 first-rounder Roy Williams at strong safety.
“Trade great for us,” texted head coach Marvin Lewis on Saturday. “Acquiring a young player with tremendous upside and two years left on his contract.”
The Bengals kept just three safeties at Saturday’s 53-man cutdown, so they were anticipating making some kind of move. Now instead of six cornerbacks, they have five corners and four safeties with safety Chris Crocker able to play corner in a pinch.
Nelson had a big rookie year with five of his seven career interceptions but didn’t seem to adapt to what new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker did with him last year. Tucker moved him all over, including into slot corner, and he even started one game at left corner.
But he’s advertised as a free safety with good range. In 42 starts with the Jags, Nelson had 162 solo tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles. With special teams captain Kyries Hebert among Saturday’s cuts, Nelson will more than likely be asked to contribute in the kicking game. Four of his 18 special teams tackles came last season in a year he started 14 games before he was replaced in the next to last game of the season.
The Bengals picked up Jones on this weekend three years ago when they plucked him off waivers from the Saints. They got a lot of bang for their buck. He started seven of 33 games and had 47 tackles and eight passes defensed.
He was Cincinnati’s third corner in 2008 but got supplanted by rookie Morgan Trent last year after he missed virtually all of the preseason and the first four games of the regular season with a broken foot.
After going 18 years without making a player-for-player trade, the Bengals have now made one before each of the last two seasons. In May 2009 they picked up Rams running back Brian Leonard for defensive tackle Orien Harris.
Tags: Reggie Nelson, reggie nelson trade
Posted in Hobson's Choice | 8 Comments »