Bengals-Browns thoughts

Here are my postgame thoughts following the Bengals 23-20 loss at the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Tim Donaghy thought the officiating was shady

I am fully-accustomed to seeing poor officiating in the NFL. That’s what happens when a multi-billion dollar business uses part-time employees as refs. I don’t think games are fixed like the NBA, but days like today make you wonder.

Let’s go in chronological order:

Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe made a clean hit on Browns tight end Ben Watson moments after Watson hauled in a reception. Ndukwe hit Watson with his shoulder, didn’t hit Watson in the head and yet inexplicably was flagged for “hitting a defenseless receiver.”

WTF?

The officials obviously don’t understand the rule, or they are on the take. Of course it’s not the latter (well, I shouldn’t say “of course” with the Donaghys of the world out there … and he can’t be the only one) so it must be the former. The rule is in place so when the ball is airmailed over an out-stretched receiver and a defender comes flying in and nails the WR when it’s clearly an incomplete pass, the defender gets penalized for unnecessary roughness. But that wasn’t even close to what happened on the Ndukwe-Watson hit.

Again, Ndukwe didn’t hit Watson in the head and didn’t lead with his head. It was more shoulder-to-midsection. Also, there is the very important matter that Watson caught the freaking ball. He obviously wasn’t a defenseless receiver outstretched for a ball he couldn’t catch. Just a terrible call there by the officials.

But unfortunately for the Bengals, they weren’t done there.

On the first drive of the second half, the Bengals’ defense appeared to stop the Browns on a third-and-8 play and force a punt. However, Dhani Jones was flagged for pass interference, even though the little contact he made with the receiver came right as the ball arrived. Complete phantom call there and it was huge because instead of punting, the Browns went down, scored a touchdown and took a 20-10 lead.

The final crucial blown call in the “Donaghy trifecta” was when Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims was flagged for holding. With the score 23-20 and the Browns facing a second-and-10 from their own 11-yard line, the Bengals appeared to stuff Peyton Hillis (for a change) a force a third-and-9 from the 12. However, Sims was called for the mother of chicken shit/ticky tack calls (take your pick), the Browns were given a free first down and were able to salt the game away from there. A defensive holding penalty on a running play. Wow. And all it did was prevent the Bengals from getting the ball back so they could have a chance to win or send the game into overtime.

Seriously, if Mark Cuban was the Bengals owner, he would get fined $1,000,000 for sending in video evidence to the league office and publicly complaining about these calls (and there would likely be an FBI investigation a few years later proving him correct). And yes, if Cuban was the Bengals’ owner, the Bengals would also be a better team. For two reasons: Cuban is a good owner and anyone would be a better owner than Mike Brown. But that’s a topic for another day.

Nothing’s more annoying than a Brat

It just doesn’t get any better with Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.

What is the deal with him calling passing plays on third down where the receiver runs a route short of the marker? Praying for yards-after-catch is not an intelligent mode of operation on third down, yet we see it time and time again.

At least the Bengals have a player in rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham that can bail out Brat when he makes one of his ridiculous calls on third down (Gresham always makes the catch and usually gets some YAC) but Bratkowski continues to get out-coached by the opposing defensive coordinator each week.

Let’s give a couple specific examples of poor decisions on his part from Sunday’s game against what was a winless Browns team:

* The score is 23-10 near the end of the third quarter and the Bengals are driving deep in Browns territory. Definitely need a touchdown in this situation down 13 points because a pair of TDs gives you the lead. Field goals are almost meaningless at this point.

Well, after quarterback Carson Palmer is sacked, the Bengals are facing a second-and-17. Have to pass there if you are thinking TD, but Brat calls a run setting up a third-and-14. That’s pretty much an unmake-able situation to be in and Palmer could only manage an underneath pass to Brian Leonard for 7 yards, forcing a field goal (which made the score 23-13 near the end of the third quarter). That second down play was atrocious in that situation. You’re already in field goal range, so pass twice to try and get the first down. You can almost-always count on Brat calling a running play after a failed passing attempt on first down. It’s the most-predictable thing in football.

* On what amazingly turned out to be the Bengals’ final possession, they were facing a third-and-4 at Cleveland’s 31 with the score 23-20. At worst, Cincinnati is thinking Mike Nugent field goal to tie the game, but the brain-trust also knows a first down might lead to a game-winning touchdown.

Well, Brat’s dumb-ass calls a rollout to the short-side of the field leaving no chance for Palmer who basically throws the ball away. Well, if the play-call wasn’t bad enough, pass interference is called on Chad “I’d Rather Be Tweeting” Ochocinco which the Browns accept. Cleveland then gets a sack on the next play taking the Bengals out of field goal range. So, the Bengals had to punt and it was fair-caught by Josh Cribbs at the Browns’ 10. And the Bengals likely would have gotten the ball back if not for the aforementioned terrible defensive holding penalty on Sims, but that was still a blown opportunity of grand proportions by the offense after getting the ball down to the 31. No offense that actually owns some talent is worse than the Bengals when it comes to key third down situations.

Gresham is REALLY good

Oh, that’s already been established? Just wanted to be absolutely certain.

The rookie had five receptions for 35 yards against the Browns and just continues to impress each week.

Palmer-to-T.O. is born

Well, so much for Palmer being “done.” He torched the Browns defense to the tune of 25-of-36 for 371 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had the longest pass of his career when he hooked up with Terrell Owens for a pinpoint 78-yard touchdown that tied the score at 10 in the second quarter.

Owens was a force all afternoon and finished with 10 receptions for 222 yards. He also moved past Issac Bruce for second all-time in the NFL in receiving yards. That’s ultra-impressive. He trails only Jerry Rice and will never catch him, but it’s still staggering the career numbers that Owens has amassed.

Another day, another special teams breakdown

The Bengals looked like a high school team allowing that field to be blocked just before the half. Letting a guy come absolutely free from the middle of the right side?

Special teams coach Darrin Simmons either had a terrible scheme or a player completely botched his assignment. Either way, that’s inexcusable in the NFL.

Mike Nugent was 9-for-9 on field goals up until then and chances are good he would have drilled the 44-yarder and would’ve given the Bengals a 13-10 lead. Instead, the Browns got the block and eventually took a 13-10 halftime lead themselves.

Simmons is completely clueless. In the second half, he had Nugent do that stupid pooch kickoff that never works. Cribbs got the ball at the 20 and then returned it to the 45. Might as well kick it out of bounds there. Or you could just have your kicker with a booming leg try and kick it deep.

Caldwell is terrible

Man, not seeing him out there much this year almost made you forget just how slow and bad in general Andre Caldwell is. Hopefully Jordan Shipley is able to return relatively quickly from his concussion (likely after the bye week) because there is a huge drop-off from Shipley to Caldwell in terms of working the slot and just being a receiver in general.

Where is Bernard Scott in this offense?

Two carries for seven yards? Really? I was expecting improvement from year one to two (and he was plenty impressive as a rookie) yet it seems his role has actually been reduced this year. More proof of Brat being over his head.

‘Andre the Bust’ update

His Fatness played today and didn’t do much that stood out, other than not staying with a block long enough and allowing a sack. Dennis Roland got the start as usual at right tackle, but Big Fattie came in and got some snaps. Wow, the No. 6 overall pick of the draft is actually getting token playing time by his second year. Congrats Andre! Let’s all have a Fatburger in your honor. At least you were able to make the 45-man game-day roster this week after actually finding a way to be a “healthy scratch” against the Panthers last week.

Better beat the Bucs next week and go into the bye at 3-2

With all the hand-wringing over this team (could you be 2-2 and look worse?) as long as they beat a bad Tampa Bay Bucs team next week in The Jungle, the Bengals will be 3-2 at the bye and that won’t be bad at all.

The Bucs are 2-1, but they’re atrocious and the Bengals need to come out like they mean business if they want to still have a chance at making the playoffs this year. They need to make a statement at home against a craptastic team like the Bucs.

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