Bengals-Falcons thoughts

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Here are my thoughts following the Bengals’ 39-32 loss at the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday:

Another rough day for Marv

Good head coaches in the NFL are nearly impossible to beat after bye weeks. Bill Belichick has an undefeated mark following byes. Other widely-respected coaches (such as Jeff Fisher) also have dominant career records in games after off weeks.

And then there is Marvin Lewis. The Bengals are now just 2-5-1 coming out of the bye under his “leadership.” They won in 2003, lost from 2004-2007, tied with the Eagles in ’08, and won last year.

Bengals came out unprepared and unenthusiastic as usual

The Falcons marched for 83 yards on the first possession of the game and faced just one third down along the way. They did basically anything they wanted at any time. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan (who is good but nowhere close to great) was 4-of-4 for 71 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive.

Then the Bengals’ offense took the field, got one first down and quickly punted the ball back to the Falcons.

Way to come out ready boys! Now that is the way a well-coached team responds off a bye week.

Then the Bengals were mounting a very nice drive  on their second possession, but didn’t go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2 and settled for a 19-yard Mike Nugent field goal. The Falcons had to be feeling good about that decision by the conservative Lewis.

Zimmer starting to disappoint

I had no problems with Bengals’ defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s comments about former Falcons coach and current Arkansas boss Bobby Petrino, but maybe he should have been watching more film of the Falcons (who are no offensive juggernaut no matter how the Bengals made them look today) instead of spouting off to the media about how Petrino is an asshat.

Following the Bengals’ field goal to make it 7-3, Atlanta marched right down the field without much issue (until the Bengals finally stopped them on a 4th-and-7 play) and kicked a field goal of their own to make it 10-3 early in the second quarter.

Then on their following possession, the Falcons had another easy drive and shredded Zim’s defense, capped with a 43-yard touchdown from Ryan to Roddy White.

And if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Falcons embarked on an 11-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to take a 24-3 at halftime.

Did I mention … Way to come out ready boys!!! You guys took the whole “off week” a little bit too literally though. This is still the highest form of professional football, even though one wouldn’t know it from watching the Bengals at times.

Nuge, Huber continue to be bright spots

Mike Nugent’s kickoffs are great (and the kick coverage team was good against the Falcons, pinning them inside the 20 on their first three returns of the game). Nugent has also been very good on field goals this year (14-of-16) despite missing a 52-yarder today. His only other “miss” was a block that wasn’t his fault. In other words, he’s been a heck of a bargain for the Bengals and an immediate upgrade over Shayne Graham.

 

In addition, Kevin Huber is also a nice weapon at punter. I loved it at the time when they got him in the fifth round last year and he’s really been impressive this year after a solid rookie campaign. He’s averaging 44.6 yards per punt and that’s about as much as you could hope for from a second-year NFL player.

Roddy torched Bengal DB’s

As for White, he made Bengals’ Leon Hall look like he was running in quicksand at times.  However, Hall responded with his team-leading fourth interception of the season in the third quarter and overall played a solid game as usual.

The Bengals missed Johnathan Joseph today who is on the shelf with an injury, but don’t forget the Falcons were without their best corner: Dunta Robinson. White had six catches for 157 yards and a touchdown in the first 19 minutes of the game. That’s staggering, especially when it’s obvious to everyone he’s the only deep threat on Atlanta’s receiving corps.

White finished with 11 catches for 201 yards and two scores. Other than that he was silent.

Ced what?

Every time it looks like running back Cedric Benson is on his way to a big game, the Bengals fall behind and have to rely on the pass just to make the game respectable. Benson is one of the few bright spots on this team, but it’s hard to commit to the running game when it’s 17-3 before you blink.

Course, with Bob Bratkowski’s yearly struggles in the play-calling department (and I think this is his last year as the offensive coordinator by the way) that puts the Bengals behind the 8-ball before they even take the field.

Benson had 12 carries for 57 yards in the first half, but the Bengals trailed 24-3 at halftime and had to go to the air to try and get back in the game after that. He finished with 20 carries for 70 yards (8 carries for 13 yards in the second half) Oh, and he also lost a key fumble when the Bengals were driving with a chance to tie it late.

Wow, halftime adjustments for a change

Well, better late than never. The Bengals came out in the third quarter and actually looked like many of us thought they would look at times offensively this year. They got a field goal on their first possession and backed it up with an explosive six-play, 88-yard touchdown drive to make the score 24-13. They did a very good job of getting back in the game as soon as the second half started. But where was that fire early in the contest when Atlanta took the game by control?

Ocho, T.O. are no sideshow (OK, at least not always)

It was a big day for reality TV stars Chad Ochocinco and Terrelle Owens – a could of guys who also play football. Make fun of them if you will for being divas (and you know I’m going to) but the bottom line is they are still very good NFL receivers. Ochocinco had 10 receptions for 108 and a touchdown against the Falcons, and Owens added nine catches for 88 yards and a TD.

They continue to produce and stay out of trouble. So far so good. Now if they could just play defense.

Speaking of Cincinnati WR’s…

How about the coming-out-party for rookie Jordan Shipley who had six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown?

He’s been excellent all year and today was his best game to date. And it came after he had to sit out last week after suffering a vicious concussion. Wow the Bengals found a hell of a keeper in the third round. We always rip their bad picks (and there are plenty of them, right Andre Smith?) but Shipley was an absolute steal and kudos to the Bengals’ front office for landing him.

Dumb to go for two in the third quarter

Always wait until the fourth, too much football left. It was 24-19 Falcons at the time with 1:38 left in third and I was hoping the Bengals would just kick the extra point. But the clueless Marvin Lewis would have none of it.

The best third quarter I can ever remember seeing the Bengals play

The Bengals dominating the third quarter to the tune of 22-0 was nothing short of astonishing. It was capped with the 59-yard fumble recovery for a TD from Pacman Jones to give them a 25-24 lead. (Which would have been 27 if they would have just kicked the extra points, which you should always do until the fourth quarter … oh did I already mention that?)

I thought this game was over for sure at halftime at 24-3 Falcons. And while there is not an excuse for coming in unprepared and uninspired like they did, credit to them for at least manning up and coming out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in the first half.

Maybe this will get Carson on track

Fans have been down on Palmer and rightfully so. He’s been ultra-sucky at times. But he finished 36-of-50 for 412 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against a decent Atlanta defense and hopefully that’s a sign that he’s going to finish the year strong (and more importantly have a good year next year since the Bengals have ruined any playoff chances they have). Palmer isn’t as great as we all thought he would be, but he still has the chance to be a very good NFL QB as he proved today.

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