Botched Call Burns Bengals, But Plenty Of Good Signs

Just when you thought the “horse-collar” rule was the worst thing added to football recently, we’re reminded of the NFL’s absolutely absurd idea that receivers must “control the ball all the way to the ground” on touchdowns.

Keep in mind, a runner can dive over the pile, put the ball barely over the goal line, have the ball then knocked out of his hands … and that’s a touchdown. As it should be.

However, a receiver has to control the ball all the way to the ground, even if they clearly have possession of the ball and two feet down? Whoever thought of that rule should be forced to retire. They obviously have a vendetta against the entire human race. It’s a completely dense rule and Calvin Johnson knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately for the Bengals, so does tight end Jermaine Gresham who made a dazzling, bobbling reception against Baltimore on Sunday that would have cut the Ravens’ lead to three points. Gresham not only had clear control of the ball, he was literally palming it with one hand. When he fell to the ground, the ball slightly moved, but Gresham never lost control of it.

Yet, after watching the peep show for about an hour (OK, it only felt that long) official Ron Winter inexplicably ruled the pass from rookie quarterback Andy Dalton incomplete.

Winter is not even close to understanding the spirit of the rule. The ball moved maybe an inch at most while NEVER leaving control of Gresham’s hand. Completely bogus call. One of the worst I’ve ever seen.

And what made it worse was that Winter reversed the call that was made on the field. In no way was there conclusive evidence that Gresham “didn’t control the ball all the way to the ground.” If they had called it incomplete on the field, I could almost understand the play not going the Bengals’ way. (Scratch that, no I couldn’t, but I digress.) However, it was called a TD on the field, they had about 10 camera angles to look at and Gresham definitely made the catch. How has the NFL not changed this pathetic rule yet?

Instead of getting the TD to make the score 31-28, the Bengals had to settle for a Mike Nugent field goal (he’s now 18-of-19 on the year, by the way) and a 31-24 count.

And of course the Bengals get the ball back, drive down the field and find themselves immediately in field goal range with the fourth quarter nearing a close. But instead of just needing the FG to force overtime, they needed a touchdown. The Bengals fell short, 31-24, and saw their record drop to 6-4 on the season. They are now in third place in the AFC North behind 7-3 Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Next week, the Bengals host the Browns (4-6) who they defeated 27-17 in the season-opener in Cleveland.

Dalton Was Dealin’

Other than the fact that the Bengals were absolutely robbed of a chance to send the game to overtime, I’m not all that upset about the loss because it was further proof that Dalton is a stud. He was 24-of-45 for 373 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.

However, I don’t care about the picks (only one of which was a bad throw/decision). This guy went into Baltimore, played one of the best defenses in the NFL – albeit without Ray Lewis – and put up big-time numbers. And he did it without his best receiver, rookie A.J. Green, who was out with a hyper-extended knee. (Green is expected to play against the Browns and actually wanted to play against the Ravens.)

For the season, Dalton now has a Bengals’ rookie-record 2,239 passing yards (59.3 percent) to go with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He’s unbelievably cool, calm and collected … and his accuracy might be even better than his disposition.

The “Red Rifle” also has an arm that is plenty strong enough. It’s not a rocket, but it more-than gets the job done. He also has a very-quick release and makes good decisions. I love everything about his game. He even has surprising mobility and the ability to keep plays alive. What a hell of a steal in the early part of the second round (35th pick overall). It’s amazing how often the Bengals find a gem in the second-round of the draft. (Wait, did I just compliment the front office? Sorry about that.)

If the Bengals can get to 10-6 this season, I think they’ll sneak into the playoffs. They can definitely get there. They need to beat the Browns to get to seven wins and I think they’ll be able to then get to 10 wins if they’re able to pull off the season-sweep of their cross-state rivals. They play the Texans without Matt Schaub, the Rams and the Cardinals down the stretch. So, if they beat the Browns and win the other aforementioned games, that gets them to the magic 10-win mark. And that’s not even including their rematches with the Steelers and Ravens, and I believe the Bengals will win one of those games. So, even if they slip up against one of the four “weak” teams left on the slate (Browns, Texans sans Schaub, Rams, Cardinals) they’ll have a good shot at getting to 10 wins.

Usually I would say it would take 11 wins to be safe, but this year in the AFC I think the final team in (and maybe the final two teams) will be 10-6. So, if the Bengals can get to that record, get ready for postseason football for the third time in the nine-year Marvin Lewis era. I’ve never been a Lewis fan, but you have to give him credit for what his squad is doing this season. I see a well-coached football team. It’s amazing how big of an upgrade Jay Gruden is over Bob Bratkowski as offensive coordinator. And Mike Zimmer is of course one of the best D-coordinators in the game.

However, the Bengals can’t slip up against a bad Browns team and hope to make the playoffs. It won’t be easy as Cleveland isn’t completely terrible, but the Bengals don’t deserve to make the playoffs if they can’t beat this year’s Browns outfit in the friendly confines of Paul Brown Stadium.


This Atkins will eventually need plenty of bread.

Second-year defensive tackle Geno Atkins has quickly developed into one of the best interior pass-rushers in the NFL. The 2010 fourth-round pick out of Georgia leads the Bengals with 5.5 sacks. It is so rare to see a DT that rushes the passer so well, but Atkins is extremely quick and plays with great leverage. But it’s still amazing that a 6-foot-1, 300-pounder is tearing up offensive linemen like he is. He even had one play where he completely pancaked the offensive lineman who was trying to block him and then Atkins stuffed Ray Rice for a tackle-for-loss. Atkins is a future Pro Bowler, I have no doubt about it.