Monday Morning Hangover

As I was riding down to Northern Kentucky for New Years Eve, we got word that the Broncos/49ers game was in overtime with San Francisco driving. I thought to myself, great. For the second straight week, we had at least one scenario work out that would have given the Bengals a playoff berth. All they needed to do was win one of the final three games.

With the Bengals finishing 8-8 for the third time in four seasons, it's putting a warming device on the seat of Marvin Lewis. It's not a "hot seat" per say, but the temperature has gone up. Now the character issues will surface because leaders like Carson Palmer and Willie Anderson are speaking publicly about several players having a selfish agenda. Good.

There's something about finishing the season strong.

Combined record with Marvin Lewis in the final quarter (last four games) of the season since 2003: 6-10.

2003: 1-3
2004: 2-2
2005: 2-2
2006: 1-3

Combined record with Marvin Lewis on the third quarter (games 9-12) of the season since 2003: 13-3.

2003: 4-0
2004: 3-1
2005: 3-1
2006: 3-1

Let's start with Carson Palmer's post game comments that amplifies him as a leader of this team.

On the offseason:

"I’m going to be here for a while. There are a number of things that need to happen here, and I’d like to stick around and make sure things happen. There are guys that need to be here next season. Guys like Kenny Watson and Reggie Kelly need to be on this team next year. I feel like Kenny Watson is a guy that every time he touches the ball he gets a first down. Reggie Kelly is the best teammate I’ve ever had — the best I’ve ever had on a team, and I know he’s that way for a number of guys on this team. So, I’m going to stick around."

Kelly on Palmer: "It shows he has character. It shows he has perseverance," Kelly said of Palmer's return. "He is going to be a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. It's a privilege to be on the same field."

On what's needed:

There’s a number of things that need to change around here, and Marvin has his hands full this offseason. He has a long offseason ahead of him because we aren’t a very good football team. We’re a team that should be better than 8-8."

But Willie Anderson is still the voice of this team.

What is keeping this team from getting over the hump?
"Marvin (Lewis) hinted at it earlier in the week. One word — selfish. That’s not me saying it, that’s my head coach saying it. We all know it’s selfishness."

How close is this team to getting where they want to go?
"I don’t know. It took me 10 years to win 11 in a season. Now I’m back to eight wins. I just know that we keep on fighting the same fight. To be honest with you, it’s the same fight that a 2-12 team fights. We have enough talent to win games. Marvin says it all the time. We as a team will never get over the hump with the selfishness."

Is that what needs to be corrected to help in the future?
"Yes, that and players. If you don’t have the right players, you’re never going to get where you want to go. It’s not always about talent, either. Sometimes you have to get smart, selfless football players that understand football. He may not run the fastest 40-yard dash, but he knows angles, or how to block a certain way. Whatever it may be, we just need to have good, solid football players."

Are Palmer and Willie talking about Chad Johnson?

"What do you mean by selfish?" Johnson asked. "If selfish means you want the ball so you can help your team win ... other than that, I'm not so sure."

T.J. Houshmandzadeh?

"They should want us to want the ball," he said ."I don't think it got to the point where we hurt the team."

One thought process could be that this will create a locker-room divide. My thought process is that this team went 8-8 and there was comments about selfishness all season. It's good this got out because otherwise, this team will remain loaded with "potential".

"If we can go out and some way find players with the heart and mindset of a Richie Braham, we’ll be a better football team," Anderson said. "Right now I don’t know what we have. I do know is what the coaches constantly keep stressing. This guy is a pro’s pro. We need more guys with his heart and mindset. He’s a consummate pro. A team-player guy. A mentally and physically tough guy that can win football games." - Willie Anderson

"We don’t play as a team; Coach will tell you that," Steinbach said. "Teams that go to the Super Bowl, they play together as a team. We do it for a week and then don’t do it the next week." - Eric Steinbach

An interesting note is that we could say that Chris Henry is one that's "selfish". But the way Carson speaks about him and defends him, I doubt Henry is the problem the leaders are referring to.

"He's had a rough year off the field," Palmer said. "He dropped balls, but everybody drops balls. ... There are obviously a number of plays I'm sure he wishes he could have back. There are plays every receiver in this league wishes they could have back."

The Post's Lonnie Wheeler is wondering the same thing.

The most prolific of the offenders was of course Chris Henry, the frequently arrested receiver and reluctant practitioner of rugged catches. If there was a Bengal who personified selfishness, Henry was the man. And yet it was Henry, more than any other Cincinnati player, who made Sunday's game worth watching. It was Henry who caught the 66-yard touchdown pass that put the home team ahead in the fourth quarter, it was Henry who was interfered with near the goal line just before the Bengals took the lead for the second time, and it was Henry who hauled in the 47-yard bomb that set up the presumably game-salvaging, 39-yard field goal...

The missed field goal that could have won Sunday's game was odd. Dave Lapham got excited initially thinking it was good. Brad Johansen called it good. After kicking the ball, Shayne Graham motioned it was good. Best friend at the game sitting on that end of the field thought it was good until told it wasn't. The kick was straight but went right at the last minute. I thought to myself, God must be a Chiefs fan by blowing a gust of mythical wind. "I hit the ball, and there wasn't a doubt in my mind it was good," Graham said. "Then I saw it veered off to the right. I've got 18 feet and I didn't hit it."

A couple of milestones...

Chad Johnson with 10 catches for 122 receiving yards in the past three games, finished the season #1 in receiving yards in the NFL. He's the first in team history to lead the NFL in yards receiving.

Carson Palmer finished with 251 passing yards Sunday giving him 4,035 for the season. He's the first Bengal in team history to record 4,000 yards or more. However, his completion percentage and touchdowns were down and had one more interception than last season.

What are others saying?

:The Bengals will be watching the playoffs in their homes. Appropriate. These guys belong on the couch. A year after the Bengals had supposedly exorcised the demons from 15 years of futility, it’s obvious much psychological work remains." - Bill Rabinowitz

The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t close. They were close to making the playoffs, maybe, but let’s be brutally frank here: Do these unremarkable, winone, lose-one bunglers look close to being one of the NFL’s elite teams to you? - Bob Hunter

Shayne Graham, K, Cincinnati. What a disgrace this PAT/field-goal unit is. Last week they blew a chance at overtime in Denver by screwing up the tying extra point. And Sunday, with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a 17-17 game with the Steelers, Graham hit a perfect slice down the right side of the fairway, missing wide right by three feet on what should have been a piece of cake 39-yarder. Ridiculous. It's just as ridiculous that the Bengals finished 8-8. Blame special teams, fans of the striped. - Peter King on Goat of the Week.

Nice fold job, Bengals. Cincinnati closes out the season with three losses in a row, after looking like a dangerous, playoff-bound team as late as Week 14. Make it three 8-8 finishes for Marvin Lewis in his four years on the job in the Queen City. - Don Banks

Levi Jones left in the second half saying, "I'm going out to L.A. and see what my doctor says. It was feeling funny going into the game and it got to the point that I thought Whit would do a better job given the percentage I was at. I was still blocking and doing things but I just felt like Whit could have done it better. My leg wasn't holding up and I couldn't play up to the level I played at last week (at Denver)."

But it seems like players are coming out of Sunday's game with a sense of redefining who they are -- which is a good thing.

"A lot of guys talk about going to another level and pushing it, but they need to get their mindset right first. It takes more than just, 'Yee haw,' and this and that." - Dexter Jackson

"You can say missed tackles or missed gaps. That's on everybody. That's all 11. That's pathetic. It was a pathetic showing for us on the run defense, and that's what lost us the game." - Justin Smith

Drafting...

The Bengals will pick 18th in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Post game quotes [Bengals.com]
Chad wins NFL crown [Bengals.com]
NFL Draft Order [NFL.com]
Bengals left behind [Columbus Dispatch]
Palmer, Henry go distance, all for naught [Columbus Dispatch]
Promising season sabotaged by players’ selfishness [Columbus Dispatch]
Bengals stunned at 8-8 [Bengals.com]
Henry's season ends well [Enquirer]
Graham makes no excuses [Enquirer]
Jackson unhappy with bad ending [Enquirer]
Home confinement [Enquirer]
QB wants to huddle up [Enquirer]
Palmer reaches 4,000 yards [Post]
It's the selfishness, but how to fix it? [Post]
Bengals got every result they needed but one [Post]

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