I have no other word to use describing the performance, effort and motivation to win other than awful. The performance of this offense and defense were awful. The effort, was awful. I wonder if "awful" should be used describing winning motivation -- or even desire. No, I won't use awful. The effort just isn't there. At least awful would describe some sort of effort. When there is no effort, there is no description. The Bengals talk like they want to win, and I'm sure they mean it.
But what's the one prevailing theme this season -- other than awful? It's talk. We here it. We read it. But the team that so many call talented, continue to talk like they think they deserve a thing. We hear and read that the Bengals offense is one of the best. It isn't. It's far from it.
When you're one of the best, you're dynamic. You offset whatever defensive adjustments are made. The rushing game is embarrassing -- mostly because the offensive coordinator abandons it so quickly. The passing game is bland, boring and, more times than not, ineffective. We can demand Chris Henry all we want. But if you take our money makers, Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson, they are essentially contained by many defenses with few recognizable names. Johnson isn't beating his man on any other routes than high percentage comeback routes and deep in routes. Houshmandzadeh, the team's best offensive player this season, is perhaps the one player stepping up beating his man. But he's not taking games over, is he?
It's clear to me now that Kenny Watson is better than Rudi Johnson. The noticeable difference between the two is that Rudi doesn't explode through the hole anymore allowing, no inviting, tacklers to drop him on their first attempt. Watson at least squares his shoulders and bulls through the defense for some positive yards. Even though he's performed, in my mind, Watson is not a good feature back. We're just happy that he's one of the few players with results. You always overrate players when the supporting cast are dreadful performers.
The Bengals drop to 2-6. They are one of the worst football teams in the NFL. The offense has played pretty, but without substance. The blocking has been subpar, the coverage teams have played middle-school caliber and our coaches are out-matched, out-classed and ridiculously out-coached.
We're back to looking towards next season. We're back to earning our dreaded Bungles description. We're back to scouting draft picks we'll likely screw up. We're back. Then again, did we really go anywhere? Having only one winning season during the Marvin Lewis era doesn't mean we transitioned into anything. In fact, 2005, to me, seems more like an aberration rather than transitioning from Bungle-ism. We were promising paper champions that failed to comply to the argument that if you're talented, you'll win. We were. We don't. Even though Chris Henry is due to return next week, it doesn't matter. The Bengals are out of chances to hold the first half of the season prepping for a second-half run.
Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis can fluff the crap we've seen the past two seasons all they want. No one believes a word they say -- especially Lewis. Arguments that Brown ripped off fans to purchasing costly season tickets, will justifiably be made. People questioning Lewis' game management (if not, overall coaching) will, unquestionably, be debated. This team has no winners, just sideline winners and pretty boy fantasy players.
This team is crap. And awful. Anyway... let's move on.
Things start off the way they normally start off. After an incompletion -- more like skipping rocks over a lake -- on the first play of the game, J.P. Losman completed passes of 38 yards and 19 yards to Lee Evans. The first: Johnathan Joseph fell one step behind Evans who ran through the cornerback -- playing tight -- and streaked. Evans made an over-the-shoulder 38-yard reception. The 19-yard pass was a well-caught pass by Evans on the left sidelines dragging his second foot inbounds. Joseph covering. After three consecutive runs by Lynch for 10 rushing yards, Losman completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Evans for the game's first score.
The Bengals responded -- Palmer trying to prove me wrong. I've been a bit rough on Carson Palmer over the past week. My reasons, I believe, are sound. Would he lead us to victory or would we have to excuse him because of the shoty performance by his supporting cast? Either way, he started like a champion. On the team's first play from the line of scrimmage, Palmer dropped back and unleashed a missile to Chad Johnson. The linebacker underneath was slow to cut of the in-route and the cornerback was one step slow on the break. I tell you what, Chad loves the in-route. After a Reggie Kelly illegal formation the Bengals setup first-and-fifteen at the Cincinnati 40-yard line.
Bengals lineup off-set I with Jeremi Johnson "off-set" to the right -- Reggie Kelly also on the right. Chad was flanked left with T.J. right. Snap. Andrew Whitworth, Bobbie Williams and Eric Ghiaciuc hit their guys and release. Palmer pump-faked to T.J. -- the strong side -- and flipped the ball left to Kenny Watson. Bobbie Williams came back to take out a pursuing #95-Williams. Eric Ghiaciuc and Andrew Whitworth took out three defenders down the left sidelines freeing up Watson's 43-yard screen.
After another minimal rush by Rudi Johnson, Bengals line up in standard I-formation with T.J. flanked left. Houshmandzadeh ran up then in from the 15-yard line running parallel -- a yard short -- to the line of scrimmage. Palmer, with #33-Greer leading T.J., knew if he led the receiver, the pass would be picked. Instead, he threw the pass behind the receiver into the endzone for the score. The Bengals answered the Bills opening drive touchdown with their own opening drive touchdown. Game on. Palmer leads.
Driving. The Bengals had two drives with 12 plays or more. They resulted in punt and interception. The Bengals had three second-half three-and-out possessions -- five possessions of four plays or less resulting in punt; four of which went three-and-out for the game.
When the Bills go three-and-out on their second possession, the Bengals offense went three-and-out on their second possession.
I'm confused if running by committee was exercised Sunday. Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson combined for 13 total rush attempts for 22 rushing yards. The longest rush, not by Rudi or Kenny, was a scramble by Carson Palmer for seven yards. Since his 118 yards against Cleveland, Rudi Johnson has rushed 30 times for 28 rushing yards over the span of three games. Six of Rudi's nine rush attempts went no more than one yard -- three for negative yards.
While Watson's rushing numbers were nothing compared to what they should be -- for whatever reason Bob Bratkowski decided to leave Watson out of the rushing offense for entirely too long -- Watson, with seven receptions for 90 yards receiving, was again, a bright spot in the Bengals offense.
Note to offensive coordinator: When a player is the bright spot on rushing offense, then becomes the bright spot on passing offense, use him. Especially on the rush after we were feed all week with crap about our running the ball more.
For a short time, the Bengals defense appeared, competent. After forcing a three-and-out on the Bills second offensive possession, the Bengals integrated a bend but don't break attitude -- don't worry, they broke badly later. This could be renamed the Leon Hall drive. On first-and-10 at the Cincinnati 39-yard line, the Bills lined up for their fifth play of the drive. Losman, thus far, was 3/3 for 46 yards on the drive.
The call: a wide receiver screen to Parrish on the left. Leon Hall, giving a 3-4 yard cushion, saw Parrish break back and tracked him. No, he attacked him. Josh Reed, in motion from right to left, was one step slow getting to Hall for the block on the two-yard loss. On the next play, Losman looked right and stepped forward in the pocket. The pass, intended for Lee Evans, was short allowing Hall to stop, turn around and pick the pass. These two plays were flashes of what we expected of Hall. Perhaps he's not so bad for a first round rookie cornerback. However, the other first-round cornerback...
Do you wonder: If Johnathan Joseph has temporarily lost a step because of his foot injury earlier in the season? It's a reasonable explanation. He seems slow on nearly every receiver he's defending. A foot injury for a cornerback is a big deal. Hopefully he returns to '06 form in '08.
The situation, with twelve minutes left in the third quarter, was third-and-four at the Buffalo 49-yard line. Joseph lined up against Evans on the left. Evans ran up 10 yards then broke out. With his hips turned and body facing the quarterback at Evan's break to the outside, Joseph was in position to, not just break up the pass, but likely intercept it. However, once he got his hips turned, it was like his feet were glued to the ground. He couldn't break on the pass allowing Evans to catch and convert the first down.
I honestly believe that if Joseph were healthy, this pass is picked off and returned for a score.
J.P. Losman had 111 yards passing at the three minute mark in the first quarter.
What are you defending? The Bengals defense in a nutshell. The situation was third-and-ten at the Buffalo 44-yard line with 8:20 left in the first half. The Bengals call blitz and bring Nedu Ndukwe and Dhani Jones -- no effect. In fact, Losman had five to six seconds to look down-field, set his feet and pass. This was all day. The Bengals defense, with a great opportunity to get off the field, played a long third down about the worst possible way you could. Losman drops back from shotgun, with the blitz easily picked up, stepped up and found a wide-open Lee Evans for 30 yards.
This was either a busted coverage or players doing whatever they felt like. Evans was flanked wide left with #17-Jenkins in the slot. Johnathan Joseph, covering Evans, let the receiver go to defend the left sidelines about five yards past the first down marker. Leon Hall stayed with the slot receiver -- running a seam route. Landon Johnson was monitoring the first down marker. Anything in front of him would be stopped -- well, unlikely since today's theme will change into missing tackles.
With Hall chasing down #17-Jenkins, it made me wonder why Joseph let Evans go freely to defend an area that required no defenders. No Bills in the vicinity with no crossing patterns from the right. Joseph played zone whereas Hall played man coverage opening a mile-wide hole in the defense. By this time, Evans was a good five to six yards from any Bengals defender and picked up 10 yards after the catch.
That's the Bengals defense for you in a nutshell. Two more...
The next play, Losman dropped back and pump faked right. Robert Geathers leaped about nine miles towards heaven. Losman brought down the pass and scrambled for three yards. The play after that, Losman completed an 11-yard pass to #86-Gaines with eight seconds of unabated protection in the pocket. Watch every defensive line player and how ridiculously amateurish they look.
The Bengals defense allowed 479 total yards against the Bills. That's the third game this season the defense allowed 400 yards or more -- all losses. On the other hand, the Bengals recorded 299 total yards. That's the fourth game the Bengals were under 300 total yards (1-3).
Let's not miss this one. The Bengals committed three penalties on one play. On the 36-yard punt with ten minutes left in the game, Dexter Jackson ran out of bounds (flag #1), Corey Mays was ineligible down field (flag #2) and Blue Adams held (flag #3). Adams' penalty was the one accepted. Hello Bungles, it's been a few years
Bend but don't break? Today that was true in the first half. Between the 20s, the Bengals defense was awful. Boys among men. But once the Bills threatened, the Bengals defense stiffened -- but one has to wonder about the Bills play-calling.
The situation was first-and-goal at the Bengals one-yard line. The play was a misdirection to the left. Misdirections, pitches and sweeps on the goalline, to me, make little sense -- then I remember, I'm a blogger, not offensive coordinator. You're taking the longest road towards the goalline from the one-yard line. Run it up the gut. The Bengals defense has shown no reason to make you think you need to go outside. They're averaging about one missed tackle per rush.
Either way, Bryan Robinson broke through the line and dropped Lynch for a four-yard loss essentially breaking momentum. The Bills kicked a field goal after two ineffective plays.
Bengals play of the game. With 1:56 left in the first half, Glenn Holt took a #9-Lindell kickoff 100 yards for the touchdown. The wedge was so massive, that only one Bills player had any chance of touching -- not tackling -- Holt. He missed and Holt brought the Bengals life after the offense routinely failed to do so following their opening touchdown.
Last times: The last time the Bengals returned a kickoff for a touchdown was Brandon Bennett on November 10, 2002 against the Baltimore Ravens. Bennett took the kickoff 94 yards -- the Bengals lost that game, 27-38, falling to 1-8 at that point in the 2002 season. Eric Bieniemy holds the record for longest kickoff return in franchise history -- 102 yards against the New York Giants on October 25, 1997. Guess what. The Bengals lost that game 31-14 to start 1997, 1-4. That was the season Boomer Esiason returned and started the last five games to give the Bengals a 4-1 run to close the season (7-9) with a 106.9 passer rating (13 TD-2 INTs).
With a return, means more time. The kickoff return allowed the Bills 1:44 to close the first half. That's eternity against our defense. Losman completed passes of 16 yards (#82-Reed), 11 yards (#28-T.Jones), 23 yards (#83-Evans), 13 yards (#82-Reed), 5 yards (#82-Reed) setting up Lindell's 21-yard field goal to close the half and bring the deficit to one point -- 14-13. With a spike and incomplete included, Losman completed six of eight passes for 68 yards.
The Bengals offense went three-and-out to start the second half.
Time of possession: The Bengals were dominated in time of possession. For the game, the Bills had the ball for 35:42. That's the third game of the past five that the opposing team has had the ball for 35 minutes or more.
Quarters: So far this season, the Bengals have allowed 88 points (11 per-game) in the second quarter and 75 points (9.3 average) in the fourth quarter. Opposing teams have dominated scoring in the first half 142-87 while the Bengals even out in the second half, 111-102. Sunday was the first game the Bengals didn't score in the fourth quarter while the Bills scored 17 points.
Bengals drive of the day -- 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive late in the third quarter. Palmer went 6/6 for 59 yards finishing with a one-yard touchdown pass to Jeremi Johnson. His first of the season and sixth career receiving touchdown.
The Bengals are leading 21-19. With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bills take possession at the Cincinnati 32-yard line. Marshawn Lynch ran six times for 24 yards finishing with an eight-yard HB touchdown pass to #84-Royal to take the lead and win.
On the Bills next drive, with four minutes left in the game, Marshawn Lynch ran the ball three times, on the drive's four total plays, for 59 yards rushing that ended with a 56-yard touchdown run enabled by... (segue)
Tackle HIM. Oh that's right, you're the worst defense in the world. It's not like the Bengals defense weren't there. They were in the backfield multiple times. Now, there were a lot of mistackles. More than I can review. Of the Bills' 35 rushing plays, I counted 10 mistackles in the backfield that went for positive yards. Myers, Schlegel (twice), Jeanty (twice), Smith, Williams, Geathers, Rucker and Robinson were a few of the guilty culprits.
Of the 10 plays I counted with mistackles in the backfield, if those tackles are made, the Bills lose 25 yards and only rush for 84 yards in the game -- even negating the 56-yard Lynch touchdown.
It seemed that the Bengals, rather than attacking, waited and accepted the running back's hit. More times than not, Lynch fell forward. Dare I say that our defense was afraid to attack the ball carrier? Yes, no. They didn't prove otherwise, that's for sure.
Take the Lynch 56-yard rushing touchdown to seal Buffalo's victory. Rashad Jeanty coming from the right, tried to arm tackle Lynch. Justin Smith fell flat on his face before trying to bring Lynch down with his right hand. Jeanty, sitting on his can, watched Lynch do a partial spin and break down the right sidelines. Deltha O'Neal, moved two yards into the backfield, and stutter-stepped backwards until, like Jeanty, was sitting on his can watching. In O'Neal's defense, that was the play he hurt his leg.
First downs: The Bengals only picked up two first downs on the ground. That equals a season low against the Chiefs.
Another instance when the offense flounders at the time when they must perform. The Bengals are leading 21-19 with nearly a full quarter left in the game. The Bengals go three-and-out -- capped by a dropped Chad Johnson pass on third down. Then go three-and-out again. Then pick up 12 yards on a screen, then go three-and-out. By this time, the Bills are leading 33-21 and the game is over. In three fourth quarter drives, the offense ran 10 plays for 22 total yards. Nice. Way to step up, money makers.
You can blame the defense until you're blue in the face. But as long as they are forced to come back on the field after the offense consistently goes to the sidelines after ineffective 3-5 play drives, then the defense will be worn out. And that showed in the fourth quarter.
Play calling? The Bengals ran 56 total plays -- 17 rushes. In the second half, while the Bengals had the lead for a majority of the half, the offense ran 35 plays and only rushed 9 times (25%). In the first half, of 21 total offensive plays, the Bengals ran eight times (38%). The Bills offense ran 35 passing plays and 35 rushing plays. The Bengals ran 39 passing plays and 17 rushing plays -- two were Palmer scrambles and one was a QB sneak.
Watson's first rush attempt came with seven minutes left in the third quarter.
The typical remains typical #1. After Lynch's 153 yards Sunday, the opposing team's feature back has now rushed for 974 yards (190 carries) this season averaging 5.1 yards per rush. Of the eight feature backs we've faced, only two have fallen short of the 100-yard mark (Willis McGahee, Thomas Jones). Opposing feature backs are averaging 121 yards per game.
The typical remains typical #2. Josh Reed and Lee Evans combined for 15 receptions for 220 yards receiving. That's the second largest combination between the two leading receivers against the Bengals defense. Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow hold that distinction with 246 yards.
The typical, no so typical, remains typical #3. J.P Losman finished with a 94.6 passer rating breaking a string of four straight opposing quarterbacks recording a passer rating of 100 or better. However, four of the past five quarterbacks have a completion rate of 70% or better. For the season, opposing quarterbacks have a 67.6% completion rate, 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions for a 102.7 passer rating.
Third downs. Opponents have converted 16 of 25 third downs (64%) in the past two games. The Bengals, not bad themselves, converted 12 of 23 (52%) in the past two games.
God, we're awful.