Why did the Bengals lose against the Seahawks?

There was a mixture of things this team could blame for losing, 24-21, to the Seahawks. The horrible play by the special teams. Palmer's inability to connect on deep passes. Rudi Johnson's worst career game. The blocking of Alex Stepanovich. But first, I wanted to dig into a very key play with blind mice.

It was first-and-ten at the Cincinnati 45-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game. Matt Hasselbeck dropped back and threw a pass over the middle that was tipped by Michael Myers. Hasselbeck caught the ball about eight yards behind the line of scrimmage and took at least four steps. Myers, after tipping the pass, tackled Hasselbeck who lost the football after landing on his left elbow around the Seattle 47-yard line.

I can accept that the ground caused the fumble allowing Seattle to keep the ball. His elbow was down just as the football jarred lose -- even though his knees were still up. But if you're elbow hits, it counts as being down. That, at least, is what I'm told. So in that respect, I follow. I'm cool, man.

What I can't accept is the play ending as an incompletion. Hasselbeck was tackled after receiving his own pass at the Seattle 47-yard line that should have set up Seattle with a second-and-18. Marvin Lewis challenged the play. The play was called incomplete, and remained incomplete. Ed Hochuli said, "It is not a play that can be challenged, because the defense recovered the ball after the ruling of incomplete." What? How was it that Hasselbeck didn't catch his own pass?

Here's my question. Even if Marvin Lewis challenged whether or not the ball was fumbled (which I suspect) -- as opposed to incomplete -- shouldn't Ed Hochuli have the responsibility to get the play right? Change from incomplete to an eight-yard loss? Did the media ask any of the Bengals about that play during the post-game? No from Bengals.com post game manuscripts. Perhaps they didn't ask. Perhaps condescending weight heavily on their mind. Perhaps they'll ask Monday. Who knows? We still don't.

Four plays later, Hasselbeck found Nate Burleson running down the left sidelines for the game-losing score. Burleson found a gap between a trailing Johnathan Joseph and a tardy Madieu Williams and Hasselbeck made a perfect throw in a relatively small window.

When it was over: Glenn Holt fumbled the football on the ensuing kickoff return.

When it was over II: Second-and-ten at the Cincinnati 22-yard line with :49 left in the game. Seahawks line up in standard I formation, strong side right. Bengals run a standard 4-3 with Dexter Jackson in the box taking the spot of the Weak-side linebacker who moved over the center with all linebackers cheating heavily left. Dhani Jones lined up over the tight end. The play was a misdirection to the left -- weak side. The left tackle -- Walter Jones -- blocked down on Thornton who had his back to Jones. Smith was free to run into the backfield but the fullback picked him up. Peko was double teamed by the center and the left guard -- who chipped off onto Dexter Jackson. The linebackers were horribly fooled by the misdirection and by the time they recovered, there was a wall of Seahawk blockers. Alexander picked up 20 yards, a new set of downs and the win.

Rudi, Rudi, Rudi? I counted seven plays in which Rudi Johnson lost yards -- 19 yards lost total. But it wasn't a matter of Rudi being horrible. In a lot of instances, Rudi just didn't have time or room to make yardage.

  1. Second-and-6 at the Cincinnati 21-yard line. Rudi forced to bounce to the outside where Truafant came up to the line of scrimmage. Rudi did some dancing but lost three yards. Limited blocking. Rudi isn't a dancer.
  2. First-and-10 at the Cincinnati 10-yard line. Alex Stepanovich blocked down on the right defensive tackle and looked to chip the linebacker. Bobbie Williams and Willie Anderson doubled the end and Jeremi Johnson's target was off their edge picking up any roaming linebackers. Problem is, no one blocked #93-Terrill who dropped Rudi for a two-yard loss.
  3. First-and-20 at the Seattle 41-yard line. Alex Stepanovich started the play blocking the right defensive tackle. Likely his assignment was to chip off and block #51-Tatupu. The linebacker was too fast for Stepanovich and tackled Rudi for a lost yard. Tatupu was already through the line before Stepanovich could reach him.
  4. First-and-ten at the Cincinnati 32-yard line. Alex Stepanovich started blocking #99-Bernard who forced his way three yards into the backfield tackling Rudi for a one-yard loss.
  5. Third-and-one at the Seattle 21-yard line. The play called was a pitch to the left. Before the snap, #25-Russell came up to the line of scrimmage off the right edge in perfect position to stop any pitch plays his direction. Snap, Russell, pop. Rudi loses four yards. Palmer should have checked out of this play.
  6. First-and-15 at the Cincinnati 11-yard line. Peterson tackled Rudi for a five-yard loss. Simply put, it's impossible to gain yards if you don't block a Pro Bowl linebacker. The pitch was to the left and Jeremi Johnson ran between the left tackle and left guard as the lead blocker. Rudi has the "oh, crap" look realizing his lead block went inside. If Jeremi stretches outside of Levi Jones, Rudi picks up yards. Instead, this play is blown up by Julian Peterson leading the way for a 33-yard screen by Rudi Johnson.
  7. First-and-10 at the Cincinnati 39-yard line. The play was a pitch to the right. Alex Stepanovich was very late blocking #93-Terrill. While trying to push Terrill upfield, Stepanovich had horrible position pushing Terrill's outside shoulder down the line of scrimmage. It did nothing. Rudi lost three yards on the play.

For the game, Rudi Johnson rushed 17 times for 9 yards. Take away his negative yardage runs, Rudi rushes 10 times for 28 yards. Still an awful average. But I didn't chart how many rushes for less than two yards that were either the result of bad Rudi Johnson runs or, as seen above, missed blocks.

Blitzes led to sacks and two points. Of the 37 pass attempts by the Seahawks, the Bengals blitzed 12 times. Kyle Larson, on fourth-and-ten at the Seattle 40-yard line, punted the ball to the two-yard line downed by Marvin White -- above the only positive on special teams. The Seahawks offense sets up with a first-and-ten at their own two-yard line. After a quick pass to #38-Strong for four yards in the right flats, the Bengals defense blitzed two on second down. Leon Hall blitzed the left edge picked up by Alexander. Robert Geathers, playing defensive end, had an inside move forcing the right tackle to follow him. This opened up a massive hole for Lemar Marshall to record the unblocked sack in the endzone. Safety. Two points.

Michael Myers had the team's other sack on a killer swim move over the left guard and a killer cut move inside of Walter Jones.

Other than that, the Bengals blitzing didn't affect the Seattle offense much. Hasselbeck finished with a 84.5 passer rating (7 complete, 10 attempts, 58 yards passing) when the Bengals blitzed; Caleb Miller 5, Anthony Schlegel 4, Lemar Marshall and Dhani Jones 3, Landon 1.

Reminder: This is NOT an official stat. I only chart blitzes on passing plays and label a blitz as five rushers or more. Not including goalline situations.

Palmer deep throws a little off. One noticeable deficiency Sunday was Palmer's deep throws. A typically accurate as hell deep passer, Palmer was anything but. He also made throws into double coverage with two of his picks coming on attempts of 30 yards or more. I counted nine passes that Palmer threw for over 30 yards in the air. Only one was complete -- 35-yard touchdown pass to Houshmandzadeh. Two deep passes were "no play" after either a holding call (Willie) or defensive holding. Of the pass attempts 30 yards or more that counted (7), Palmer had a passer rating of 47.9 (1 complete, 7 attempts, 35 yards, TD, 2 INT).

Pitch left. The Bengals called several variations that could be summed up with "pitch left". Rudi ran pitch left four times for two yards (5, -4, -5, 6). Watson picked up 17 yards rushing on pitch left calls (8, 5, 4).

The Kenny Watson drive. I wanted to make sure we acknowledge Kenny Watson for making several impressive runs. Not surprisingly, the blocking was much better for Watson. He's generally the back during passing downs. The defense likely saw that and prepared against the pass. Watson was able square his shoulders and drive through the line rather than dance -- which is an attribute Rudi has increased since losing his weight.

With six minutes left in the game and Rudi Johnson out after suffering a hamstring injury, the Bengals called on Kenny Watson's number four times on the seven-play touchdown drive. After Palmer completed passes of 15 and 20 yards to Chad Johnson, Kenny Watson ran four straight times for 30 yards rushing reaching the endzone on an eight-yard touchdown run. The assist on the touchdown run came from the Bengals right side of the line. Reggie Kelly blocked the defensive end into the ground while Bobbie Williams and Willie Anderson pushed back the entire defense a good five yards with Andrew Whitworth throwing a body violently into the ground. That's what our offensive line is capable of doing. It didn't come without its casualty. Willie Anderson left the game after this play with a suspected knee injury -- that's where the trainers were focusing.

The Bengals decide to go for two leading 21-17. If you kick the PAT, you go up by five. Leading by four or five points does nothing to change the oppositions mind set. They still have to get a touchdown. If you successfully convert the two points, you stand a chance of blocking the opponent's PAT attempt and tying the game without touching the ball again -- which would be realized after Holt's fumble.

If you kick the PAT you go up 22-17. If the Seahawks score a touchdown, then you're only down by two points (22-24) which gives the offense a chance at a field goal to win the game.

In hindsight, kicking the PAT seemed like the more feasible -- and realistic -- vision for long-term thinking. It's very unlikely the Bengals would block the PAT try. It's much more likely the Bengals go up by five, allow a touchdown and drive for a field goal late in the game for the win. Instead, they had to drive for a field goal late in the game simply to tie.

All of that is irrelevant anyway. The offense never touched the ball after the Kenny Watson drive.

Much improved on third down. The Bengals offense converted 11 of 18 third down attempts. Of the situations that required 10 or more yards, the Bengals converted two of five. Of to-go distances of six yards or more, the Bengals converted five of nine. Of to-go distances of three yards or less, the Bengals converted six of seven. Here's the run down -- bold means converted.

  Sit. Result
1 3-9-CIN18 Palmer completes 15-yard pass to T.J.
2 3-3-CIN40 Palmer completes 4-yard pass to Chad.
3 3-1-SEA31 Rudi runs for 1-yard.
4 3-15-SEA35 Palmer completes 35-yard TOUCHDOWN pass to T.J.
5 3-1-SEA21 Rudi loses 4 yards on a dumb call, pitch to the left. Field Goal.
6 3-20-CIN29 Palmer completes 17-yard pass to T.J. Punt
7 3-5-CIN37 Palmer incomplete to Chad. Chad drops the pass.
8 3-1-CIN28 Jeremi Johnson rushes for 12 yards.
9 3-10-CIN40 Palmer completes 20-yard pass to Chad.
10 3-10-SEA40 Palmer incomplete to T.J. Punt.
11 3-16-SEA44 Palmer throws interception to Russell intended for Johnson.
12 3-3-CIN13 Palmer completes 10-yard pass to Chad.
13 3-1-CIN32 Watson rushes for 5 yards.
14 3-5-CIN42 Palmer completes 4-yard pass to Kelly. Punt.
15 3-6-SEA40 Palmer completes 9-yard pass to T.J.
16 3-8-SEA15 Palmer completes 10-yard pass to Coats.
17 3-6-SEA6 Palmer incomplete pass to Chad. Field Goal.
18 3-2-SEA22 Watson rushes for 14 yards.

Not so special teams: I can't express how awful this special teams has played this year. We could deduce Sunday's game into two special teams plays in which the Bengals lost. First, Shayne Graham, with the score 21-17, kicks the football out of bounds after the Kenny Watson drive. The Seahawks offense takes the ball at their own 40-yard line. Of course, this is a double-edge sword. The Bengals kickoff team is so afraid to kick the ball to opposing returners, they squib and bounce the kick to the bigger up-men. If the kickoff coverage team didn't allow so many long returns, the team kicks off as normal. Instead, the ball bounced out-of-bounds.

Yes, the defense has to do its job. It didn't. But helping the Seattle offense by minimizing the yardage needed for a required touchdown, was just as fatal.

The second special teams play that contributed to the loss. Seattle scores to take the lead, 24-21 with a minute left in the game. Glenn Holt takes the kickoff and fumbles the ball into the hands of Seahawk coverage guys. A 20-yard run and a couple of kneel-downs later, the Seahawks win. I know the defense could take the blame for not stopping Alexander. But they should never have been in that position in the first place.

Three straight games of long returns. On the game's opening kickoff, the Bengals allowed Josh Wilson to return the ball 72 yards. The Seahawks score a touchdown four plays later. That's three straight games with returns of 63 yards or more on punt or kickoff return. Against Baltimore, Ed Reed returned a punt for 63 yards and a touchdown. Against Cleveland, Josh Cribbs returned a kickoff 85 yards.

A funny note: On NBC's Football Night in America, Peter King said s-testicle. Not statistical.

S-testicle glory: The wide receivers had fantastic numbers. Chad Johnson caught nine passes for 138 yards receiving. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was one reception away from tying Carl Pickens record for most receptions in a game. He finished with 12 receptions for 141 yards receiving and the team's lone passing touchdown.

Causality report: Rudi Johnson left with a hamstring injury. Caleb Miller left with a lower back injury. Willie Anderson left the game with either a foot or knee problem.

If you noticed. On at least two plays, Robert Geathers lined up at outside linebacker while Jonathan Fanene played defensive end. On those alignments, Geathers blitzed and got to the quarterback a second too late.

Penalties. The Bengals committed 10 fouls for 72 yards; three false starts and two personal fouls.

  • 12-men on the field on Seattle's first PAT.
  • Willie Anderson 2, false start and holding
  • Bobbie Williams, false start
  • Jeremi Johnson, false start
  • Justin Smith, offsides (neutral zone infraction)
  • Dexter Jackson, personal foul, unnecessary roughness, late hit
  • Scott Kooistra, illegal formation, off the line of scrimmage
  • Robert Geathers, offsides
  • Deltha O'Neal, personal foul, face mask

Penalties for the season (18)

  • Andrew Whitworth -- 2 false starts.
  • Stacy Andrews -- false start
  • Carson Palmer -- delay of game
  • Reggie Kelly -- offensive holding
  • Madieu Williams -- illegal contact
  • Nate Lawrie -- personal foul, face mask
  • Two 12-men on the field.
  • Willie Anderson 2, false start and holding
  • Bobbie Williams, false start
  • Jeremi Johnson, false start
  • Justin Smith, offsides (neutral zone infraction)
  • Dexter Jackson, personal foul, unnecessary roughness, late hit
  • Scott Kooistra, illegal formation, off the line of scrimmage
  • Robert Geathers, offsides
  • Deltha O'Neal, personal foul, face mask

CincyJunlge Game Balls.

Offense:
T.J. Houshmandzadeh: 12 receptions, 141 yards receiving and a touchdown.

Defense
Dhani Jones joins the team earlier in the week, makes several outstanding open-field tackles and finishes with five total. Talk about doing all you can.

Goat: Bengals special teams. Talk about not doing all you can.

Starts for the season.

POS. Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
QB Palmer Palmer Palmer
RB R. Johnson R. Johnson R. Johnson
FB D.Coats (2nd TE) J. Johnson J. Johnson
WR C. Johnson C. Johnson C. Johnson
WR Houshmandzadeh Houshmandzadeh Houshmandzadeh
TE Kelly Kelly Kelly
LT Whitworth Whitworth Whitworth
LG Andrews Andrews Andrews
C Ghiaciuc Stepanovich Stepanovich
RG Williams Williams Williams
RT Anderson Anderson Anderson (Q)
       
POS Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
LE Geathers Geathers Geathers
DT Peko Peko Peko
DT Thornton Thornton Thornton
RE Smith Smith Smith
WB L. Johnson L. Johnson L. Johnson
MB Brooks Brooks Miller
SB Marshall Marshall Marshall (D)
SS Jackson Jackson Jackson
FS Williams Williams Williams
CB Hall Joseph Joseph
CB O'Neal O'Neal O'Neal
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