Bengals first-team defense was actually not bad.

Offensively, the Bengals are clearly struggling. Much of it has to do with an offensive line that struggled pass blocking. But other factors include the lack of a consistent running game (while Palmer was in), T.J. Houshmandzadeh being out and Chad Johnson not really apart of the passing offenses game plan (plus injury); overall spirit and attitude seemed low. Nothing has come together for this first-team offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick improvised in the pocket, while Kenny Watson loved the Jurassic Line's potential run blocking -- note, Dave Lapham and Anthony Munoz love the Jurassic Line. Once Watson and Chris Perry were removed from the game, the Bengals offense skydived without a parachute. It also doesn't help the Bengals when the offense goes three and out three times in the second half as well as failing to convert a goal-line rush attempt with the team's smallest running back.

Defensively, I saw more good than bad. Twenty seven points wasn't allowed by the first team -- 17 of the Lions 27 points came in the fourth quarter. I thought the cornerbacks were average, but I attached that to a bigger and tougher Calvin Johnson -- who was Kitna's only receiver while he was in the first two series'. I thought the secondary as a whole, was average. Not terribly bad, but for the love of god, they have room to improve.

I believe that Deltha O'Neal, aside two first down receptions allowed, moved himself to the team's third cornerback -- if he's not, I'm writing a letter to someone. David Jones isn't the type of cornerback that can sit on an island. Darryl Blackstock and Brandon Johnson are two of the most underrated free agent acquisitions. Ahmad Brooks isn't just in danger of being cut, but he's so far behind other linebackers on the team that if he's not cut, I'll be surprised. He makes no impression during the game, even against third team offensive players. Dhani Jones is playing better than last season. One thing that impressed me about Keith Rivers is that when the play goes away from him, he stays home, watching cutback lanes; he's not over-pursuing. He's the team's perfect WILL linebacker. The Bengals front four puts zero pressure on the quarterback, allowing the passer to sit in the pocket comfortably (numb). Even hall of fame cornerbacks can't defend an NFL wide receiver for seven-plus seconds.

With all that said, the Bengals first-team defense gets a passing grade from me. I'm not expecting shutout football, nor every drive to end in three-and-outs. I expect the other team to score -- they're also professional football teams. However, just to point out that our first-team defense wasn't all that bad, take a look at the breakdown by half:

  First Half Second Half Game
First Downs Allowed 6 10 16
Total Yards Allowed 166 209 375
Passing Yards Allowed 138 125 263
Rushing Yards Allowed 28 84 112

In fact, if you take out the touchdown given up to Jon Kitna and Calvin Johnson on the Lion's second drive, the Bengals defense forced the Lions into four drives with five plays or less, all ending in punt.

Drive Plays Yards Result
1 4 43 Punt
2 2 36 Touchdown
3 3 7 Punt
4 10 28 Missed FG
5 5 22 Punt
6 5 21 Punt

It wasn't until the Bengals brought in their second and third-team that the struggles began. The game's final three possessions for the Lions ended with a field goal and two touchdowns.

Offensively, the Bengals were disgusting. Palmer throws a pick, Shayne Graham misses a field goal (actually, a block) and the Bengals punt twice before Ryan Fitzgerald takes the Bengals 99 yards on 13 plays for the team's lone touchdown.

Concluding... what I'm going to offer you is something to think on. The Bengals defense is improving. While they're not instantaneously blowing people away, the first team did much better against the Lions than the Packers. And if we got that effort in the first half, all of last season, we'd be pumped. With two games left to work, I believe the Bengals defense will be vastly improved over last year -- if not the best of the Marvin Lewis era.

As for the offense, well, they have a lot of work to do -- like the offensive line getting comfortable and receivers stepping up.

5 - Sacks allowed by the Bengals offensive line.
2 to 1 - Pass to run ratio by the Bengals offense (48 passes, 21 rushes)... note, five pass calls actually ended in sack.
13 - Number of different receivers by the Bengals offense.
33 - Yards returned by one Antonio Chatman punt return -- thanks to DeAngelo Craig.
114 - Yards receiving by rookie receiver, Jerome Simpson.

Chad Johnson says "I'll be back in a week." However, Marvin Lewis has already declared Johnson out next week against the Saints. Either way, it doesn't appear that he'll miss any regular season time healing from a shoulder strain.

Marvin Lewis on Jerome Simpson: "Every time we turn on the lights, he comes through and makes some good plays." Palmer had a different take, but felt Simpson is improving. Palmer says that Simpson has a "long way to go before he can come into a game and you can count on him."

Pat Sims "left the locker room on crutches with a sprained foot and turf toe, respectively."

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