Okay everyone, I'm not going to tell you that the sky is falling but I may have reached for my umbrella once or twice yesterday. There is much bad and precious little good to talk about from yesterday's game, so let's get right into it.
I sat down to watch yesterday's game excited. I was anticipating a fight from the Texans, but judging by the mental fortitude shown by our Bengals over the past four weeks I expected the men in stripes to prevail in what I hoped to be the fifth consecutive victory from the Bengals. I was hoping to see a team come out swinigng at home for their fans, for their pride and for a continued sense of respectability in the national media. That wasn't what I saw yesterday.
Instead, I saw a team that came out flat with a short first offensive series after electing to receive the ball once again and a defense that looked good again until it lost two of its best players. Let's not beat around the bush, the loss of Antwan Odom is a very scary proposition and has the potential to be devastating. After the way Odom reshaped his body in the offseason adding bulk he has been an animal this year...a man possessed. He may not have notched another sack yesterday, but he did block a field goal. Losing production like he's provided hurts in a major way, and I don't have high hopes that the Bengals will be able to garner that production from anyone else. Perhaps Robert Geathers can prove me wrong and bring the heat from the other side (or from the right side if they slide him over), but so far this year I haven't seen it from Geathers even after all of the double-teams have been put on Odom through six weeks. Geathers has looked fairly pedestrian this year, a far cry from his 10.5-sack form or the man who terrorized the Ravens in the 2007 season opener.
Frostee Rucker is likely to replace Odom, and that scares me as well. Frostee has always made plays when healthy, but therein lies the rub. The guy can't seem to stay healthy long enough to make a real impact by being on the field to make those plays. I can only hope that the team can pull enough production out of a Rucker/Michael Johnson rotation to make up some of the slack created by Odom's absence for the remainder of the '09 campaign.
I along with the rest of you wait with baited breath for the announcement of Domata Peko's MRI results as well. Not only losing the NFL's sack co-leader but also losing your primary defensive tackle will hurt you in a hurry, and that's what we saw all day yesterday. Tank Johnson brings a lot of the same skill set that Peko brings to the table, but can he stay healthy enough to increase his snaps to cover any prolonged Peko absence? Many will poo-poo Peko's absence saying that they've never seen him be a dominating player, but Domata is a highly underrated player that draws an awful lot of double-teams himself. He is also a respected leader on that defensive line. Not having him lining up for any extended period of time will hurt this team almost as much as losing Odom will. I hope that Katie Blackburn has been on the phone with John Thornton today...we could use him right about now.
On offense I'm puzzled by a few things. Primarily, how bad can Chase Coffman possibly be that he hasn't dressed yet this year? I would go back and count how many critical drops Dan Coats has logged, but I'm not currently in a place where I can take my shoes off. Top it off with J. P. Foschi's fumble yesterday to basically eliminate any chance of an eleven-point comeback and it equals a big fat Tight End Receiving Fail. Coffman was the most prolific receiving tight end in NCAA history a year ago and in a season where Palmer is using the tight end as his primary hot read, how can Coffman possibly not be an option when Dan Coats would make a terrific DB considering how many passes he's knocked down?
Too many penalties continue to pile up on the offensive line. We've talked about it every week. Paul Alexander, please start knocking some sense into our linemen's heads. Mental errors have killed far too many drives over the past six weeks. Please fix this.
Oh wait...I'm not done talking about dropped passes yet. Laveranues Coles, thank you for catching a touchdown yesterday. That isn't going to make me forget about your dropped first down in the fourth quarter, though. Drops are killing this football team. It's getting to the point where I'm waiting for a drop in any drive where momentum is starting to build. I don't know if Carson is throwing the football harder than he did in the past (ever seen Rookie of the Year...maybe his elbow injury had that effect), but if Coles was catching balls from Fastball Favre all year last year I don't understand the dropsies in 2009.
I'm sure there were positives here and there yesterday, but when you watch your Cardiac Cats come out and play with as little heart as they did in the second half yesterday they're hard to come by for this blogger. Additionally, it's not unusual for us to see our offense be out-coached but Houston absolutely just took advantage of weaknesses in the Bengal defense all day yesterday. I don't recall Zimmer being out-coached that blatently since he's been here in Cincinnati. Hopefully he'll be able to bring the unit around and compensate for the losses of Odom and Peko (although hopefully Domata will return to us soon) for Chicago next week.
Again, I'm not ready to declare doom and gloom and preach fire and brimstone yet. I did however have a feeling yesterday that was awfully familiar. I felt like a Bengals fan again, and any of you who have been a Bengals fan as long as I have know exactly of what I speak.
I reman as always (although slightly less optimistically),
A Pragmatic Bengals Fan
P.S. I actually had to come back and write this. We abandon the run most of the day only to decide to run a draw on first down, down by eleven with three minutes to go. I nearly threw something. I actually unleashed the fury of the CAPS lock key on my Twitter when that play was called and subsequently eaten up by the Texans defense.