Coming into the game last week against the Houston Texans, the thought of a letdown was at the forefront of my mind because of the grind they had just endured - winning four straight games against some of the top teams in the league. One aspect of the game is emotion, and the level of emotion the Bengals held during that win streak even left us fans emotionally drained.
The Cardiac Cats nickname seems to be taking hold as some of the media is using it to describe the late game comebacks. During the loss last week to the Texans as Carson Palmer was in late game attack mode working his magic driving the offense, play-by-play announcer Don Criquie couldn't help himself repeating it on a number of occasions. But right after Carson tried to force the ball between two defenders only to have it intercepted...the Cardiac Cats nickname may have taken a hit.
I noticed a trend lately that one could question Carson's decision making during a game. It seems on a number of occasions he has tried to force the ball through double, even triple coverage only to see the opposition catch the ball. And at times, it has cost the team the game, hence this past week. Don't get me wrong, Carson is a heck of a quarterback, but his current touchdown to interception ratio is something that would place other QB's into the back-up role. There may be any number of reasons this stat is not better, but I think it comes down coaching.
The defense probably showed the biggest letdown as they were able to consistently make important stops during the winning streak keeping games close, allowing the offense to make the late game charge to win it. Against the Texans, the only time the defense made consistent stops seemed to be late in the first half allowing the Bengals to take a shaky 17-14 lead. In the second half, they seemed unable to stop the Texans at any time allowing Matt Schaub to finish the game with nearly 400 yards passing for the day and the offense to amass 472 total yards, the most given up by the Bengals defense so far this season.
Now here come the Chicago Bears who just came off of a tough loss to the Atlanta Falcons this past Sunday. Although not the offensive juggernaut that the Texans are, they are averaging more points per game then the Bengals at 23.8 a game versus 19.7. The Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, is on pace to set the team record for touchdowns with 10 TD passes already. But he too is prone to the interception with 7 so far including 3 in the red zone, where his passer rating is 59.4.
The Bears defense is minus its star in Brian Urlacher who suffered a season ending injury in week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. How much of an impact his absence has made may not truly be felt as the Bears defense is currently 13th overall in total yards, 6th against the run and 14th against the pass. Coming off the loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and facing a former teammate, da' Bears may be looking to reestablish themselves as a viable threat to the Minnesota Vikings strangle hold on the NFC North division. Plus facing Cedric Benson, who has stated he felt "blackballed" by the Bears, could add more motivation.
Prior to the game against the Texans, the Bengals were starting to garner the respect of everyone as a threat to knock-off the Pittsburgh Steelers as defending division title winner. After the loss to a team they were expected to defeat, the threat is now being rethought of by many who may start the chant again that the Bengals are a fraud which briefly occurred prior beating the Baltimore Ravens. But a victory against da' Bears could squelch this belief and bring back the respectability they had built up during the four game winning streak. In order for that to happen, the Bengals will have to get over the mental letdown from last week, figure out a way to make Jay Cutler's life miserable in the pocket and keep Devin Hester from doing the same thing that Josh Cribbs does for the Cleveland Browns.
The Bengals had a letdown last week and suffered a loss against a team they should have beaten. Now they have to get their moxie back as they face a foe that is looking to gain some respect themselves and maybe a token of revenge as well.