It is very evident that there should be NO super bowl talk or even playoff talk for that matter until the Bengals get the job done week in and week out. The Bengals have to go to work. Period. This was a major letdown against a below average "offensive" team (the Raiders defense is very underrated). The only encouraging outcomes of this game was that the Bengals should have won again and the Steelers lost. As for the disappointing, the Bengals showed yet again that they consistently play to the level of their opponents which is bad news considering the Browns and Lions are up next.
Defensively, the Bengals were fine. A couple of missed interceptions, but they covered up fumbles when they were there, and batted down some big passes at the line. They didn't get to Gradkowski enough but held him in check for most of the game (on a side note I cannot stand Gradkowski...the guy celebrated like he won the superbowl after every Raider point went on the board). The Bengals had trouble on 1st and 2nd down in the second half, giving up 4-5 yards a carry but held on strong on a lot of 3rd and 1's. Can't blame Trent on that touchdown, it was just a good pass to his back shoulder, but the defense played way too soft on that 4th down to seal the game. Overall, the defense put us in a position to win.
Offensively, this game was a nightmare or a Bratkowski as I like to call it. Once again, Bratkowski was inconsistent in his calls. They came out firing on the first drive and Palmer was on a roll. The second touchdown drive was run, run, pass all the way to the get go. Fortunately, we converted 3rd downs to get the score. The rest of the game was a foggy haze as the story usually goes when Bratkowski has any type of lead. It was run after run which put a damper on Palmer's early success. And the O-Line fell apart at times, opening no holes and letting Greg Ellis get to Palmer.
I don't want to diminish our running game, but save it for the tough battles (Steelers, Ravens). There comes a point when you need to let your best player win the game, especially against the sub-par teams. Bratkowski has to let PALMER win those games. He is the best player on the field, hands down, yet it seems that the Bengals never let him be the best player. Instead, they put the ball in the hands of a rookie, a 3rd down fullback/halfback and a blocking fullback when the game was on the line. No disrespect to Scott, Leonard and Jeremi who have all had fine games/years, but I trust Palmer more than them, hell I even trust Larry Johnson in that spot.
So why run the ball to JEREMI JOHNSON to put the game away???? He maybe has 5 offensive touches all year long (including a few dropped passes). The disheartening aspect of this run was that the offense was moving the ball on that drive and then Bratkowski gets so conservative that he runs his run-blocking fullback???? I accept the fact that there is no chance Brat lets Palmer win the game for them, and instead will run the clock to zero, but we have THREE running backs on the roster. GIVE THE BALL TO LARRY TO SEAL THE GAME. Bratkowski is wayyy too out of touch with the game. It seems that he tries to be so unpredictable that he calls plays for players with no offensive ability (Jeremi, Coats, Foschi) and at the most inopportune times. Brat gets away from what works best during every game and thats why the offense stalls out for 2/3 of the game.
They are sooo frustrating to watch but the fact of the matter is they are still 7-3 and have the division lead. With a 7-2 start come high expectations from the media and fans which only puts more pressure on them. They need to come out with the same fire they bring against the Steelers and Ravens every week. Terrible terrible terrible loss, but as long as the Steelers lose, it becomes somewhat although not completely acceptable. I just hope they beat the Browns who always give them trouble. As usual, they should.