Well, what's the climate of Bengal Nation this evening? What are the fans of the Cincinnati Bengals franchise on the evening following their completion of a season sweep of their division? It seems to me that the climate in Bengaldom is pretty tame; it seems to me that many of us are overly disappointed after today's win in the Jungle. Perhaps I could be included in that number, perhaps not. By nature I tend to take the pragmatic view on things ranging from literary adaptions to film all the way to sports contests in which my favorite teams participate, hence my chosen moniker.
I also have the tendency to be overly verbose at times in my writing, but that's another matter entirely.
Additionally, Maple and Brown Sugar Cream of Wheat is awesome. I'm just saying.
For my weekly gut reaction to the game, hit the jump.
Let's discuss the good things we saw first, shall we? Namely the run game. Make no mistake about it, Bernard Scott and Larry Johnson are MEN. They are manly men who probably wear those new scents of Old Spice where the spokesman takes a bite out of his iron on the driving range. Bernard Scott rushed eighteen times for 87 yards, receiving limited work after suffering what is reported to be a mild case of turf toe. Larry Johnson, the recipient of most of Bengal Nation's water cooler talk over the past two weeks, took over after Scott's injury and more or less put on a clinic, rushing for 107 yards on 22 carries for a 4.86 YPC average. Both backs showed very good field vision and reacted well to cutback lanes formed by a mauling offensive line in run blocking.
The defense was once again a bright spot on this Sunday afternoon. Nearly all day the Bengals' D held the Browns' woeful offense in check, save for one drive in the third quarter which was highlighted by some sleight of hand with a Joshua Cribbs pass to Brady Quinn down the left hash. Quinn looked almost Tebow-like on a nine yard run for a score, but other than that the Browns never looked to be a serious threat.
So that was good. The run game and the defense won us this game. Again. Here's my thing, though, and this was being discussed ad nauseum on the radio's postgame shows. This team needs to be able to score more than 17 or 18 points sometime soon. The defense for the Cincinnati Bengals has been playing absolutely lights-out football for nearly the whole season.
We as fans and the Bengals' offense can't expect that to last forever. At some point the defense is going to run into another bad matchup like the Texans presented them, and the Bengals' offense is going to have to pick up the slack. They held the ball for thirty-eight minutes and only scored sixteen points. I love the time of possession, but more points absolutely have to come into the equation and soon. Teams like the Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers in the near future will score points even on a defense that's as good as the Bengals' D. In the more distant future, when a loss means an earlier-than-desired start to the team's winter vacation, the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts will do the same.
The Browns' defense (which again, isn't that good) was able to keep Carson Palmer out of rhythm nearly all day by turning up the heat. As well as the Bengals' O-line was run blocking (very well), they were just as bad in pass protection. I will leave any statistical or philosophical breakdowns to Josh for tomorrow's recap, but the combination of pressure packages being used were being used to great effect and Palmer couldn't settle in for most of the day.
The ball needs to be in the hands of Chad Ochocinco more often. Obviously the run game was working (again, 210 yards on the ground for the good guys today), but that should have in theory created more opportunity for a big play down field which isn't something we've seen for quite some time. By the time play-action passes were called the play caller had waited long enough to do so that the opposing defense wasn't fooled.
Please, don't get me wrong. I heartily and thoroughly enjoyed seeing my team go undefeated in their division across a season of football today.
It's just that watching some of the things that did and some of the things that did not happen today, I worry about football in January if we can't put more than 16 up on the board. Hopefully we'll see something next week that will ease my fears a bit.
Other than that, I'll go to work on Wednesday after my two vacation days enjoying being a Cincinnati Bengals fan in Northeast Ohio once more.
Sincerely and excitedly,
A Pragmatic Bengals Fan