Had it not been for a tipped pass and a fumble on a kickoff return, your Cincinnati Bengals would be 11-1.
Yes. The Cincinnati Bengals are two plays away from being 11-1.
Was it a pretty win today? Absolutely not. Did the Bengals leave some points on the board? Absolutely.
Mike Zimmer and Bob Bratkowski, I hope you're watching Sunday night football.
Things started a little differently than I expected today, the Bengals aired the ball out in the first series. The first play from scrimmage was a first-down pass to Chad Ochocinco. It appeared that Bob Bratkowski had taken a glance at the league statisical breakdown that shows the Lions to be utterly putrid against the pass. After that and for the most part again today, the passing offense of the Bengals was mainly pedestrian once again. There were a couple glints of former glory through the air, but once again this Sunday the Bengals proved that they are, make no mistake, a run-first team.
I really wish that Bratkowski would utilize the play-action pass a bit more, because in the event you didn't know this the Bengals are a pretty damn good team running the football. Like, a "first-team-ever to have three different 100-yard rushers in three consecutive games" good team running the football. That said, as I mentioned a week ago I hope that the defense remains up to the task of playing amazing, inspired, league-leading defense because (Oh, Brett Favre just got sacked again) if the Bengals fall behind I'm not sure at this point that the passing game is going to be able to carry us to victory.
You keep Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees (Wayne's World-esque "we're not worthy" bow to Mr. Brees, a gentleman and a scholar) on the sideline by gutting it out with Cedric Benson, Larry Johnson and Bernard Scott. That's how you beat those guys. Let's examine something for just a hot minute, shall we?
Time of Possession
Over the past three games, the Bengals have held the ball for 114.83 minutes compared to the Bengals' opponents holding the ball for just 63.97 minutes. This is a Cincinnati offense that isn't going to burn up the scoreboard (I don't know what happened in the Chicago game...maybe the team traveled to the stadium in a DeLorean?). This is a Cincinnati team that will look you in the eye, be manly and spit on the ground, growl something about running the ball (maybe you should try to stop it, you girly man) and then do it anyway.
This is what I've missed about the 2005 Cincinnati Bengals over the past four years. With Rich Braham over the ball, he could look at the opposing nose tackle and say "Hey, we're going to run off tackle to my right. Your left. Stop it." And you know what? They'd do it successfully. We haven't had that since the good Mr. Braham was taken from the gridiron in week 2 of 2006. I hate that game. That day we lost Rich Braham, Tab Perry and David Pollack forever.
Anyway, I digress. What's important is that our Bengals are 9-3. They were just passed for the second seed in the AFC by the San Diego Chargers by virtue of conference victories, but we'll take care of that in fourteen days when we pimp-smack them all over Qualcomm Stadium. Oh, by the way, the Vikings' starting middle linebacker was just carted off the field. Good luck stopping the Bengals' rushing attack without your best 'backer, Vikings (Hope you're okay, E.J.).
The Bengals continue to serve notice to the rest of the league that they are not the same old Bungles that everyone outside of Bengal Nation has grown to know and love. This is a mean, gritty tough football team that would make every Howie Long, Lawrence Taylor and Jack Lambert in the world proud of which to be a part.
Bring it on, Vikings. We're ready for you.
A Pragmatic Bengals Fan