INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 14: Marvin Lewis the Head Coach of the Cincinnati Bengals walks off of the field following the Bengals 23-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 14 2010 in Indianapolis Indiana. The Colts won 23-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
When a team is bad, the positives of a loss become more celebrated. Winning teams don't like anything about a loss. It stinks. The Bengals, however, are now back at the kiddie table and are grasping for any nice thing at all to be said about them.
Here are a few.
The defense against the Colts was unexpectedly masterful. Not only did a pass rush exist, I witnessed on more than one occasion where individual player's moves effectively hurried - and even once sacked - Peyton Manning. The run defense was good, the banged-up secondary played well, and Dhani Jones finally deserves some credit on a job well done - for as much crap as I give the guy, I have to give him props when he earns it, and he did just that on Sunday.
Also, the rookie receivers continue to show some real upside to their careers. Not only does Jordan Shipley show veteran-like comfort within a pro-style offense (unlike another once-promising receiver drafted by the Bengals who has one career catch in three seasons and wears No. 89), but fellow rookie Jermaine Gresham plays with an aggression that makes him appear eager and ambitious when put into action. Gresham plays almost too hard as he forgets to coral the ball before setting his sight on a defender to hit. It's as if being big and hard to tackle are more important than being a reliable ball-carrier. He needs to work on remembering the value of the ball, but otherwise, this guy is a gem.
More good stuff that came from Sunday includes Brian Leonard's long rumble on a weird, fake-punt-wildcat kinda thing in the first half, followed by the prettiest play of the season and possibly of any pass between Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco - of course it was called back because of a penalty. Right after Leonard busted through a big hole on 4th-and-1 and ran 45 yards, Carson faked the stretch hand-off, rolled to his right, heaved a long arching pass to Chad in the end zone who leaped up and pulled it in on his way to the turf. Despite its lack of impact on the game, it was truly a thing of beauty, and made me smile.
The last positive derives from a recurring negative. After the game, Terrell Owens admitted that he let up on Palmer's interception in the fourth quarter. This marks the third time that his lack of effort has resulted in a pick which has either clinched or greatly contributed to a Bengals loss. However, it was refreshing to hear him say so - if that actually means anything to any of you.
While I'm on this rant, it must be written, yet again, that TO simply does not exert more energy than he deems necessary on the long passes thrown his way, and in my book, that is not okay. The one that fell to the turf against Indy appeared to be literally within arms reach, but Owens demonstrated the alligator arms that he pulls out on the long ball and simply let the pass go incomplete. Unless the ball is delivered within foot radius of his hands, he has no qualms with where it ends up. TO has been remarkably productive this season - far exceeding my expectations of him - however, he is single-handedly responsible for at least two Bengal losses this season due to his lack of effort on passes thrown slightly away from him. All he has to do is move slightly further in one direction and less bad things would happen to his team. This drives me crazy and has to privately have the same effect on Carson. If I were Palmer, I would look elsewhere late in games.
So as for the positives, that's all I have. At the end of the day, it was another wild comeback attempt that came up short - nothing new. The team still suffers from self-imposed mistakes like pre-snap penalties and an abundance of turnovers. The talent on this team is like an old fluorescent light bulb that flickers on and off, but never stays on long enough to get anything worthwhile accomplished. This is a team that has all the correct parts but the assembly instructions are written in Japanese, or something. In August, they put some high expectations on themselves and now their collective spirit must be in fragments. Some brave souls among the Bengals dared to murmur the words "Super Bowl" in reference to where they thought they would end up, but now even an invitation to the post-season tournament is practically impossible.
I feel that the Marvin Lewis & Carson Palmer experiment is out of funding. It's been eight years with a 25 percent success rate, and any intrigue to how the results will fare in the future with more testing is gone. Why should we care anymore? This is an old team with no direction but down. Not to say that there aren't salvageable parts for the next mad professor - there are some real bright spots among the rusted has-beens, but as for this current group, it's now a waiting game to see how long it is before they're asked to put their things into a cardboard box and leave the premises. Most of the men involved are still quality players and coaches who have real chances of catching on somewhere else, but I don't feel they have any more potential to fulfill. The 2010 Bengals have become a team that is simply finishing out their term and auditioning for future suitors. It was a good run, more than any other sustained group can say in the Mike Brown era, but it has run its course. All of these failed comeback efforts this season speak to that sentiment.
Mojokong - no blackouts to this blog!