The fact that the Cincinnati Bengals are a disappointing 2-5 is upsetting enough. Possibly more frustrating is that the Bengals aren't necessarily being crushed. Alright, I admit that sounds a little weird. But they're only losing by an average of seven points and during every loss, save for New England during the regular season opener, the Bengals were within one possession to tie or take the lead. One would reasonably say that they're oh so close turning this thing around. And perhaps that person is right. It's those close games, the moment that you expect your stars to raise above the adversity. That's what upsets you more than anything because the superstars on this team are dimming out like a brown dwarf.
|Not the Brown Dwarf we're referring to.|
While the team still technically has a chance to rebound, there's little reason other than blind faith to believe so. Consider that the team went winless in October, losing to the Browns, Buccaneers, Falcons and Dolphins during what was arguably the easiest stretch on their schedule.
And when a team is full of outspoken offensive players, there's going to be some frustration getting out. First it was Benson airing frustration with the offense lacking an identity and then not being used much on third and short. Terrell Owens complained that the coaching staff isn't listening to him because of his vast amounts of experience with good offensive minds -- particularly early in his career. And earlier this week, Chad Ochocinco complained that they (either Carson Palmer or Bob Bratkowski) aren't getting him the football (a point we kind of agree with).
While most of the complaining could be conjectured as indirect attacks on Bob Bratkowski, there's been no direct language that's specifically addressed the Bengals offensive coordinator (not that we expect it). Benson hasn't necessarily said anything about Bratkowski, but he has hinted at the problem in the past and could be again when talking with the Dayton Daily News' Carlos Holmes.
Asked if the team has strayed too far from its running roots, the running back was careful.
“The only person who can answer that question is the one making those calls,” Benson said. “I would love to voice my opinion on that but it will get me nowhere. I’m above and beyond negative energy. It’s on the film and everybody sees it. You have to play the cards you are dealt. I’m only employee number 32 and have to be there. However, I think we’ll keep hitting our heads up against a brick wall if we stay blind to the facts.”
Wow. That was super-inspiring, Ced. Let's not take up a leadership role or make 2010 appear anything more than a means to a bigger contract after this year. Benson's 20.4 carries/game is comparable to the league leaders and only two carries less than 2009. Yet, he's only averaging 3.8 yards/rush? Is the issue that the running game has "strayed too far from its running roots" or the fact that the roots are noticeably weaker than they were last year (see, fumble after no-contact).
Ultimately Benson ends up talking about the same thing that every player does when asked about the struggling consistency on the offense:
“We have to make up our minds that we’re not going to be beat,” Benson said. “We have to execute to the best of our ability and have fun.”
The truth is, this team does have to return to their 2009 roots. That formula worked, especially inside the division. Additionally, this team will have to use that formula this Monday Night to keep Pittsburgh's defense honest, or else Dick LeBeau will blitz Carson Palmer and the average pass blocking of the team's offensive line into the ground. And it all starts with Benson.
[UPDATE]: Benson was a bit more forthcoming with Geoff Hobson earlier in the week, saying exactly what Owens said in October.
"The biggest thing that wears on you (is) when you have a suggestion," Benson said. "When you feel things could be done a little better with a slight change somewhere (and) whether you say it or not, it’s not going to matter. They’re not going to change anything. That’s kind of the frustrating part. You preach about it being a team sport, but when it comes to feedback and stuff like that, it’s not appreciated.
"You've got to do what you’re told. That’s the frustrating part. You just got to try and find joy being in the National Footbal League and having this wonderful opportunity and play football."