In some ways we feel compelled to apologize. To you. To the team and specifically Brandon Tate. In early November we wrote that Brandon Tate appeared to be improving his kick (and punt) returns, categorically improving his averages and posting a new season-high return every week dating back from Cincinnati's week four win over the Buffalo Bills through their week eight win over the Seattle Seahawks where Tate returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown.
Since then he's offered this team virtually nothing, averaging 6.5 yards per punt return in the last five games, including a total -5 yards in punt returns against the Browns two weeks ago. Against the Steelers Tate returned four kickoffs and the best field position he offered the Bengals offense was the team's own 23-yard line. And then there's the fumble in the second quarter.
When asked during his weekly Monday afternoon press conference if the team had plans on moving Brandon Tate out of the return game, Marvin Lewis quickly reflected on a single play. The lost fumble that turned a 14-point deficit into a 21-point Pittsburgh Steelers lead.
“No. Brandon (Tate) has just got to secure the football. He had a lane, and he thought he was about to go score a touchdown. The guy that’s blocked just reaches in and gets a hand on him and the ball comes loose. It’s an unfortunate play. He’s got to keep the ball a little higher and tighter. We had the thing blocked perfectly. I think he just got so doggone excited. The guy just reaches off the block like that (extends arm), gets a hand in on him, hits the ball and it comes loose. There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel from where we are with him. He’s made good cuts and good runs, and I think that’s important. But you do have to secure the football back there.”