Following Cincinnati's 34-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns, a team that no one likes losing to as a geographical rival that kicked founder Paul Brown to the curb, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis did what amounts to calling his team out on Sunday. During postgame comments, Lewis told reporters that the Cincinnati Bengals need to be tougher as a unit.
"We have got to play nastier, we need to play tougher, we need to have more of a killer instinct than what we are playing with, and that's what we need to have," Lewis said. "We're almost too nice at times and we've got to have more of a killer instinct, get going, and keep making plays, and keep scoring and keep stopping them and not have a hiccup, a sigh of a relaxation play."
By George, I think this is the old school defensive coach in Lewis surfacing. Unfortunately players appeared more blindsided, taking it personal, thinking that Lewis may have hinted that the team isn't giving effort. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth disagreed with his head coach's assessment, writes Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com, pointing at the lack of execution as a primary culprit for Cincinnati's two-game losing streak against the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns.
"I don't see that," said left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "I think this team plays nasty, it plays physical. We just have to execute plays. There isn't anybody out there not trying or lacking effort. We just have to play smart and really learn to put the hammer down when we need to."
Defensive end Robert Geathers stood up for the defensive front, yet deferred to Lewis' opinion and suggested that the leaders on the team stand up and help right the sinking ship.
"We've got to get it together and not let it snowball. The leaders of this team have to step up and get these guys going in the right direction ... just focusing in and being more disciplined ... obviously we're not as good as we thought we were. Teams like this, personally I think we've got to put them away before they get their hope."
We'll file this under "everyone is right." If there were a scale rating the level of nastiness from a team, the Bengals offensively are choir boys. There's no push on the offensive line and the running game is summarized as this: Take handoff, run into wall, get tackled. Defensively the team is playing better, but when adversity hit the team late in the third quarter, they were in-step with the rest of the team unable to stop the bleeding that, admittedly, wasn't their infected wound to cleanse.
Last week was a crossroads, we argued. Beat the Cleveland Browns and recover the postseason path with some confidence. Instead the team lost on Sunday and it's evident that they're completely lost and the much desired postseason path is buried underneath miles of heavy Autumn brush. Plenty of time remains for Cincinnati but now they're entering a critical stage in the season already. They have to beat the teams they're not supposed to beat and considering what we've seen during the previous two games, we're not seeing that right now.