So I waited a few days to let the sting die down and allow the brain to work normally again after a stunning loss to the "worst team in the league." If you count the two weeks in a row, that's two losses to two of the worst 4-5 teams in the league. Or so they were saying before we played them. But you really can't spend all of your time looking in the rear view mirror in this league. I think you first have to understand that there's another game (and another opportunity to stop the bleeding) next Sunday. Secondly, you need to figure out why you were bleeding in the first place. I joked last week about the transitive rule of football. We all remember the math rule:
If A > B and B > C, then A > C.
But it doesn't work that way in sports. Sometimes C beats A even after days after A > B and B > C. There are lots of reasons. A lot of them are simply mental. And this is where the Bengals often fail -- in the mental aspects of winning the battle..... because first and foremost, you gotta believe, baby -- you gotta believe that you can do it.
So here we are with 10 games left in a season in which we wanted to show improvement vs. 2011. And why shouldn't we expect that when we supposedly got better or stayed the same at every position, right? So let's feed the boys some raw meat -- or tofu for you vegetarians -- and win one for the Gipper. If not for the Gipper, then one for the Mikey! Yikes, that sounds pretty soft. Just win one for someone, but, jeez, just win one.
So that's that for the rah-rah hour. Now it's time to really use the noggin and discuss the current and emerging themes:
PRIOR 5 OVERRIDING THEMES
1) LB Play: weak --> Our two big PFF stats of the week: Maualuga wasn't "as bad as usual" and Burfict is en fuego. I don't want to talk this one to death, but I'd rather see Maualuga at SAM and Burfict at MIKE. I guess that Lawson could mix snaps at SAM, and we'd have to figure out the mix at WILL. I don't think Moch is going to produce right now at SAM, since he only produced as a situational pass rusher in the pre-season against other teams' backups. Maybe we just have to pray that Maualuga continues to suck less each weak until he's average by the end of the year? But I think I'm going to drop this one and wait until Zimmer makes his move. I can't believe that Zimmer will sit on crappy production from MIKE and SAM the rest of the season, however.
2) Running Game: kaput --> Does it start up front, or does it generate from the RB? It's the old chicken-egg discussion here folks. If you can't make people miss, you aren't going anywhere when someone misses their block on any given play. I think this is the common denominator. And why are guys missing their blocks? It could be that other teams have Gruden's tendencies figured out and know by down and formation when we're running. Let's put that one at the top of the refrigerator for now while considering that our new OL boss Faine has been getting a PFF dress down lately. Second, there's something wrong with Whit -- do you agree or not? He's just not playing like himself making me think that he's got some sort of physical issue. Heck, do we toy with the idea of moving Whit to LG, Boling to OC and Collins to LT? Let's not wait too long though before we do something different because The Law Firm ain't no Johnny Cochrane. And maybe -- if we're not making any personnel changes now -- it's worth a chance to see what Peerman can do with more playing time. I have my doubts, but, again, we gotta change something.
3) WRs: A.J. all day, but #2 makes no hay --> Stupid rhyme, I know -- but it conveys the truth. So do we agree somewhat that Binns and Tate are not enough to take the passing threat to the level at which the running game gets some pressure relief? Now the D's have started focusing on Baby Hawk and Green making it tougher to open up the O because Binns and Tate simply aren't talented enough to be consistent one-on-one threats. I think it's that simple. So what do you do? This is similar to the running game conundrum. But in this case we have Sanu, Jones and Whalen catching splinters and using up roster space. So let's figure out which combo and in what ratio it's going to require to get us 5-6 catches and 60-90 yards a game for the combined #2 output. While AJ's on pace for 110+ and 1600 yards, the Binns-Tate Buddy Program is heading for 60 and 800 (or 4-50 per game). That's about 25-50 % off the mark of what is needed. These guys are what we thought they were -- no disgrace there. They are backup material. Let's give the younger guys a chance though. See what they can do when the game is close. What do we have to lose at this point?
4) 3rd Down Offensive Efficiency: worst team in the league --> Everyone has an opinion on this. Mine is that we just aren't getting 10 yards in 3 downs enough of the time.
5) Coaching: stale? --> Yes. But we already knew that about Marv on game day. He's a personnel guy, not an X's-and-O's guy. But Gruden and Zimmer? We thought they were all about the X's-and-O's, right? I mean, didn't everyone want them in the off-season? So my conclusion here is that everyone needs a kick start. Marv has to inspire better; Gruden has to figure out a better set of personnel packages for the affiliated down & distances; and Zimmer needs to hit the smelling salts. We know where the problems are -- we discussed a good chunk of them above. Don't fear failure though because it doesn't get any worse in 2012 than losing to rookie QBs against Miami and Cleveland.
NEW THEMES TO CONSIDER
* Can we still make the playoffs? --> Of course we can. The goal must be 10 wins (and we could sneak in with 9). What does that mean? It just means winning 7 of the last 10 games. You pick which ones: vs. Pitt, vs. Den, vs. NYG, @ KC, vs. Oak, @ SD, vs. Dall, @ Phi, @ Pitt, vs. Balt. The Bengals that beat Washington might be able to do that.
* Is Faine worse than an undrafted rookie? --> PFF suggests this was the case last week. Faine was sitting on his couch in early September for a reason. My guess is that he will move back there if Cook makes it off the IR list in a few weeks. That will mean that Mike Brown will have to eat the rest of the year's contract money for Faine. Wow! Now this could be a tough choice -- it's not like Mike to let guys walk with his money.
* Was that Jeromy MIles tackle on Cribbs a thing of beauty? --> Yes it was. Forget that Cribbs made us look stupid again. It was great to see a guy keep his head up and not give into failure. If we had 11 guys maxing their efforts on every down, we would be better than 3-3 right now.
* Is there any cavalry available? --> Only if you count Pat Sims & Kyle Cook as such. Our hopes at this point probably are like this: Cook comes back to stabilize OL; Peerman proves to be an adequate RB in 15 snaps a game; Jones and Sanu combine to give 4 catches and 55 yards per game over the last 8 games; Moch gets 4 sacks by the end of the season; Maualuga moves to average when his "injury" improves; the DB situation settles from its turbid state.
* What are we gonna do 'bout our DB situation? --> Kirkpatrick gets on the field this week, does well in 10-15 snaps and moves onto the nickel spot after the bye; the #2 CB spot goes to Pacman for now; Clements plays early down Safety and late down nickel along with Kirkpatrick and Newman, who only gets 10 snaps a game. The #2 Safety spot remains a mix of Clements & Mays. Crocker gets a bus ticket back to Atlanta -- oh all right.... a plane ticket. Good guy, but he's done. That failure to cover the TE in the 4th Qtr looked really bad last week.
* Is our cup really half full? --> Not sure, but we're about to find out.