I have been a long suffering Bengals fan for many decades, and it has been so great for the Bengals to be relevant again in the NFL. Making the playoffs three years in a row is great, and so much better than where we were in the lost decades. And that really is a tribute to Marvin Lewis, and the changes he has made to the team and the culture at Paul Brown Stadium.
However, I don't think he has what it takes to win a playoff game. There is just something missing from his game plan, or his ability to prepare the team, that keeps them from taking the next step. I could forgive Lewis all other losses. The first one, it's hard for a team to lose it's Pro Bowl quarterback on the first play, and still win. The second was against a Jets Team that had a smothering defense, that just took away everything the Bengals usually did well. The third and fourth were in Texas, one with a rookie quarterback the second against a superior team.
This year was different. The Bengals were the superior team coming into the game. They were home, at a place they had not lost at in 9 games. They had beaten San Diego at home, and had been play well, save for a horrendous first quarter in Pittsburg. This was the year that the Bengals were going to get the monkey off our back.
But no. In the third quarter, the San Diego defense suddenly looked like the 85 Bears, and I have to lay a lot of this on the coaching of Lewis and Gruden. Dalton made mistakes in the game, but he had NO protection. On his first interception there were three people in his face. On his fumble he was trying to make a play after being chased from the pocket AGAIN. Where were the coaches making adjustments? How many times do we have to see runs right up the middle get held to two yards? How many times do we have to see Dalton being flushed from the pocket, because the middle of our line was acting like a sieve? Yet I did not see changes in our game plan. I did not see any quick passes to Green, I saw few runs to the outside, only a couple dump off passes to Gio or Hawkins.
I did see terrible clock management, time wasted getting plays in, lack of a no-huddle offence, and terrible play selection.
I have liked Lewis, and thank him for pulling this team out of the dregs it occupied for nearly all the 90's and a good portion of the first few years of the 21st Century. He did a remarkable job with this team. But let's face it, he can't win in the post season. He just can't. There have been other coaches who have had the same issue in the past; Marty Schottenheimer being a prime example. It is time for the Bengals to ask Marvin to relinquish his coaching responsibilities, continue with his player personnel duties, and get a different coach on the sideline. I know there is no guarantee that this will bring post season success, or that the Bengals will even reach the post season, but I do know that the current head coach will never deliver that elusive playoff victory.