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Bengals break fuel pump, lose 38-13

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The problem with Time Warner's DVR service on their digital tier is that you can only record two things at once. For instance, at the same time yesterday, I was recording the Bengals game and the NASCAR race. With two recordings at the same time, you can't change the channel unless you stop recording one or the other. I wasn't going to stop the NASCAR recording because it's the "Chase". I guess I could have stopped recording the Bengals game; but the debate in my mind took longer than the conclusion of Sunday's game. The point is I desperately wanted to change the channel, but didn't want to stop either recording. I was stuck - and very irritated.  

What could anyone possibly say after being dominated, owned, ripped, stomped, slammed, smoked, abused, crushed, killed, and embarrassed? Is there an excuse here? The Bengals rush defense allowed 236 yards. The offense only converted two of 11 third downs. The special teams allowed a wonderful 43-yard return. If you can blame one person for this loss, please point them out. When head coaches and players say you win as a team and lose as a team, they're right. The Bengals were dominated; as a team.

The players and coaches go into the bye week with this bad taste in their mouth. What can this team do to cure a sick rush defense? Can this offense put together some form of rhythm? Is injury hurting us this bad when we believed going into the regular season we had tremendous depth?

But let's quickly review before digging deeper into the recap of Sunday's 38-13 loss.

Out for the season are Odell Thurman and David Pollack; two starting linebackers from last season. Chris Henry (best #3-receiver in the league) and Tab Perry (best return man on the team), Rich Braham (best center on the team) and Dexter Jackson (veteran free safety) were out. It's hard to replace that talent with second and third string guys. However, that's no excuse because New England missed their starting right tackle, starting free safety and corner too. Again, it's no excuse; but something to keep in the back of your mind while demonizing the team - if you're into demonizing.

IT JUST WON'T STAY STARTED
Towards the end of the NASCAR race, Jeff Gordon came to pit road under green complaining he was out of gas. The pit crew filled up the gas tank and the car turned over, but the gas just wasn't feeding the engine. When he peeled off pit road, the car was slower than grandma in the fast lane. The team found out a faulty fuel pump is what ended Gordon's day. Funny. Elite NASCAR teams spend nearly half a million into their race cars and a $200 part is what terminates their race.

That was the Bengals offense all day; unable to get started. After the offense converted field goals on their first two possessions, the Bengals went, punt, punt, punt, punt, touchdown, punt, fumble, fumble and punt. On eight possessions, the offense ran five plays or less. On five possessions, the offense recorded nine yards or less; two drives with negative yardage. The team had two three-and-out and two plays that ended in a lost fumble. After the offense had a nine minute first quarter, the Bengals couldn't maintain the ball for more than five minutes in any of the following quarters. If you take away the two field goal and touchdown drives (three total drives), the Bengals longest possession went four plays for 41 yards.

Field position was fairly average Sunday. But compared to New England, the Bengals failed in comparison. Cincinnati started five possessions on or inside the twenty and eight inside their own 30. New England started three drives on Cincinnati's side with two starting inside Cincinnati's 30; obviously from turnover.

Once New England got the offense started, it rolled. After their second punt, midway through the second quarter, the Patriots went touchdown, end of half, missed field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown and punt.

THE "I WOULD TELL YOU, BUT WON'T TELL YOU" ENTRY
After the game, T.J. Houshmandzadeh said, "I don't know about sending a message," in response to Chris Henry being inactive. "I feel differently about situations, so I don't want to get into that after we just lost a game. If you asked me after we won a game, I would have told you how I felt."

I'm a little curious about what this means. How does he really feel? Is he mad at the coach for taking disciplinary action or was he just biting his tongue on the overall lack of production by the offense? Or the coaches? Is there a greater frustration here than we're being led to believe? Or is he just mad that Jeff Gordon had a faulty fuel pump?

NO SECOND CHANCES ON THIRD DOWNS
The ability to convert third downs to first downs, I believe, is one of the most overlooked stat for any team. Converting third downs keeps the offense on the field driving while the defense sits on the sidelines enjoying oxygen tanks, industrial fans and messages to dear ol' mom for the CBS cameras.

It wasn't like the Bengals had to convert big yardage on third down. On five of eleven third down conversions, the offense only needed five yards or less (converted one). All third downs required 10 yards or less. Two penalties pushed back a third-and-four and a third-and-three five yards. The offense did well picking up yards on first and second to "stay on schedule". They just couldn't convert.

Or should I say, Palmer couldn't convert. Palmer, on third down, completed three of nine passes for 48 yards. T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught two for 45 yards and Tony Stewart caught the third for three yards.

The quick offensive possessions put a tremendous strain on an exhausted defense that was on the field for 9+ minutes each of the final three quarters. Sure, the defense looked horrible, but the offense didn't give the defense any chance to rest. You saw that towards the end of the game as the Patriots ran where they wanted.

THE FREE MAN TOUCHDOWN
On third-and-five, at the Bengals 25-yard line, Tom Brady noticed broken coverage. Troy Brown remained around the line of scrimmage at the snap and Doug Gabriel ran up-field. Tory James, on Gabriel, must have thought zone letting Gabriel go. Kevin Kaesviharn must have through man, stayed with Brown. With James near the sidelines playing a short zone and Kaesviharn playing man, Gabriel ran up-field - alone. Brady, seeing this, converted the third-and-five into a 25-yard touchdown pass. Essentially, this was the game winning score putting the Patriots up 14-6.

AND THE QUARTERBACK PLAYS
Tom Brady, on third-and-13, took off for 22 yards before jogging out of bounds and picking up the first down. In the end, this didn't mean much as New England missed the 48-yard field goal wide right. But it summarized the Bengals inability to get to the quarterback all day.

I know Brady didn't get sacked - heck, I'm not even sure he touched the ground once. Brady sat in the pocket, securely, looking down field and picking the Bengals zone defense apart. It got to a point when he dropped back, I already wrote "Brady completes..." in my notebook before the result of the play.

AND THE QUARTERBACK LAYS... ON THE GROUND
It was a much different story on the Bengals side. Jim Nantz suggested that the Bengals shutdown Carson Palmer for the day midway through the fourth. I agreed. On plays Palmer wasn't sacked, he was roughed up. Poor offensive line pass protection and a lot of double-clutching from Palmer provided New England more time to tee off on our boy. How many horizontal passes did we see? Did New England find a solution to the Bengals offense by pressuring Palmer and keeping safeties deep?

RUNNING AWAY WITH IT
I'm sure you'll hear about New England's tremendous success running the ball. I won't harp on it too much because that will be much discussed for the next two weeks. Laurence Maroney rushed for 125 yards on 15 carries. Corey Dillon, on 17 carries, gained 67 yards. Combined, both scored three touchdowns. Both Dillon and Maroney combined for 140 yards - in the second half!

In the end, exposing the Bengals defense as below average (I'm being nice here), the New England Patriots ran 41 times for 236 yards - a 5.8 yards per rush average. After Brady threw for a career high 55 attempts last week against Denver, he had only 26 attempts Sunday.

But what about the Bengals? Rudi Johnson ran 14 times for 65 yards; a decent 4.6 average. But why did the Bengals offense go aerial so quickly?  The Bengals abandoned the running game way too much Sunday.

Evidence #1: On 2nd-and-10, Rudi runs off Eric Steinbach picking up 11 yards. Then Palmer throws incomplete, a seven-yard pass to Tony Stewart and another incomplete. The Bengals couldn't get into the red-zone and kicked a 40-yard field goal.

Evidence #2: Bengals get the ball back after New England punts to the Cincy 26-yard line. The Bengals ran twice with Rudi for two and eight yards and a first down. Even though Palmer passed for 17 (T.J.) and 18 (Rudi) yards, the drive stalled after a seven-yard pass to Washington, an incomplete to Reggie Kelly and an incomplete to Chad Johnson (after 12-man in the huddle penalty).

Evidence #3: With 8:38 left in the second quarter, the Bengals offense went six-yard pass to Jeremi Johnson, incomplete, incomplete, punt.

Evidence #4: With 6:38 left in the second quarter, Rudi Johnson ran for 13-yards up the middle for a new set of downs. After his first down no-gain, Palmer threw incomplete and incomplete. Bengals punt.

Rudi's last carry of the game came with 14:39 left in the game and New England up 24-13. After his last carry, Palmer fumbled and New England eventually scored a touchdown. Game over.

Rudi rushed three times to the left for 24 yards, five times up the middle for 20 yards and six times to the right for 21 yards.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • The Patriots picked up 15 first downs on the ground. The Bengals picked up 17 total first downs.
  • 71. Rushing yards by the Bengals offense.
  • 74. Yards penalized against the Bengals.
WHY NOT GO FOR IT?
In the third quarter, down 21-13 with 4:21 left, Palmer completes a funky 33-yard pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Rudi takes his 13th handoff for eight yards behind Willie Anderson. On 2nd-and-two, Palmer throws an incomplete to Chad and an incomplete to Houshmandzadeh setting up a fourth-and-two. Most of the offense remained on the field and the crowd felt an upcoming fourth down play.

Nope. Delay of Game and Punt. T.J. throws his arms up in bewilderment and I shouted at the television screen: "Why not go for it?!"

You're already down by eight and the offense, let's face facts, really stunk. The fact we're on their side of the field was amazing enough. But the defense played so poorly I'm not sure how Marvin Lewis expected to stop New England's offense. In fact it wasn't even close. Dillon ran for 6 and 12, Brady threw for 15, Maroney ran for 41, Brady threw for 11 putting the Patriots offense at the nine yard line. It was nice the Bengals didn't give up a touchdown, but when given a chance to cure their ills, they failed miserably. The Bengals defense could have given the Bengals quality field position. But didn't.

I don't want to take anything away from Kyle Larson's and Kelley Washington's effort to down the ball on the six; when was the last time we actually did that? But the conservative call to punt only makes sense if you have the confidence that your defense will give you the ball back - NOT by kickoff. Where that confidence came from is still in question.

A COUPLE GAME NOTES

  • On the Patriots first possession, Brady threw a deep third down pass to Ben Watson. Kevin Kaesviharn was chugging behind the 6'3" 255 pound tight end when Madieu Williams jumped in to break up the pass. Nice play.
  • My thank you Antwain Spann moment came with six minutes left in the first quarter. Josh Miller punted to the Bengals 11 where Keiwan Ratliff motioned for fair catch. Spann nixed Ratliff before the ball came down and was penalized 15 yards. The Bengals scored a field goal on the ensuing drive.
  • How many times did the Bengals call and force a screen pass?
  • Rudi had six carries in the first quarter; eight for the rest of the day.
  • While Kelly Washington had a nice play to prevent a touchback on a punt, he was most visible on the Bengals special teams woes. On Kevin Faulk's 43-yard punt return, Washington was freed up and should have made the tackle at around New England's 15. Washington just stood there watching Faulk run to his left. Washington was also called for two penalties on special teams (illegal block in the back and holding).
PENALTIES
The Bengals committed nine penalties for 74 yards.

Kelley Washington 2, illegal block in the back and holding on kickoff return
Eric Ghiaciuc, snap infraction (double clutching the football)
John Thornton, illegal block in the back
Sam Adams, off-sides (called on Thornton)
Ethan Kilmer, illegal hands to the face
Kevin Kaesviharn, personal foul - illegal blow to the head
Carson Palmer, delay of game
12-men in the huddle

For the season

Willie Anderson 2 (false start, holding)
Carson Palmer 3 (false start and 2 delay of games)
Kelley Washington 2 (illegal block in back, holding)
Kenny Watson (chop block)
Shayne Graham (delay of game)
Eric Steinbach 2 (2 false starts)
Chris Henry, false start)
Ethan Kilmer 2 (false start on punt, illegal hands to face)
Madieu Williams 2 (2 personal foul -- late hit and hands to face)
Landon Johnson, (roughing the passer -- hitting the QB below the knee)
Bryan Robinson 2 (2 personal fouls)
Tory James (illegal contact)
Bobbie Williams (false start)
Eric Ghiaciuc (snap infraction, double-clutch)
John Thornton (illegal block in the back)
Sam Adams (off-sides)
Kevin Kaesviharn (personal foul, blow to the head)

As a team:
Patriots, 9
Steelers, 5
Browns, 9
Chiefs, 5