The Bengals defense in the second half played like champions. Carolina went three and out on the first two possessions of the second half and a third three-and-out two possessions later. In the second half, the Panthers offense went punt, punt, punt, punt, interceptions and end of game. DeShaun Foster ran only four times for 13 yards. Kevin Kaesviharn made a game saving interception with 3:50 left in the game preserving the lead. Madieu Williams shut drives down and Ahmad Brooks was simply a blitzing maniac. The offense found a rhythm we haven't seen since last season with the most insane call I've seen in the NFL on fourth down... ever. But...
IT WAS THE DRIVE BEFORE THE PLAY
OK, let me preface this by saying, if this play doesn't work, Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski would be kindly regarded as the worst coordinator in NFL history by Cincinnatians. After the game, he said, "they would burn down my house." I'm assuming `they' would indicate fans.
The drive in general was a game winning drive; but it didn't start that way. Bengals start at their own four-yard line with 14:08 left in the fourth. On first down, the Panthers blitzed with Chris Draft coming off the edge. Rudi Johnson went inside, obviously blocking. Draft found a lane and sacked Palmer for a 10-yard loss. I'm sure Rudi was designated to block any incoming linebackers but he was stuck in the middle. After that, I thought, oh no. We're on the four-yard line and Palmer was forced to roll around on the last three plays of the last possession.
On second down, Palmer, to my surprise, dropped back and found Stewart who "manly-like" bounced off two Panthers for 19 yards. That play saved the eventual game winning drive. On third and one, Palmer drops back and quickly passes to T.J. doing a quick zigzag (I think that's all he does) picking up 10 yards. Bengals Picked up first down #1.
On the next play, Palmer passes to Chad streaking up-field for 11. Bengals Picked up first down #2.
Bengals offense lines up first and ten at the Cincinnati 44 with twelve minutes left in the game. Palmer drops back, looks around and passes to Rudi Johnson running a swing pass picking up four yards. On the next play, Rudi was stuffed for a one-yard loss setting up third-and-eight. Rediscovering a sense of rhythm, Palmer drops back and passes to Antonio Chatman who ran a deep hook route for nine yards. Bengals Picked up first down #3.
Bengals offense starts a new set of downs at the Carolina 44-yard line. Palmer drops back and throws deep down the left sideline. Problem is Ken Lucas out ran Chad and Palmer overthrew Chad. Should, coulda, woulda. Lucas gave back his gift from the football gods dropping the interception. After Rudi picked up two yards, Palmer tossed to T.J. on third-and-eight and picked up seven setting up the biggest moment of the game.
BRAT CALLED THAT?!
It was fourth-and-one at Carolina's 35-yard line. Obviously this is in Shayne Graham's range - remember 62-yard field goal attempt? There was 9:13 left in the game and a field goal would have brought the Bengals within one. Of course, I'm shouting, "just go for it!" as was the entire Tri-County region. And they did. Fourth-and-one situations are usually determined with a run or a quick rollout pass to a tight end running a skinny fade or a quick slant. Usually low risk plays are called to ensure the best plays work in a situation that you MUST gain one yard.
Not Bob Bratkowski. How does play-action deep-pass to Chad Johnson sound? To Bob, it was perfect. What's amazing is that Chad actually caught the ball. When the pass went into the air, with a defender stuck at his hip, it almost looked like Chad was temporarily blinded by the defender. On the biggest risk play in the book in a situation that calls for lowest risk play in the book, the Bengals picked up 35-yards. I truly think this play sacked the spirit of the Panthers defense. While the Panthers had two possessions afterwards, this really was the "game over" moment of the day. One illegal-hand-to-the-face-later and the Bengals scored on a touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Rudi said it perfectly, "It's just great players making great plays."
THIRD AND OUT
I feel like I'm obligated to comment about this. It was displayed on every graphic early in the game with the Bengals radio crew (read: Lap) commented on how you can't have three-and-outs after every possession. Starting the game with four straight three-and-outs was pretty disheartening. Thankfully the defense covered the offense today. Since the Bengals won, this is an obligatory post rather than negative condemnation. (Is there positive condemnation?) Yeap, that's all I got on this one.
NOT TOO SHABBY ROOK
The Panthers got the ball back after the Bengals touchdown with 8:01 left in the game. On first down, Bryan Robinson pressured Jake Delhomme to overthrow Drew Carter deep. On second down, Delhomme completed a six-yard pass to Keyshawn Johnson. Deltha O'Neal made the initial hit and Johnathon Joseph finished him off. On third down, Delhome threw a quick pass to Keyshawn running a crossing pattern. Joseph swatted the pass forcing a three-and-out and punt. Marvin said of Joseph after the game: "Jonathan's been very competitive, and he's been very good."
THE TALE OF TWO STORIES
This is what I wrote in the game-log when Kevin Kaesviharn intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in the end-zone to seal the win against Pittsburgh. "Kevin K. picks off the pass in the end-zone to seal this one up. Ben and the Steelers were moving the ball and had the ball at 1st-and-10 on the Cincinnati 16 with :43 seconds left. Game over. Bengals win 28-20. Hell YEA!"
Pretty lifeless if you ask me. So I promised myself I would jazz it up next time Kevin Kaesviharn intercepted a pass in the end-zone to seal a victory. "Interception!!!!! Delhommme, on third and goal at the ten, threw a prayer to K.Johnson with KK right in the middle. Picked it off. GOOOOOO BENGALS.. kill the clock!" No, I'm not correcting the spelling of "Delhommme" - it was a pretty emotional moment.
Ahmad Brooks is a monster. First-and-ten on Carolina's 39-yard line; Brooks, with near perfect timing, jumped through the offensive line at the snap. Delhomme had enough time to turn and take one step before being dropped. The significance of this play is that Carolina had just converted a first down on a 17-yard pass. The sack put the Panthers "behind schedule" and Carolina punted two plays later.
Brooks finished with five tackles, a sack and a pass deflection.
SECOND HALF STUDS
In the second half, the Bengals offense ripped off 242 yards on 45 plays and recorded 15 first downs.
- Palmer's second half numbers: 16-26, 184 yards and a touchdown.
- Rudi's second half numbers: 16 carries for 63 rushing yards.
- Chad's second half numbers: 4 receptions for 63 yards.
- T.J.'s second half numbers: 6 receptions for 57 yards.
- Jake Delhomme's second half numbers: 7-16, 95 yards and an interception
- Deshawn Foster's second half numbers: Four carries for 13 yards.
- Steve Smith's second half numbers: Four receptions for 88 yards.
Madieu Williams was everywhere. He was blitzing, covering and hitting. Two stood out in my mind.
On the first play of the Panthers' second half possession, Madieu Williams lined up on the right showing blitz. At the snap, Williams started up field at the same time Delhomme took the snap and looked left towards a sitting Steve Smith. With Williams in the passing lane, Delhomme threw the pass and Williams slapped it down. The Panthers never picked up a first down on that possession.
On the Panthers' drive late in the game, Steve Smith picked up 18 yards to the left on a quick pass. Williams was called for a major facemask giving the Panthers offense 33 yards on the play. On the Cincinnati 48, Landon Johnson and Williams blitzed putting the cornerbacks on an island. Delhomme saw Steve Smith on Tory James and threw it deep. James, twisted around, makes a horrible attempt at playing defense as Smith hauled down the 23 yard pass. In a matter of two plays, the Panthers offense picked up 56 yards. After a 15-yard run by Foster, the Panthers set up at the Cincinnati 10-yard line with 4:10 left in the game. Brooks and Landon Johnson came on a blitz forcing Delhomme to quickly dump the pass off to Steve Smith who was running a crossing pattern. If you watch the film, you see Williams picked up Smith as soon as he broke into the pattern. Delhomme tosses to Smith and Williams blew him up. Smith laid on the ground for a bit after that.
After that play, the Panthers went incomplete and then interception. Game over.
WHAT THE HECK?
Remember the play when Steve Smith pulled down a 36-yard pass? Landon Johnson, running stride for stride with the wide receiver, had his back to the pass as Smith jumped over Johnson for the amazing reception. It was a bad mismatch from the beginning. Smith was lined up left (maybe in the slot) with Williams covering. At the snap, Williams blitzed and was picked up by the offense. Delhomme saw Johnson was on Smith (via zone?) and trusted his receiver enough to make the more athletic play. Mission accomplished.
The Bengals played a very clean game on offense and defense. Three of the team's five penalties occurred on special teams. Andrew Whitworth was called for a false start late in the first half and Madieu was called for a major facemask late in the second half.
On third down, Palmer went 8 of 12 for 83 yards. He threw one touchdown and converted six third down passes. He targeted T.J. Houshmandzadeh on five attempts completing three - two for first down. Chris Perry caught two third down passes and converted one. Antonio Chatman caught a nine yard pass converting a long first down. Reggie Kelly's touchdown reception was on third and seven. Watson was targeted once on third down but failed to connect.