Lance McAlister, on his blog today, is trying his best to prove the team's play-calling did what was available to them -- even though the players are criticizing the play calling THEMSELVES. I think it's a valid point, but it really didn't discuss the play-calling when the team had time and the score was in their favor (winning or losing by six).
But the easiest thing to do is criticize; the toughest thing to do is back it up.
The Bengals passed 36 times and ran 18 times
Do me a favor.....click on the play by play and check out the play calls/situation
It wasn't until midway through the fourth quarter when the Bengals offense was down by two scores that they were put in "must throw" situations on all downs. Running the ball was still a viable option -- especially on first down.
If you take away the team's last drive of the first half and the team's final drive of the game, the offense STILL passed more than they ran on first-and-ten. When they did run on first down, they picked up 58 yards on a 6.4 yards-per-carry average. When Palmer threw on first down and the offense ran on second, they picked up yards of eight, two and -1.
When Shayne Graham kicked his 41-yard field goal to tie the game, the Bengals offense ran the ball one time -- a seven-yard loss on T.J. Houshmandzadeh's end-around. Brilliant call there. How many games have we run end-around twice in a game and gotten stuffed the second time?
How about being less predictable and gain a first down or two by at least having THAT option to continue drives? As it was, Atlanta expected pass and didn't honor the run. As a result, we punted.
It's just a difference in opinions. I've always been one to believe you run the ball to continue drives and help pick up first downs. It's all about predictability. The players have spoken openly about it and even Pam Oliver briefly touched on it during the game.
This isn't the team of 2005 where predictability really wasn't a problem. Palmer doesn't have the time and our skill players finally played together for the first time this season. The line, as well as they've been playing, aren't as great as they were last season.
On the Bengals first drive of the second half, Palmer threw incomplete on first down. Obviously on second down, the defense is looking for a run -- Rudi loses a yard. After an Eric Ghiaciuc false start, Palmer threw another incomplete. Punt.
On the second drive, Rudi ran five times and Palmer passed four times -- one play was a "no play" after penalty. Eventually, the balanced offense scored a field goal to tie the game at 20.
On the third drive, we call a high-risk end around similar to the one called earlier in the game. We lost seven yards and another five after Ghiaciuc was called for a snap infraction. Obviously now, we must pass to pick up 22 yards; which we didn't. Punt.
On the fourth drive, with 7:42 left in the game and down by nine, the Bengals dropped back to pass six times eventually being forced to punt. Yes, the team could have ran on this drive but didn't. Was time an issue? Not really. At this point you needed to score and put together a good drive. If you don't score, the following possessions really don't matter; especially with the Falcons defense sitting on the pass from this moment on.
Of course, all this is in hindsight and I don't blame Lance for sticking up for Bratkowski. I think we can find blame anywhere. Well, that is except for the Bengals running game -- they were on vacation.
Am I wrong? Maybe. I just know that none of our touchdown drives, with rush attempts included, lasted longer than 4:28