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The morning after...

What people on the NFL Network saw last night (all 10 of them) was a Bengals team, under the direction of Head Coach Marvin Lewis, that put season long adversity (off-the-field issues and injury) behind them in exchange for an impression that has all of us certain that Cincinnati will be in the playoffs. People saw a defense that dominated the line of scrimmage and made plays on third down. People saw why Chad Johnson is the best receiver in the league. People saw how ruckus the Jungle was and how loud our 12th man is.

But as fans, what did you see?. Here are a few quick observations I had during the game:

  • Sam Adams is playing like we expected him to when he signed as a free agent. He was disruptive against the run forcing Jamal Lewis to run parallel and make his cuts in the backfield.
  • I've been nothing but impressed since the Bengals signed Dexter Jackson. He had his best game against the Ravens Thursday night coming off the corner bringing down Lewis from behind around the line of scrimmage.
  • Rashad Jeanty and Caleb Miller are doing a great job filling in for David Pollack and Odell Thurman.
  • Johnathan Joseph will be a shutdown cornerback in time. He nearly picked off four passes -- the last one would have certainly sealed the shutout.
  • Marvin Lewis, through the off-the-field drama and injuries, has done a tremendous job keeping this team focused.
  • I'm convinced the Bengals have the deepest offensive line in the league.
  • Chris Henry is the most over-hyped player on this team -- at least this season. Not only has he embarrassed this organization, but he drops a lot of passes. Sure, he's a good downfield threat hauling down those over the shoulder catches. But his drops on third-down and in the end-zone hurt this team.
  • Jeremi Johnson should be our short yardage back on 3rd-and-short.

Paul Daugherty views the Bengals right now with guarded optimism.

You just don't know, do you? The Bengals are as schizophrenic as the weather lately. Just when you think you have them figured, their defense nearly records a second consecutive shutout. Left for dead three weeks ago, the Bengals now are rising faster than Google stock. They've won three in a row after losing three in a row, after opening the year with three straight wins.

Who-Dey?

Who knows?

Daugherty goes on to praise Cris Collinsworth's performance in the booth -- a praise I concur with.

Cris Collinsworth is that rare TV Head who is smart, critical and unafraid. For every 100 ex-jocks and in the TV booths and studios, leading cheers, yukking it up, spewing inanities as if they were gospel and generally having "good success,'' there is one Collinsworth. Bright and insightful, he's almost enough to make you turn up the volume before games and between plays.

ESPN.com's Michael Smith came away impressed with the defense:

...lately the Bengals' defense has been no joke. When their team's doing well the locals like to chant, "Who dey think dey gonna beat dem Bengals?" Perhaps the more accurate rhetorical question would be, "Who dey think dey gonna score on dem Bengals?"

Rob Boller of the Columbus Dispatch says (with multiple remarks about the NFL Network):

...the Bengals gave those lucky enough to watch the game — and that was not most of you, thanks to NFL greed and cable TV gluttony — a nearly flawless performance.

Unlike most of you, the Bengals barely missed a thing in their 13-7 win. Their offense clicked against a supposedly overpowering Ravens defense. Their defense turned Baltimore into the Cleveland Browns, coming 61 seconds from a second consecutive shutout.

The Bengals played with more desperation than a fan in Columbus trying to find a place to watch the game, because they had no other choice. A loss would have dropped them to 6-6 and severely damaged their playoff hopes. It also would have clinched the AFC North title for Baltimore.

I thought the flea-flicker worked primarily because of T.J. Houshmandzadeh. When the ball was snapped and Carson Palmer handed off to Rudi Johnson, Ed Reed bit for a second. It added to the deception when T.J. ran at Ed Reed acting like he was going to block him. Then he was shot out of cannon and sprinted upfield; Reed never had a chance.

"It's not a timing thing. It's more of a feel thing," the Bengals receiver said following Cincinnati's 13-7 win against the Ravens. "I have to get my Denzel Washington on a little bit. I have to be acting a little bit."

This photo was on NFL.com this morning. It's one of my favorites. Quick, where's Peko?

Mark Curnutte points out the Bengals "won the three games in a rugged 12-day stretch and outscored opponents 74-23." During the broadcast, a graphic went up that the Bengals have never shutout their opponents for seven straight quarters.

The Bengals set a franchise record by holding opponents scoreless for seven straight quarters. They went 123:20 without allowing a point - bettering the mark of 110:02 from a three-game stretch in October 1980.

I thought it was pretty neat that Chad Johnson surpassed Cris Collinsworth's career yards receiving total while Collinsworth was in the booth broadcasting the Bengals game for the first time since... well, I'm not sure.

OK, this Enquirer.com photo maybe better:

I said this yesterday, but before I die, I want to par-tay with Bootsy Collins.

WHATS NEXT?

The Bengals, after a ten day layoff, will play host to the Oakland Raiders then the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football.

Take a deep breath and enjoy the ride [Enquirer]
Collinsworth honest, sensible; how did he ever get on the air? [Enquirer]
Bengals defense finally showing some teeth again [ESPN]
Center Wilkerson makes debut in place of the injured Ghiaciuc [Enquirer]
Young center Wilkerson answers call [Post]
Injuries shove Wilkerson into lineup for first time [Columbus Dispatch]
Bengals put on show for lucky few who saw it [Columbus Dispatch]
Acting job made flea flicker work [Post]
Flea-flicker catches Ravens' Reed off-guard [DDN]
Trick play, tough 'D' lift Bengals [DDN]
Stakes high, intensity low for Ravens [Enquirer]
Zeroing in on the playoffs [Enquirer]
Chad's hands got in the way this time [Enquirer]
Stars come out for night matchup [Enquirer]
Talk about turnabout: Defense has right stuff [Post]
Bengals defense rattles Ravens [Columbus Dispatch]
Low-profile Bengals give team boost [DDN]
Stars lined up, and almost goose eggs [Post]