Monday's feature piece: Bengals recap on 21-33 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
We're half way through the season and man, we're rock bottom. On defense, it's simply lacking personnel. On offense, it's a bunch of things. So reviewing the midway point of the season, I wanted to run the "I wonder" series.
...if the Bengals turn the ball over on their final two possession in every game.
Against Cleveland, down by six (45-51) with :28 left in the game, Palmer, in shotgun, threw a deep pass down the right sidelines that was intercepted by Leigh Bodden at the Cleveland 27-yard line. Derek Anderson kneels. Bengals lose.
Down by 10 points (17-27) to the Chiefs, with 3:30 left in the game, the Bengals offense sets up with first-and-15 at the Kansas City 46-yard line. Palmer is intercepted by Bernard Pollard at the Kansas City 25-yard line. Bengals would score a field goal on their next possession after the Chiefs wiped out a bunch of time forcing the Bengals to score on two possessions. It didn't happen. After the field goal, the Bengals missed the onside and Damon Huard kneels. Bengals lose.
Down 21-24 with 1:00 left in the game at Seattle, the Bengals had a chance for a game-winning (at least tying) drive. Check that. No chance. Glenn Holt fumbles the kickoff return following the touchdown that gave the Seahawks the lead. Matt Hasselbeck kneels twice. Bengals lose.
The "didn't have a chance, but turned the ball over anyway" portion of this "wonder".
Already down 34-13 with 2:44 left in the game on the Cincinnati 41-yard line, Palmer is picked off by Randall Gay. Two Matt Cassel kneels and the Bengals lose.
Down 33-21 with :18 left against the Buffalo Bills, Palmer is picked off by Kiwaukee Thomas at the Buffalo 4-yard line. Kenny Watson fumbled at the Pittsburgh-16 yard line with 3:27 left in the game, down 24-13.
Even the win against the Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals, with a 27-20 lead and 4:54 left on the clock, Rudi Johnson fumbled on the Cincinnati 16-yard line. Thankfully, an offensive pass interference on Todd Heap, a stingy defensive front holding the Ravens on six plays inside the three-yard line and a Michael Myers interception, proved the turnover late equals losses, wrong. That only applied for that night, of course.
What are the on-pace numbers?
If the first half of the season is an indication of the second half, then here's where we're at -- beyond the obvious 4-12 record.
Carson Palmer will have 32 touchdowns against 20 interceptions and 4,386 yards passing. T.J. Houshmandzadeh will have 124 receptions and 20 receiving touchdowns. Chad Johnson will have 1,558 yards receiving -- which will, at least, make him happy. Kenny Watson will have 1,158 total yards and Skyler Green may break 100 punt return yards for the season. With kickoff returns included, Glenn Holt will have 2,056 total yards.
If Sunday's game was any indication, the Bengals defense has been horrible getting to the quarterback. If you examine the numbers, only one player on this defense has accounted for more than one sack... for the season.
Not Justin Smith, Robert Geathers, John Thornton, Domata Peko or Michael Myers -- each are credited with one. It's not Landon Johnson Madieu Williams, Lemar Marshall, Blue Adams or Ahmad Brooks -- each are credited with one.
The only Bengals defender credited with more than one sack this season is Nedu Ndukwe. The seventh-round rookie has two.
For the season, the Bengals have 12 team sacks. The Giants recorded 12 sacks in one game against the Philadelphia Eagles in week #4. Per unit. Defensive line: 5. Linebackers: 3. Secondary: 4. If you assume Geathers as a linebacker, then it's four sacks, per unit, across the board. See, that's why we give franchise contracts to Smith and Geathers.
About opposing quarterbacks and feature backs.
In the past few game recaps, I've been monitoring the numbers of opposing quarterbacks and feature backs. Here's that chart for both.
There's no way anyone beats the disappointment like our defense. Injury and the ridiculous 32-game suspension on Odell Thurman hurt, badly. And in reality, I fail to see if any other team could recover after losing so much of their expected roster during training camp.
With all things considered, for me, this offense has been very disappointing... perhaps the most disappointing. I understand your confusion. First, let's think in terms of expectations. The Bengals offense has been developed, and financed, as the money-maker. The unit that would score tons of points and win games. The defense had enough players to keep opposing offenses from scoring over 30 points (wrong, Josh, wrong). This offense was assembled with long-term contracts -- the high cost of losing Eric Steinbach -- hoping that a decent run of continuity would provide the necessary shelter after defensive short-comings were never filled by evidence this season's bombardment of big plays.
My point was that this offense was the money-maker. While I know I'm in the minority on this one, most of you agree that this team could only win if the Bengals defense played well enough to keep the Bengals "in it". We expected the defense to be grossly horrible. And that's been fulfilled. So, you're not disappointed on that front. The Bengals offense has scored 30 points or more twice this season. They've also only scored 20 points or less in three games -- four games, total, in 2005.
But if the Bengals are forced to score every time, because the defense can't stop the opposing offense, then the offense's failures are under an unfair microscope.
That point is so justified that I agree with it. But I also think if the Bengals offense wouldn't go three-and-out as much as they do, putting the defense on the field wearing them out well before halftime, then the defense might even be better.
Perhaps a better conclusion is that neither unit (offense or defense) puts the other in a good position to succeed. It is, after all, a team sport. Right?
Nominations for biggest disappointment.
- Johnathan Joseph -- granted, the injury could be a big factor.
- Marvin White -- where is he?
- Robert Geathers -- where are the 10.5 sacks from 2006?
- Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene -- constant disappointments that hold no use for this team.
- Roger Goodell. Had to get this in. Suspended Chris Henry twice for the same offenses committed before the Personal Conduct Policy. Taking revenue from NFL cities playing international games. Odell Thurman serving a 32-game suspension.
- Levi Jones. Abused against Kansas City, the biggest disappointment was his constant rumblings to the press about starting time and total lack of production earlier in the season -- although he's vastly improved.
- Attitude. The mopping and self-centered attitude with Chad Johnson is what you see from a five-year old. Even so, most of Cincinnati is close to turning on the city's superstar.
About Team MVP.
When a team goes 2-6, the acronym MVP, is completely useless and unqualified.
More questions this season.
- Has Madieu Williams done much of anything to warrant a discussion about whether to sign him or not? I'm only wondering because it could Madieu's best opportunity in his career for a big contract -- one of which the Bengals wouldn't likely be able to pay. His experience is about that time when most paydays are cashed.
- I like Justin Smith. Trust me. But if this team pays anything close to what they are this season on the franchise contact, then I give up. I'm done.
- Is Rudi Johnson playing the last season of his career in a Bengals uniform? With Kenny Watson and a returning Kenny Irons and hopefully a healthy Chris Perry, there doesn't seem room for an aging Rudi Johnson that's simply unproductive.
Coming up. The Bengals have to travel to Baltimore and Pittsburgh in two of the next four weeks. They will host Tennessee and Arizona in between then host St. Louis and Cleveland while traveling to San Francisco and Miami to close the season. My biggest fear? Losing to even worse teams like the Rams and Dolphins. I guess the battle for first draft pick can't be too harmful, can it?
About next season.
If the Bengals start planning out 2008, then one has to wonder which direction they'll go. I know they have half a season, but you can never plan too early. If the team expects to rebuild, then trading some talent away should be discussed. The draft picks received could help supplement the lost talent. Allowing free agents to go means more picks. Also, if there's a lockerroom disruption, then you're adding by subtracting, then adding a draft pick. Got it? Who to trade, etc.. I don't know. But planning ahead, now, isn't a bad option. In fact, that could be the one saving grace this organization has with its bitter fans close to jumping off the nearest cliff.
Will the team stick with the status quo and hope for pieces in the draft and free agency? Since it's November, and not March, it's impossible to forecast free agents. Teams will be given the opportunity to re-sign their best talent, if not using the franchise or transitional tags, making it impossible to see who will be available. And I usually depend on others to scout college talent for NFL potential. But can this team have another season where they keep everything together and risk having the same type of season like they're having this year? The fans would revolt.
About the coaches, next season.
I'm convinced that Marvin Lewis will stay. So debating about him leaving is irrelevant -- it won't happen. Sorry to crush your free speech, but you know, it is what it is. Not only did Brown give Lewis a vote of confidence, but historically, Brown is loyal to his head coaches to a fault. Chuck Bresnahan and Darrin Simmons, based on this year, should be gone while they'll likely hold onto Bob Bratkowski -- provided he doesn't find a more lucrative OC position. I also don't see Ken Zampese sticking around (unless he's promoted to OC) simply because he drew interest last year from several organizations. Ken's in his fifth season as quarterbacks coach. Time to bail for promotions else where.