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Bengals defense... just, wow... in 51-45 loss to Browns

Let's put things in perspective for a second before we react to Sunday's loss. Is the season lost? No, of course not. There's 14 games left in the season and the only tie-breaking scenario that hurt the team is division record. Alternatively, in some cases, a really bad loss wakes teams up labeling that loss as the moment the team "got it". It's happened before. Time will tell in this case.

Were the fans and team demoralized? Yes. The biggest factor was an exploding realization that an average defense will enable this offense to carry the team. Average defense didn't properly describe the Bengals defense on Sunday.

Which brings another question. Was Sunday's game such a freak game, an aberration like 2004, that if you forecasted this game, it would be as disastrous as a meteorologist forecasting the work week using eye witness weather six months early. You have to admit, Sunday's exhibition was more like a Madden video game rather than an NFL game.

Starting the season, the Bengals defense played like a bipolar disorder. After playing well Monday Night, the defense struggled to contain the potent Browns offense Sunday. There's several factors to consider also. Was this a let down game? Was the defensive energy spent after Monday? We also need to give credit where its due. The Browns offense picked up every Bengals blitz which means miles of open receivers. Was Monday's game a product of a horrible Ravens offense? I partially agree with this suggestion. But I also believe the Bengals defense put the Ravens offense on their heals forcing them to make unforced errors. They didn't do that Sunday. When it was all said and done, the Bengals defense ran zone schemes that allowed Anderson to play like a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Regardless, nothing changes the fact that the Bengals defense was embarrassing. It's the bulk of the reason why we lost. The heroes of Monday Night were the goats Sunday afternoon.

It is what it is.

Bengals blitzing had plenty of effect... for the Browns offense. I counted each time the Bengals blitzed during a Cleveland Browns pass. I eliminate possible blitzes on rushing plays and goalline situations. I counted a blitz being five or more rushers. In the game, I counted 14 blitzes by the defense. Anderson completed nine passes on 14 attempts for 158 yards and two touchdowns. That translates to a 142.3 passer rating. This included:

  • 25-yard TD pass to Winslow. Lemar Marshall and Landon Johnson blitzed while Caleb Miller pushed forward slightly to watch the QB and hopefully knock down the pass. Neither blitzers made any impact. Johnathan Joseph was on Kellen Winslow. While Winslow ran up field, Joseph twisted his hips to protect against the outside routes. Winslow moved in creating the separation needed for the touchdown.
  • 37-yard pass TD pass to Edwards. Dexter Jackson flew up to the line of scrimmage to blitz -- Lemar Marshall was the other. Jackson was picked up by the running back creating a one-on-one situation with rookie Leon Hall. However, Hall played the underneath zone while no safeties played over the top. Once Edwards passed Hall on a seam route, Anderson threw the pass. Edwards caught the pass falling to the ground and rolled into the endzone.

It's one thing to blitz. But it's another thing to blitz 14 times, putting absolutely no pressure on the quarterback opening a radius with receivers 20-30 yards wide open. A word of note: take my charts for what they are -- not official.

The Browns touchdown drives went plays of: 7, 3, 5, 8, 1 and 5.

A note on the rush defense. Honestly, I didn't come away discouraged by the Bengals rush defense. Jamal Lewis had two long runs of 66 (touchdown) and 47 yards. You take out those runs (called mental mistakes) and Lewis runs for 102 yards rushing on 26 attempts (3.9 yards per). Yes, it's still 102 yards rushing. But that's way less than 215 yards rushing. MADDENISM.

Quickly, let's examine the two long runs.

  • On the 66-yard touchdown run. Justin Smith took an inside stunt into the middle of the line. John Thornton was double teamed by the left guard, who chipped off onto Miller. Marshall filled the wide open gap but had to take on the full back and couldn't shed the block. Edwards blocked out Hall. Williams ran down the right sidelines, I guess to contain Lewis from breaking off to the outside. He just ran where Williams should have been. Lewis went nearly untouched. I would say that the Bengals ran a stunt that took them entirely out of position to make the play.
  • On the 47-yard run. Derek Anderson handed the ball off to Lewis on a delayed handoff. Smith was pushed way outside. John Thornton was double teamed by the left guard and center. Winslow came out and blocked Marshall. Miller held his ground and waited for the blocking full back. Being away from the play, both Peko and Geathers were blocked out. Williams came in to make it eight-in-the-box but he was on the opposite side. Jackson tried to tackle high and just fell. Leon Hall was blocked by the wide receiver.

NOTE: Browns wide receivers did a great job all day blocking cornerbacks.

Furthermore, I thought the defensive line had a strong outing. Perhaps I'm just looking for positive reinforcement. We are the kings of finding some positive in a bail of frustrations. Justin Smith (9 tackles), Michael Myers (5 tackles) and John Thornton (5 tackles) were three of the top four leading tacklers. Smith specifically, was everywhere on the line of scrimmage -- when he wasn't stunting or pass rushing on rushing plays. Peko (4 tackles) was just as good. The defensive line's biggest hole Sunday was their lack of pass rush.

The Browns had first-and-five at the Bengals five-yard line with seven minutes left in the game. The Bengals were down 38-48. A touchdown would likely take away any chance at a comeback -- which they had later. On first down, Peko shed off the guard and worked down the line to make the stop. Without that stop, the Browns likely score. On 2nd-and-one at the Cincinnati-1, Peko threw off the center and stuffed Lewis for no gain. Geathers helped on the stop. This forced Cleveland to throw on third-and-one at the Cincinnat-1. After heavy pressure by Justin Smith and Lemar Marshall, Derek Anderson threw the ball away. Browns kick a Field Goal.

Why is this significant? Because the Bengals were only down by 13 with over five minutes to play instead of being down by 17. With the way this game was going, scoring twice, with the hopes of stopping Cleveland was realistic. As it came to be, this was Cleveland's last score and the Bengals scored a touchdown on the next drive but threw a pick on the potential game-winning drive.

What they're saying.

"Obviously, it was not a very good performance. We didn't play well in any of the three phases. It's very disappointing on how we played defensively. We didn't play well on third down. We allowed them to rush for over 200 yards and we weren't very sharp. As the game went on we seemed to invent some things and tried to do too much individually. Offensively, we hung in there, although we didn't do as well on third down as we know we are capable of. We had chances, but came up a little short."
- Marvin Lewis' initial comments.

Most defensive players are putting the blame on mental errors.

"It wasn't the physical things, it was more mental lapses defensively. We didn't pressure the quarterback or cover receivers. It was all of us that made mistakes."
- John Thornton on poor execution.

"It's ridiculous. At this level of football you can't have mental errors. Letting guys run down the field, that's what killed us. We had a couple of missed tackles and a couple missed plays from mental errors."
- Justin Smith on the loss.

By the numbers

  • At the end of the first half, Chad Johnson caught a 22-yard pass giving him the all-time receiving record. Johnson only needed 82 yards receiving and finished with 209 yards. Chad now has 7,229 yards receiving and the all-time record that will undoubtedly build for several seasons. His 209 yards performance was three more than Cris Collinsworth's 206 yards for third best single-game performance. Chad owns the record with 260 yards receiving against San Diego (11/12/06) with Eddie Brown's 216 yard performance on November 8, 1988 in second.
  • Justin Smith's nine total tackles (as per was the most since he recorded 10 against Baltimore on November 5, 2006.
  • Carson Palmer's six touchdowns is a franchise best. Boomer Esiason threw five touchdowns twice in a single-game (12/21/1986 vs. Jets, 10/29/89 vs. Tampa Bay). Palmer's 401 yards passing is the eight game, in his career, passing for 300 yards or more tying Jeff Blake for third all-time. Ken Anderson has 19 games with 300 yards or more and Boomer Esiason has 23.
  • Rudi Johnson's 118 yards rushing is the 19th game with 100 yards or more -- nine away from Corey Dillon (28) for most 100-yard games in team history.


The Bengals were once again hurt by injury. Ahmad Brooks left the game early with a groin problem and didn't return. Johnathan Joseph left with a wrist injury and missed the entire second half. Tab Perry left early with a hamstring problem and didn't return.

The rise of another. While Tab Perry left the game early, it gave another the chance to rise. And Glenn Holt rose. He played with guts. He limped around the field. He took a massive helmet-to-helmet shot and still played. Glenn Holt finished the game with five receptions for 52 yards receiving and a touchdown with 174 kickoff return yards. One return went 65 yards that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson.

Holt should get some votes for best overall performance by the team, for the team.

Penalties (3)

  • Stacy Andrews, false start.
  • Andrew Whitworth, false start
  • Carson Palmer, delay of game

Penalties for the season (8)

  • Andrew Whitworth -- 2 false starts.
  • Stacy Andrews -- false start
  • Carson Palmer -- delay of game
  • Reggie Kelly -- offensive holding
  • Madieu Williams -- illegal contact
  • Nate Lawrie -- personal foul, face mask
  • 12-men on the field.

Sacked. Palmer was only sacked once Sunday. Roba Smith simply ran around Whitworth. That brings the yearly total to two sacks. The first, against Baltimore, was miscommunication among the line. Kooistra should have blocked in and Watson was supposed to block down. Both Kooistra and Watson targeted the same game opening up lane for #95-J.Johnson.

Quick thoughts. I thought Bobbie Williams and Stacy Andrews played very mediocre. Williams, at least twice, completely whiffed on rush blocks while Andrews was late getting to his guy.

No Jones. For the second time in as many games, Jones was listed as "Did Not Play." It's normally difficult to see who comes in and out for the offensive line. The television guys rarely say anything. Most of that information comes from the radio broadcast. Even after watching a second time, I didn't see Jones and at no point did the radio or television broadcast say anything about Jones being in. However, Dustin Dow pointed out in Curnutte's blog that he played some. No one else that I've seen made mention.

Bengals offense, not good early. You know the old saying. You have to get out to a quick start, when you're on the road. Otherwise, you let the other team think they have a chance. Even the Bengals offense struggled early. After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, Palmer was sacked to start the second drive and threw a pick after a 1-yard Rudi Johnson run. After picking up ten yards on the next drive, the Bengals went 2-yard run and back-to-back incompletes. Punt. On the next drive, Rudi Johnson fumbled.

On three drives following the opening touchdown, the Bengals offense went interception, punt and fumble on nine total plays. After the fumble, the Browns scored taking a 13-7 lead. The Bengals gave up 10 points on turnovers.

Third down conversions (Bengals 5-11, Browns 7-13)

Bengals Sit. Result   Browns Sit. Result
1 3-16-CIN21 Interception.   1 3-8-CLE39 Anderson incomplete to Edwards. Browns punt.
2 3-8-CIN35 Incomplete.   2 3-1-CIN28 Lewis, one-yard run. First down.
3 3-2-CIN34 Palmer completes pass to T.J. for 5 yards.   3 3-6-CIN22 Fumble. Incomplete. Field Goal.
4 3-1-CLE2 Palmer sneaks. Didn't make it. Field Goal.   4 3-7-CIN22 Incomplete. Miller should have picked. Field Goal.
5 3-8-CLE14 Palmer completes 14-yard TD pass to Chad.   5 3-13-CIN41 Anderson completes 20-yard pass to Winslow.
6 3-10-CLE27 Palmer completes 22-yard pass to Chad.   6 3-6-CIN17 17-yard TOUCHDOWN pass to Jurevicius.
7 3-2-CLE43 Palmer incompletes to Kelly. Bengals punt.   7 3-9-CIN9 9-yard TOUCHDOWN pass to Jurevicius
8 3-15-CIN45 Incomplete pass to Chad.   8 3-6-CLE26 Anderson completes 19-yard pass to Edwards.
9 3-10-50 Incomplete to T.J.   9 3-9-CIN44 Anderson completes 10-yard pass to Winslow.
10 3-10-CLE18 Palmer completes 11-yard pass to Chad.   10 3-6-CLE46 Anderson completes a 5.5 yard pass to Jurevicius
11 3-2-CIN17 Palmer completes three yard pass to Rudi.   11 3-G-CIN1 Anderson incomplete pass.
        12 3-8-CLE36 Anderson completes eight yard pass to Edwards. Mythical first down.
        13 3-4-50 Lewis runs for one yard. Punt

Season starts.

POS. Week #1 Week #2
QB Palmer Palmer
RB R. Johnson R. Johnson
FB D.Coats (2nd TE) J. Johnson
WR C. Johnson C. Johnson
WR Houshmandzadeh Houshmandzadeh
TE Kelly Kelly
LT Whitworth Whitworth
LG Andrews Andrews
C Ghiaciuc Stepanovich
RG Williams Williams
RT Anderson Anderson
POS Week #1 Week #2
LE Geathers Geathers
DT Peko Peko
DT Thornton Thornton
RE Smith Smith
WB L. Johnson L. Johnson
MB Brooks Brooks
SB Marshall Marshall
SS Jackson Jackson
FS Williams Williams
CB Hall Joseph
CB O'Neal O'Neal