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Bengals shouldn't take paycheck; they didn't earn anything

Usually I have enough hot air to recap a game, long enough to satisfy the crowds, and informative enough to describe the game; the tempo, the atmosphere, the participation, everything. Examining this pathetic attempt at highly (over)paid professionals pretending to exercise the services in which they "earn", is awfully difficult. Through all this, a single question kept resurfacing. No, not the question about "why we are here", or understanding God's master plan, or if we'll be able to prove the Big Bang Theory (though they're going to try this week). None of that.

The question is, "What was that?!" After much consideration, I choose not to answer that question. Why, after all, would I try to examine such things when the Bengals themselves are relentlessly researching the lore of cursed professional Paul Brown teams (so it would seem). By the way, happy birthday to the greatest football legend of all time. One has to wonder how Paul Brown would react. Well, we kind of know; but why connect this game to Paul Brown when it would certainly rob the greatness of one of football's all-time heroes. And considering that the average reader starts to wonder after so many words, characters and 10-page (12-font) written pages in Word, we'll move on.

The "I told you so" crowd will surface, proving the optimists wrong in their glowing Kool Aid premonitions; foolish enough to take the chocolate bar by the stranger next to the rusted-out full-size white van. Some will plead that we should give the Bengals some time; after all, this was the first game in which T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson are together with Carson Palmer. Sadly, the same questions posed during preseason (like can the team protect Carson Palmer) this time around, have been answered; an embarrassing (and enthusiastic), yes. Yes, everything we saw in the preseason would translate to the first game of the regular season. Beyond that, I really don't want to know. I might even pick up a Sunday afternoon hobby; like knitting or gardening.

This one is totally on the offense. When Palmer wasn't tossed to the ground, he was sensing inevitability; throwing with bad technique, doing this scissor-kick while throwing poorly to double-coverage; or at the super-human linebacker that our "Pro Bowl" receiver couldn't discard. I defended the offensive line when Palmer had his nose bloodied against the Saints, saying that it was the combination of several factors. This time, I'm not pushing the blame. When the Ravens pass rushed Palmer, they were in Palmer's face. Eric Ghiaciuc appeared a hundred pounds lighter than the defensive tackle, arms hugging each other, both shaking Palmer's hand, grateful that it only takes a single play for all three to reunite. If it wasn't up the middle, it was the edge rushers, running around the pocket, forcing Palmer to scramble. Luckily, the self-promoted guy that would fill the void of losing Willie Anderson's leadership (Levi Jones) and the guy paid so much, that it forced the team to convince Anderson that he wanted to leave on his own, were those guys too slow to keep Palmer's peripheral vision clear. Thank god we gave Andrew Whitworth an extension. If I learned one thing today, it's that once Palmer starts moving, he's not throwing the ball; and if he does, he's not throwing it well.

100 Yards. We spoke earlier in the week about how 100-yard rushers give a team more chances to win than 100-yard receivers or 300-yard passers. Guess what? Not only did Chris Perry, Kenny Watson, Houshmandzadeh or Chad Johnson fail to record 100 yards respective to their positions, but Carson Palmer didn't even reach 100 yards passing. Even though Palmer recorded 99 yards passing, in truth, that number is 10 yards padded because sacks are not attached to passing yards. Therefore, the Bengals net yards passing is 89 yards.

200 Yards. The Baltimore Ravens finished with 229 yards rushing; 128 of those yards were recorded in the second half.

Time of Possession: One of the most telling stats that describes the success of a team, is the time of possession (if you have the ball more than the other team, more likely you're winning). The Ravens had the ball for an amazing 23:41 in the second half. The Bengals, on the other hand, had the ball for 4:34 in the third quarter and 1:43 in the fourth (only one possession).

Third Downs: A product of winning the time of possession battle, is converting third downs. This stat is frighteningly awful. Of 13 third downs, the Bengals converted two. On the other hand, the Ravens converted 53% of their third downs (9/17).

Charting both by the quarter:

  Bengals TOP Bengals 3rd Downs Ravens TOP Ravens 3rd Downs
1ST 8:50 1/4 6:10 2/3
2ND 8:38 0/4 6:22 0/5
3RD 4:34 1/4 10:26 3/4
4TH 1:43 0/1 13:17 4/5
  23:45 2/13 - 15% 36:15 9/17 - 53%

In detail, let's break down the Bengals on third downs.

Situation Results
3-15-BAL38 Sacked. Palmer is sacked; the second during back-to-back sacks.
3-1-BAL35 CONVERTED. Palmer picks up two yards on a QB sneak.
3-4-BAL17 Intercepted. Not that it's entirely on Palmer. The ball bounced away from T.J. when Ed Reed hit our "Pro Bowl" wide receiver at the same time as the pass's arrival.
3-2-CIN32 Incomplete. Palmer threw an incomplete to Chris Perry. Even if the Bengals converted, Levi Jones was flagged for illegal formation; which was declined.
3-2-CIN34 Two-yard Loss. Chris Perry gets the handoff. Chris Perry gets dropped two yards short of the line of scrimmage (much less the first down marker.
3-7-CIN15 Incomplete. Palmer misses Chatman on deep pass over the middle.
3-18-CIN29 Seven-yard Pass. Palmer hits T.J. on a pass pattern that's a good 10 yards short of the first down marker.
3-7-BAL27 Two-yard Pass. Palmer hits Ben Utecht on a pass that's five yards short of the first down marker.
3-7-CIN47 Fumble/Incomplete. At first Palmer completed the pass to Utecht that picks up the yardage; but he fumbles it, Rolle recovers and returns it 35 yards. Play reversed after Lewis challenges, and changed to an incomplete pass. Even though Rolle was called for a Delay of Game, the Bengals still have to punt.
3-10-CIN34 CONVERTED. Palmer hits Chad Johnson for a 22-yard gain.
3-11-BAL45 Nine-yard gain. Palmer was forced out of the pocket, again, and scrambles for nine yards. On the next play, the bengals fall two yards short on their fourth down attempt.
3-10-CIN22 Incomplete. Palmer misses T.J. Houshmandzadeh after linebacker Suggs was able to cover our "Pro Bowl" receiver.
3-8-BAL32 Seven-Yard Gain. This is a play that could have been challenged because the spot seemed short. Regardless, it wasn't and after the seven yard pitch set up a fourth-and-inches, Perry is dropped for a one-yard loss.

Of the 13 third down attempts, only four were four yards or less to go; five were 10 yards or more to go. The other four were in-between. In four of the team's first five possessions, the Bengals offense failed to record a first down; in fact, the only times the Bengals punted was after the offense recorded three-and-out (seven of them). Of 12 possessions, eleven ended in three-and-out or turnovers.

Bengals Drives -- how each drive ended.

  1. Punt (three and out)
  2. Interception
  3. Punt (three and out)
  4. Punt (three and out)
  5. Punt (three and out)
  6. Punt (three and out)
  7. Fumble
  8. Field Goal
  9. Punt (three and out)
  10. Turnover on Downs
  11. Punt (three and out)
  12. Turnover on Downs

This defense will not shut teams out. They're just not made up that way. While still in the middle of a rebuilding project with players that were on other teams last year, and tons of youth and inexperience, the Bengals still must rely on the Bengals offense to score 25 points or more. The expected difference this year with our defense is that while they may not win us games, they shouldn't lose them.

Through the first three quarters, I never felt that the defense played collectively bad. They gave up big plays, the 38-yard Joe Flacco run, the 42-yard reverse to Michael Clayton, but it wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Ravens sustained game-killing drives. Yet, I can't fault the Bengals defense for not stepping up while the Ravens milked the clock. When the Bengals offense only holds onto the football for 6:19 in the second half, no defense in the world can beat those odds.

If you examine the Ravens offense, you'll note some successes.

  1. Fumble
  2. Punt (three and out)
  3. Touchdown on trick play
  4. Punt (three and out)
  5. Punt (three and out)
  6. Missed 46-yard Field Goal
  7. Punt (three and out)
  8. Field Goal
  9. Turnover on Downs -- drive went 14 plays, recording 59 yards.
  10. Touchdown
  11. Fumble
  12. Punt (three and out)
  13. End of the game -- drive last 7:15, going 13 plays and 62 yards, ending the game.

Don't be persuaded by guys like Tiki Barber, that point out how awful our defense was. He read the stats that we all read; yet failed to mention the Bengals inability to pick up a first down more possessions than not on offense.

In the first half, the Ravens had five drives that gained nine yards or less. And the drive in which the Ravens missed their field goal, they only ran six plays for 12 yards.Worn down in the second half, the Bengals defense allowed three sustaining drives of 59 yards or more. Remember the second half time of possession discrepancy.

Keith Rivers and Dhani Jones led the team with 10 tackles each. Johnathan Joseph had a tremendous game with five tackles, three passes defended and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Fanene shed off a blocker or two, and Rucker made a nice play on the Ravens possession after Joseph scored the Bengals lone touchdown. Unfortunately, neither the Bengals offense or the defense could capitalize on the momentary shift in momentum.

Still, the Bengals defense has a ton of work to do when it comes to rushing the passer. You had to use both hands to count the seconds before Joe Flacco had to get rid of the ball.

All in all, this was one of the worst games I've ever seen. The offense didn't return the investment for a ridiculously (apparently) group of players that are robbing the team, financially, in the middle of the night. The defense kept the Bengals in the game, but as the second half wore on, so did they.

This isn't something we can just put on Mike Brown, or Marvin Lewis, or Bob Bratkowski, or Carson Palmer, or the Bengals offensive line. No. If you're associated with this team, in any way, everyone should take credit for this shameful, disgusting and embarrassing attempt at actually accepting money to play football.

Note, this isn't the last that we'll speak of this game; it will take a series of other pieces.