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It's alright to call the Bengals 20-17 loss to Oakland a Mulligan.

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Sometimes it just doesn't work out. That's a lesson we've learned countless times watching football, baseball, or going through the difficult trials of balancing social dominance with academics in high school. Here's what didn't work out for Cincinnati. The Bengals lost in a game that they should have won. That didn't work out. The Bengals' Andre Caldwell received the kickoff after Oakland's game-tying touchdown with :33 seconds left in the game. While trying to get as many yards as he could, Caldwell has the ball stripped by Oakland's Brandon Myers. Caldwell learned a lesson.

"I think I should have gone down. I’ll learn from it now," said the stand-up Caldwell. "Trying to get some extra when there was nothing there. That’s part of being a young guy like me. You live and you learn. I’m going to capitalize the next time I get in that situation. That was a tough feeling. That’s the worst thing in the NFL. You win some, you lose some. The next time I come out I’m going to capitalize on the next play."

What he learned is that sometimes it just doesn't work out. All game, the Bengals worked to give Oakland every chance to stay in the game. But the story just isn't about Caldwell's fumble that sealed Cincinnati's loss. It was the defense allowing 109 yards of total offense to the Raiders in the fourth quarter, when Cincinnati's defense had only allowed 166 yards through the first three quarters. It was the defense allowing 10 points in the final 40 seconds of the game. It was being outscored 20-3 after Carson Palmer's second rushing touchdown. It was reaching the red zone five times, and scoring two touchdowns. A missed Shayne Graham field goal where the Bengals offense had decided to pass on third and goal at the one-yard line. Palmer was sacked.

There were positives. Bernard Scott rushed for 119 yards on 21 carries (a 5.7-yards-per-rush average). The Bengals as a unit, while playing with the lead, remained obsessive about the rushing offense, running the football 43 times. There will be question about the unbalanced offensive attack, but the formula was working even though the Bengals brought their worst-case scenario to Oakland. Still, they converted 46% of their third downs on offense, limiting Oakland to a 36% conversion.

This is how I'm thinking about this weekend. We'll call it a Mulligan weekend. Why? Everyone in the division lost, so this game doesn't hurt the Bengals at all. Sure, they could have increased their lead. But they didn't. Realistically, after the loss, there was no change in the division. And since common-opponent and conference tie-breakers will have no bearing on the division, provided the Bengals at least tie the Steelers and Ravens, then Cincinnati is still in the drivers seat.

Mulligan weekend, I like that. It works.

What happened to Chad Ochocinco? At one point, Chad Ochocinco was on pace for 220 yards receiving on 12 receptions. In the first quarter, Chad caught three passes for 55 yards receiving. Then he disappeared for two quarters. In fact, you have to go all the way until there's seven minutes left in the game the next time Chad was targeted as a receiver in an attempted pass. Roughly 42 minutes and 27 seconds had passed between receptions for Chad.

Rec. Quarter Time Result
# 3 1 :33 15-yard reception.
# 4 4 4:17 12-yard reception

Asked after the game about facing one of the top cornerbacks in the game, Nnamdi Asomugha, Chad said:

Nnamdi is the best in the game hands down, period. He will always be, he will always be until someone goes at him on a consistent basis and it seems like no one tries to, not even us.

Chad is fine though. He's not worried about the season.

Asked if his team could rebound from one of the most devastating losses in his career as the most senior Bengal, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said, "We’ll be fine."

Asked why, The Ocho leaned forward to point to a few lockers down at Palmer and said, "He’s pretty damn good."

The Red Zone is all about missed opportunities. Often times, it's where games are won and lost. The Bengals made five trips to the red zone. If they scored all touchdowns, Cincinnati amasses 35 points on offense. After Palmer's two rushing touchdowns, the Bengals would only go on to score three points in the red zone on their next three trips.

Quarter Time Result
1 7:59 TOUCHDOWN. Offense had a first-and-goal from the one-yard line. Palmer snuck in for the touchdown.
2 8:58 TOUCHDOWN. Bengals ran four straight times starting at Oakland's 20-yard line. Bernard Scott picked up nine yards, Brian Leonard picked up 10 yards and Carson Palmer ran it into the endzone.
3 9:04 Missed FG. Bengals reached Oakland's 19-yard line. They ran seven plays on offense in the red zone, picked up 18 yards. On third-and-goal at the one-yard line, Palmer was sacked, forcing a 37-yard field goal attempt, in which Shayne Graham missed.
3 4:42 Field Goal. Robert Geathers returned a fumble 38 yards to Oakland's 13-yard line. The Bengals ran three plays, gained six yards and converted on a 25-yard field goal.
4 11:37 Lost Fumble. Bengals only ran one play in the red zone on their fifth trip. Jeremi Johnson fumbled rushing up the middle and Oakland recovers.

Jeremi Johnson number called. Bengals turn it over? The Bengals decided to get cute, or tried to give Scott and Leonard a spell, by calling Jeremi Johnson on a rushing attempt with 11:37 left in the game with Cincinnati hanging onto a seven-point lead. Johnson fumbled it -- or maybe he never had control of it. This was Johnson's first rushing attempt since the Bengals 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns on October 4. Why him, and not Larry Johnson, who has more carries in his last three games with Kansas City than Jeremi does his entire career?

Now, to be fair, this is Jeremi's first fumble since the 2005 season -- and as far as I can tell, his first lost fumble since 2004. It was a first-down from Oakland's 14-yard line and Jeremi is typically good for a few yards carrying the football. And in further fairness, the Bengals defense forced a punt and then an interception after Cincinnati's three-and-out. The idea isn't that the fumble led to points for Oakland. It's that the Bengals went from having at least a field goal to hanging back onto their seven-point lead they would eventually lose.

Notes:

  • Cincinnati's 13 points allowed against the Raiders is the most points allowed in the second half since allowing 14 points to the Houston Texans and 13 points to the Cleveland Browns. Trends.
  • Oakland rushed for 92 yards as a team. This is the sixth straight game the Bengals defense hadn't allowed a 100 yards to a team since allowing 146 yards rushing to Cleveland on October 4.
  • The Bengals rushed the football 43 times against Oakland, the second highest of the year (Chicago, 45 attempts).
  • Cincinnati had six different players rush the football.

Goat of the Game. Hate to give this to Andre Caldwell, especially when so many other factors led to the Bengals losing a game they should have won -- and actually having control at one point. But if you fumble on kickoff return during a tie ballgame with half a minute left in the game, setting up a 33-yard game-winning Sebastian Janikowski field goal, what other choice do we have?

Breakout Performance. Last week, Bernard Scott won the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. This week, Scott became the team's feature back, rushed for 119 yards on 21 carries, averaging 5.7 yards-per-rush.

What the hell is going on trend of the game. Coming into Sunday's game, Palmer had recorded six touchdowns and no interceptions in the previous three games. However, after Sunday's game, Palmer has recorded only one touchdown since his five-touchdown performance against the Chicago Bears, and has remained touchdown-less in 11 straight quarters.

On third down, Palmer completed five of seven passes for 109 yards. So why did the Bengals lose the game, you ask, if our quarterback completed five of seven passes for first downs? Palmer was also sacked three times on third down and fumbled a snap.

Joe Reedy writes that nine carries resulted in negative yards and that after going seven of eight for 121 yards in the first quarter, "Palmer was 7 of 14 for 86 yards the rest of the way."

Peter King writes, "Disgraceful loss, but Bengals shouldn't have left it so much to chance at the end in Oakland."

A Larry Johnson thing?

• It's probably just a coincidence, but the Chiefs are 2-0 since jettisoning the high-profile headache named Larry Johnson. Kansas City just won consecutive games for the first time since September 2007, and if the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley regime rebuilds the Chiefs into winners, the overtime upset of Pittsburgh might some day be looked at as the game that began the turnaround.

Bengals are 0-1 with Johnson.

Clark Judge writes, "Maybe the AFC North isn't the strongest division after all. For those keeping score at home, the division was 0-4, with the worst saved for last -- and, yes, I'm talking about the Bengals' loss to Oakland. Now you know why no one trusts Cincinnati."

Bernard Scott was suffering leg cramps, so the Bengals sent in Caldwell to return the kickoff he would eventually fumble.