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Week 15 Recap: The Routine of The Weird

With a lot on their minds and plenty at stake, the Bengals traveled West and fought valiantly in their Playoff dress rehearsal but still fell just short. That strange cloud of the unexpected continues to trail this team like Pigpen's dirt, first aiding the Bengals in their fourth-quarter comeback only to take it all back with another bizarre play against them when it really mattered.

Alas, it is hope, pride and encouragement that I have for this team after the loss. Respectfully putting aside the emotional damage the players are still working to repair after Chris Henry's death, the men on the field directly addressed many of the growing concerns voiced by the fan base and media over the past few weeks.

The offense found itself in a situation not all that unfamiliar to it: trailing in the second half in a huge game. Most knew this would be a game won through the air---except me, of course. The San Diego defense committed itself to stop runs up the middle, so Carson Palmer and his fleet went to work in the passing game. And guess what? It turns out that they actually can pass!

Carson went deep, quieting a large and impatient sector of the Bengal-fan community. He found ways to use Laveranues Coles and Andre Caldwell, relieving another crowd of critics. Quan Cosby made a couple of pivotal catches. Jeremi Johnson also caught passes---without fumbling---in some key spots of the game. J.P. Foschi was disguised as, dare I say, a pass-catching tight end. There were no passes thrown to Dan Coates! Life was grand; they were going to win!

And then an impact like that which created Earth's moon, smashed the ball from Caldwell's hands and rocketed it backward in a way many have never seen; how could there be a spiral on a fumble?

The ultimate point is that they put themselves in a position to win by adapting their attack and style of play; something many insisted was not possible for the Cincinnati Bengals. They proved that their beleaguered passing game can exceed 60 miles-per-hour when it needs to and that Palmer can still rise to the occasion of the grand stage. What all of this means is that teams will have to pick their poison when defending us; play the run and face Carson & Co., or play with deep safeties and live with being mauled by the run. Either way, a potentially effective counterattack exists within this Bengals team, and that alone is reassuring.

The defense also responded well. Leon Hall did not have his best day as a pro, but he did make a handful of plays and to single him out as the reason for the loss makes analytical sense but for some reason doesn't feel right. He's a good corner who had a bad day, it happens; unfortunately, his mistakes directly affected the outcome of the game. Hall will continue to play well, and I bet he'd like another shot at Vincent Jackson to clear up that black eye on his resume.

Keith Rivers, a man singled out last week within these very pages for disappearing and rarely making meaningful plays, decisively shut me up. His interception was masterful---to fight off Antonio Gates and make that kind of catch takes serious concentration indeed---and he followed it up with a fourth-quarter sack (a sack helped by Leon Hall's coverage). Chinedum Ndukwe flew all over the field racking up double-digit tackles and applied nice pressure on safety blitzes. Dhani Jones, another player often criticized in this blog, played very well in the middle and even had some nice coverage on two occasions.

On the last pass of the game, Mike Zimmer sent a risky blitz and Hall gave too much cushion away from the sideline. It was not the right move on either man's part, but it's too late to fix now. The redeeming part to all of this is that there's a chance all of it could happen again, and next time, things may turn out better. After all, this team drags the unexpected around with it; anything can happen with these guys.


At least we now know that the Bengals can compete with at least one of the supposed big dogs of the AFC. That means that if the Bengals can beat the Chiefs on Sunday, we can all attend the Playoff Party and really enjoy ourselves instead of waiting to be caught as an imposter and thrown out for being underage.

Let's take care of business this weekend and relax. We deserve it.  

Mojokong---All those growing their playoff beards prematurely should shave this week to be sure that you aren't the jinx among us. I'm serious.