Here's the facts through two games. The Cincinnati Bengals lost on a fluke last-second 87-yard touchdown deflection to Brandon Stokley. Before that, the Bengals offense put together a game winning drive that spanned over 90 yards to take the lead. In the world of shoulda/coulda, the Bengals should have won that game. However, they didn't. And we're not harping on the BS at PBS to remind you that it, in fact, did happened; at least not with ESPN and CBS around to remind us. There's solace. It took a fluke play to beat us. Even though we lost, starting the season at 0-1, if teams have to say that they beat us on a fluke play, then fine. They couldn't do it any other way.
Enter week two, where the Bengals defense was far superior than the 24 points showed. Charles Woodson's interception gave the Green Bay offense the ball at the Bengals 11-yard line. Sure, the defense could have held. And most of the afternoon, they did. However, the defense couldn't pick up for Palmer's mistake; who also threw a pick-six to Woodson. Damn Woodson. Never liked him. He's a Michigan guy, you know.
What's far more encouraging -- like miles more encouraging -- is even though Palmer made two mistakes that led to points for the Packers, the Bengals offense was as good as we've seen it in a very long time. Credit the Bengals offensive line for Benson's sixth career 100-yard rushing performance. In fact, the 141 yards rushing he recorded against the Green Bay Packers is his second best career effort -- his best being a 171-yard effort against the Cleveland Browns. Also something else to consider, Benson has four 100-yard rushing performances in 14 games as a Cincinnati Bengal. He only had two in 35 games as a Chicago Bear.
Carson Palmer's two interceptions were bad; in fact, scary bad. However, he rebounded beautifully. After throwing his second interception to Charles Woodson that led to a pick-six, Palmer completed 10 of 15 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 139.7. Laveranues Coles rebounded nicely also after last week's performance. He didn't drop passes and a large part of the team's successful rushing attempts was a result of great blocking by Coles. Oh, and he recovered a fumble on perhaps the most important (and chaotic) drive of the game after Coats fumbled the football on third-and-34.
The fact is this. The Bengals are here to play football and they're playing it well. Offensively, we struggled against the Broncos. There's no logic in denying that. Against the Packers, they established great sustaining drives. Defensively, what can you say? Rey Maualuga and Antwan Odom played miles above expectations and Roy Williams, while he not flashy, cleaned up a lot of messes left by the Bengals front seven. Williams is playing good football, as is Jonathan Fanene, Tank Johnson, Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.
With great momentum now established with the defense and a fire lit up with the offense, we're playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at a great time, who lost with a last second field goal to the Chicago Bears; a team beaten by the Green Bay Packers.
So, how did Sunday's game shake out?
The Drive that set the Bengals offensive tempo. Raise your hand if you thought backup Tight End J.P. Foschi would be called upon for the team's first offensive play of the game. The Bengals lined up double Tight End formation with Foschi on the left. Running vertical for ten yards, he cut in and Palmer hit the Tight End for a 12-yard gain. Say what you will about Foschi, but he catches the football.
On three of the next four plays, Cedric Benson picked up 12 yards. First-and-15 (Coats was flagged for a false start) at the Bengals 44-yard line, Benson ran behind Anthony Collins and Andrew Whitworth, who lined up outside Collins at Tight End. Evan Mathis destroyed his guy, driving him back, forcing him away from the play. Kyle Cook doubled down with Bobbie Williams on a defensive lineman, then chipped off for a linebacker. Each lineman had a hat on a defensive player while Benson picked up 12 yards. On the next play, Mathis, Whitworth, Dennis Roland and Daniel Coats dominated the left side of the line, giving Benson enough room to pick up another 12 yards. After Chad Ochocinco picked up 11 yards on a pass, Benson ran off the right edge. Cook and Collins took out the linebackers while Mathis neutralized the nose tackle and Bobbie Williams took out the defensive end. Benson's biggest benefactor on this play was great blocking by Laveranues Coles and Chad Ochocinco. Neither of their guys made the stop and Benson picked up another 12 yards.
After a four-yard run, Carson Palmer faked the handoff on second-and-five at the Green Bay five-yard line. The result was tremendous. Linebackers stepped up expecting the run and ended up colliding with offensive linemen. Laveranues Coles, lining on Daniel Coat's outside hip on the right side of the line, ran a skinny post and converted the touchdown for the game's opening points.
Establishing the Bengals offense as a rushing team with dominating offensive line play, as well as tremendous patience and overpowering strength when Benson lowered his shoulder pads, the offense set a tempo to run the football. This is what the coaches envisioned when they decided to make the Bengals more of a rushing offense. The question is, could they sustain it.
The Drive of defensive mistakes that led to the Packers first touchdown. We hate bringing up criticisms during a win. But we're also trying to tell a story of how the game played out. In order to describe that on the Packers' second possession, we have to point out that several defensive mistakes played a large part of Packers tying the game. We're also not meaning to limit the good plays that the Packers ran; we're a Bengals blog with a Bengals point of view. So that's how we approach things.
With 10:33 left in the first quarter, the Packers were hell bent on responding to the Bengals seven-play touchdown drive with a sustaining drive of their own. After allowing a quick six-yard pass to Donald Lee, back-to-back eight yard runs by Ryan Grant and an incomplete pass, the Packers lined up third-and-two at the Green Bay 42-yard line. Spencer Havner lined up outside the right tackle with Tight End Donald Lee outside Havner. Rey Maualuga lined up over Lee, while Dhani Jones remained in the middle. At the shotgun snap, Lee ran a short crossing pattern over the middle. Maualuga ran with him while Dhani tried to cut him off. With both linebackers covering Lee, Havner ran uncovered over the middle and Aaron Rodgers completed the 21-yard pass. We're not coaches, nor do we know exactly what was called. But we have a hard time believing that both linebackers were supposed to cover Lee while Havner ran uncovered over the middle. Our guess, however, is that Maualuga was supposed to let Dhani pick up Lee and stay with Havner. Hey, rookie mistake. It happens.
On third-and-two at the Bengals 29-yard line, Rodgers completed a 16-yard pass to James Jones. Brandon Johnson was called for roughing the passer, and the Packers were given another seven yards. Johnson was clearly keying off Rodgers, watching his eyes, or waiting for him to rollout. When Rodgers was forced out of the pocket, he rolled to the right, Johnson took off after him and drilled him after releasing the football.
On first-and-goal at the Bengals six-yard line, Chris Crocker blitzed. No one accounted for him so he had a free shot on Rodgers. Without the football being in a throwing position, Crocker elected to jump really high anyway. Rodgers easily side-stepped the likely sack and scrambled for a positive gain. On the next play, Rodgers completed a three-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver. We call 'em like it is. And the touchdown pass was simply a great throw and a better catch.
The momentum shifts and the Bengals look dire. There was a period in the game in which the feeling started reverting back to old; like getting the wind knocked out of you and failing to rise above adversity. On the Bengals second offensive possession of the game, Carson Palmer looks for Chad Ochocinco running a seam down the right sideline. There was only one way this pass would be completed. With Charles Woodson on Chad's hip and Nick Collins sitting underneath, Palmer had to air it out and let Chad sprint under it. Instead, Palmer threw a wickedly underthrown pass. Maybe he thought that Chad was going to run a hook route. However, if that were the case, then this is just a terrible decision by Palmer; remember, two defensive backs were sitting underneath. Palmer threw it anyway and Chad didn't have a chance to make a play on the ball when Woodson turned, picked off the pass and returned it 22 yards to the Bengals 11-yard line.
After a short seven-yard completion to Grant, the running back took the handoff, waved at Robert Geathers getting horse collared around the neck -- a terribly missed holding call -- and scored the Packers' second touchdown. Take note: with 2:26 left in the first quarter, the Packers just recorded their final offensive touchdown. On the kickoff, Andre Caldwell sat in the back of the end zone making little effort to pick up the ball before watching it roll out of bounds for the touchback. At this point I'm thinking, boy, they look like they had the crap beat out of them already. They're done. Forgive me. I've seen it too many times before to not have that thought go through my mind.
Behind a powerful rushing effort, the Bengals pick two first downs before settling in at their own 48-yard line when the second quarter starts. False start on Chad Ochocinco. Offensive holding by Andrew Whitworth. With first-and-25, Palmer throws two incomplete passes to Laveranues Coles (ball tipped by Clay Matthews) and Chris Henry (pushed out of bounds before landing in-bounds) setting up a third-and-25 (good god). Brian Leonard caught the screen pass, decided not to wait for his blockers and only picked up six yards.
The momentum shifts again and the Bengals capitalize. With fourth-and-19 at their own 39-yard line, Kevin Huber crushed a 61-yard punt for touchback. Along with a holding call on the Packers, Green Bay's offense starts at their own 10-yard line. After picking up eight yards on first down, Ryan Grant runs the football twice for no-gain; thanks to Pat Sims, Tank Johnson and Domata Peko. The Bengals defense holds and Quan Cosby trots onto the field.
After hauling in the punt, Cosby started working the blocks, moving to his left while several Packers players converged into a group in the middle. The blocking was too easy; the Bengals just had to maintain the wall on their right. Cosby returned the punt 60 yards to the Green Bay six-yard line. Thanks to Evan Mathis' false start, the Bengals have first-and-goal at the 11-yard line. Benson eight yards. Benson two yards. Carson Palmer touchdown run.
Now the Bengals tie and the momentum they lost early in the game has been recovered. Things look swimmingly. So much so, the Bengals defense was on fire. On first down, Rey Maualuga nailed Rodgers from behind on a blitz, forcing the football out. The Packers recovered the football, but not their momentum. After a (thank god) shoe-string tackle by Fanene, the Packers were called for a false start setting up third-and-20. Rodgers received the shotgun snap, looked around, and felt Robert Geathers closing in. Rodgers shifted up into the pocket and threw a low incomplete pass to Donald Lee. Packers punt.
Momentum. The Bengals have gobs and gobs of it.
And then she walked out the door without a kiss goodbye leaving our hearts broken. Bengals have the football at their own 41-yard line with 8:31 left in the first half. Cullen Jenkins took an inside step on Andrew Whitworth, who obviously misunderstood that big guys can move left AND right, and sacked Carson Palmer. On the next play, Palmer in shotgun, thinks that Charles Woodson is somewhere else other than where he is. Daniel Coats lined up inside slot on the right. With a quick five yard up, Coats ran out. Woodson drooled like a predator in the wild. Palmer made the throw to Coats, aiming towards the right sideline. Woodson stepped forward, caught the pass and spiked the football after scoring the Packers third touchdown in the game.
Momentum, who was once a friend earlier, is now a bitch.
And then Karma said "hello, everyone". If Brandon Stokley's reception to beat the Bengals was the fluke play of the year, then you have to admit that the Bengals third touchdown drive came with some serious luck. In fact, we could call it the lucky as hell drive of the year. Well, whatever you want to call it, it was one of the wildest things I've seen; I had an IV afterwards. The offense started strong, picking up a first down on a four-yard third-down reception by Laveranues Coles. Then Benson rushed for no-gain. Andrew Whitworth negated a 10-yard gain by Benson with offensive holding. Clay Matthews mimicked Jenkins and took an inside step on Whitworth (clearly he's struggling on that move) and forced Palmer out of the pocket, who slipped. Mathews was credited with the sack; the second allowed by Whitworth in the first half. Then the Bengals failed to snap the ball in time, losing an additional five yards on a delay of game foul.
Let me recap for you. Holding, sack and delay of game forced the Bengals to the seven-yard line, losing 24 yards in the process; that's like a quarter of the football field.
So the Bengals lined up third-and-34 with 3:38 left in the half. They do what most NFL teams do; a screen pass or a draw to pick up as much yards as possible in the hopes to salvage some field position in the battle of field positions. Bengals called Tight End screen to the left. Palmer connected with Daniel Coats, who somehow had tons of running room. Kyle Cook, Evan Mathis, Andrew Whitworth and Laveranues Coles made great blocks. Coats is still running. But so is Cullen Jenkins. The 305 (yea, right) defensive lineman ran down our Tight End, slapping the football out of his hands. The ball rolled forward another 10-11 yards and Coles, ever the opportunist to redeem himself after last week's performance, pounced on the loose football.
Bengals recover. Bengals get first down. Bengals fans try to close their dropped jaws. That crap never happens for us. So forgive us if we're speechless for about five minutes.
Thankfully, the Bengals offense didn't harp on it. In fact, just to show we can be awesomely deceptive after converting third-and-34 like it's nothing, Bob Bratkowski calls a flea flicker. When Benson tossed the football back to Palmer, most of the Packers defense had stepped up. Chad Johnson was wide open. Andre Caldwell was even more wide open. However, Palmer underthrew Chad, who had to come back for the pass. He spun around, picking up more yards; a total of 44 yards on the play. The Packers were also called for roughing the passer.
I'm shocked. Two plays ago, we were sitting at our own seven-yard line. Now, we're on Green Bay's five-yard line with 2:41 left in the half. Since the Bengals need to fill their quota of three offensive fouls on a drive, Bobbie Williams was called for holding. After a short pass to Andrew Caldwell and a two-yard run by Cedric Benson, Palmer completed an easy pass to a wide open Chris Henry at the back of the endzone.
There's god. There's country. There's Antwan Odom. The drive that Chris Crocker buys Odom dinner. With 1:12 left in the first half, Aaron Rodgers attempted a deep pass to Donald Driver. Bengals safety Chris Crocker collided with Driver a microsecond before the football arrived. Crocker was called for defensive pass interference. On the next play, Driver ran vertical for ten yards before breaking out. Crocker slipped when Driver broke, giving the wide receiver plenty of room to make the reception and pick up additional yards after the catch. After that, Crocker was in the dog house. It was his second pass interference and he wasn't showing himself to be the world's greatest nickel cornerback. After James Jones watches an Aaron Rodgers pass go threw his hands, the Packers lined up second-and-ten at the Bengals 34-yard line. They were already in field goal range.
Antwan Odom lined up at right defensive tackle. The center took on Odom, who slanted inside. Odom pushed the center aside and started running upfield. Chad Clifton was surprised to see Odom crossing his face and didn't bother placing a hand on him. It was like that scene in Band of Brothers where Captain Speirs crosses the German lines to update a unit that was cut off from communications. The Germans didn't fire at Speirs, simply shocked he was running through their lines. After five seconds in the pocket, Odom got to Rodgers and recorded the first of five sacks in the game. As much as I pumped about the sack, you had to give credit to the Bengals secondary. Rodgers couldn't find anyone and Odom put an end to the quarterback's survey.
The result was bigger than just having a sack for a team starved of pressuring the quarterback last season. The Packers lost 11 yards on the play. On the next play, Rodgers did everything he could to pick up a chunk of yards to make the field goal attempt easier. On third-and-21, Rodgers rolled with the moving pocket to the right. Nothing there. He moved to the left. Nothing there. Pat Sims and Odom were hunting and nearly sacked him. Rodgers got out of it, unleashed an eight yard pass to Donald Lee. Mason Cosby attempted the 55-yard field, but missed wide left.
Even though Chris Crocker gave up 42 yards (ironic, since that's also his number, right?) on a pass interference and a completion, Antwan Odom saved him by forcing the Packers to lose 11 yards on a sack, knocking them out of a reasonable field goal attempt.
The gambler likes to gamble. Not Odom. He just likes to sack people. After the Bengals were forced to punt to kickoff the second half, the Packers worked on converting their third downs. Third-and-nine, Jordy Nelson caught a third down pass for 11 yards. First down. With third-and-seven, Rodgers scrambled for 15 yards. First down.
However the Bengals weren't without their gambles. Rodgers completed a 26-yard pass to Driver when Johnathan Joseph tried to jump the route. It didn't work out and Driver picked up most of his yards after the reception. I don't mind the gamble. Not one bit. You win some. You lose some. Thankfully, after losing this one, Odom appeared on the dusty road with a six-shooter. First-and-ten at the Packers 42-yard line with 10:15 left in the third quarter, Antwan Odom made slight contact with the left tackle, and cut inside. It was almost like Whitworth was blocking. Odom dropped Rodgers, who held onto the ball a bit long again, thanks to the great coverage in the secondary.
Unfortunately, the sack didn't force the Packers to punt -- the Zen master gets the best of this one. Instead, Rodgers completed an eight-yard pass to James Jones and scrambled for 15 yards on third down; Robert Geathers flushed him out. On first-and-ten, Rodgers completed a five-yard pass to Grant. BALL! Rey Maualuga hit Grant, forcing the football out. Pat Sims recovered the ball and the Bengals offense trots out on the field. Zen masta'.
The Drive when the Bengals converted four third downs and won the game. While chaos keeps things interesting, routine keeps things simple. Like picking up yardage on first and second down making third downs manageable. Then you convert those manageable third downs. WIth 8:16 left in the third quarter, the Bengals picked up three yards on a pass to Coats and six yards on a Benson run setting up third-and-one. Enter Dennis Roland. Eight yard run by Benson. Exit Dennis Roland. Another three yard run by Benson, a one-yard run by Bernard Scott setting up third-and-six. Palmer completes an eight-yard pass to Andre Caldwell. First down.
Exit routine, enter chaos. Benson loses two yards, Palmer throws an incomplete pass to Chad, who obviously weren't on the same page -- Chad ran a post, Palmer threw a fade -- setting up third-and-12. Palmer finds Chad in the middle of a wide-open hole in the zone, picking up 23 yards. First down with 2:39 left in the third quarter. The Packers committed a neutral zone infraction. The Bengals were called for a false start. In other words, two fouls were called on separate plays and the clock was still at 2:39. Talk about losing time we'll never get back. After Benson lost another yard, Palmer tried to give Coats a bone, running towards the left pylon, wide open down the goalline. Pass goes through his hands. Along with his fumble earlier in the game, you have to wonder how long Coats has before the coaches don't bother to give the Tight End the football anymore.
Fortunately, it didn't matter. On third-and-11 at the Packers 13-yard line, Chad Ochocinco sprinted off the line of scrimmage towards to the front right pylon. Then he changed direction, running a post over the middle. With tons of separation, Palmer fired a low pass to Chad, who was forced to go down for it, rolling into the endzone.
Technically, they didn't win the game with this drive. The game wasn't over until the clock expired -- boy, that's a Yogi Berra comment if there ever was one. However, the Bengals took a 28-21 lead and never look back.
The day that Chuck Norris started making up Antwan Odom facts. Even with two sacks in his pocket, Odom wasn't close to being finished. In fact, Odom recorded a sack on the next three Green Bay possessions. With 12:38 left in the game, the Packers lined up first-and-ten at the Cincinnati 31-yard line. Odom pushed aside the tight end blocking him, ran right around Ryan Grant and tracked down Rodgers with his awesome wingspan. Rodgers threw two incomplete passes and the Packers punt. With 8:46 left in the game, the Packers line up second-and-ten at their own 33-yard line. Odom ran upfield, cut inside the offensive tackle and sacked Rodgers. Rodgers threw an incomplete pass and the Packers punt. With 3:12 left in the game, the Packers line up third-and-eight at their own 17-yard line. Odom worked outside and then cut in, nailing Rodgers for a four-yard loss. Packers punt.
Odom completely took this game over on defense, recording three sacks in the fourth quarter. Granted, it wasn't against Chad Clifton. But is it Odom's fault that the Packers' coaching staff offered no help for Daryn Colledge, who started the game at left guard? The Packers were forced to punt on the three straight drives that Odom recorded a sack. In fact, the Packers didn't pick up another yard after each sack.
The drives that almost made grown men cry. With 1:51 left in the game, down by 10, Aaron Rodgers moved the football with a completed pass to Lee for 11 yards. He scrambled twice for 25 yards before throwing an incomplete pass to Jennings. With :51 seconds left, sitting at the Bengals 27-yard line, the Packers elected to convert the field goal to get within one possession. The field goal is made and the Packers are down 31-24.
After the Packers recovered the onside kick -- more like no one on the Bengals hands team gave one damn about recovering the football -- Rodgers threw two incomplete passes before hitting Finley for 22 yards. Rodgers stopped the clock, with a spike, with :17 left in the game. Instead of trying to hit the sidelines with no timeouts, Rodgers throws a deep pass over the middle to Donald Driver for 25 yards. Tick. Tick. Tick. Expire. Game over. Bengals win. The Packers tried to get to the line of scrimmage to run a final play. However, Ed Hochuli points out that the clock expired, also offering that since the Packers weren't set, they would have been called for a presnap foul, which also includes a ten-second run off. So if there was time, it wouldn't matter.
The game the Bengals won. It's true. The Bengals won the football game with many thanks to momentum, some luck, and awesome clocks. However, they're coming. You know who they are. Put the women and children to bed. They're coming... and we'll be ready for 'em.