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Wild-Card Recap: Bengals Schott Down in Broad Daylight

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It is a shame that from now on, whenever the image of Shayne Graham pops into the minds of Bengal fans, his boyscoutish face will burst into flames from their hatred and anger toward the man.  No one wants to be reminded of his notable charity work or his hundreds of made kicks right now and for good reason, dammit; he didn't outright lose the game, but he eliminated Cincinnati from a chance to win in the postseason and that's a good enough reason to leave town in my book. 

However, as decent human beings, before the torches are lit, before the pitchforks are seized from their place in the barns and rowdy crowds gather to chase Shayne Graham or anybody else out of town, let's take one moment to look at this whole thing analytically and reasonably.

First, It is impossible to ignore the fact that Carson Palmer was not at his best when we needed him the most.  He was erratic all day on his throws, he threw a strange interception to Revis and he was not in sync with Chad Ochocinco on the limited times Palmer looked 85's way.  Not only is Palmer the highest-paid Bengal, he is also the team captain and the face of the organization; as a local tax-payer---who in part funds the stadium where the man plays---it does not seem unreasonable that I demand more from the team's most-prized possession.  Politics aside, Carson has to show up in the Playoffs if he's ever to become that storybook quarterback we all dreamed of in 2005. 

Still, Palmer was not the main person responsible for the Bengals' Wild-Card loss either.  No Bengal, in fact no player on either side, was more responsible for the outcome than was Jets offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer. 

The Bengals defense played the part of the sucker perfectly, walking right into three rudimentary traps.      The first was the misdirection toss play to Shonn Greene.  The Bengals had been loading up the box in attempt to slow the Jets rushing attack which just gashed Cincinnati for eight yards on first down.  All 11 men were prepared to stop the run and all 11 were fooled.  Only Frostee Rucker had a chance; he missed.  Touchdown Jets. 

The next two times were play-action, roll-out passes to tight end Dustin Keller.  Again, the Bengals were determined to flow downhill and smash the running back, but Sanchez sold the fakes well and 10 more points ensued. 

Schottenheimer is single-handedly credited with 17 points.  New York had two other drives that were more traditional in nature: one right after the half where they should have scored a field goal but penalized themselves out of range, and the other that ended with a Thomas Jones 8-yard run in the third-quarter.  Those drives were a collective effort of the entire offensive staff, but the others materialized into points from sheer strategical dominance by one assistant coach.

Rex Ryan gets some credit too.  Sure the big guy has some great defensive players, but twice Rex dialed up a safety blitz that led to punts---both perfectly timed. 

Mike Zimmer and Bob Bratkowski were each outsmarted.  Outside of Brat's refusal to incorporate Bernard Scott in the offense, I didn't think his play-calling sequence was all that bad; drops, the receivers' inability to separate and get open, and Palmer's poor throwing performance were more responsible for the dismal offensive day than was Bratkowski in this case.  Still, Ryan got the best of him, as have multiple defensive coordinators in the second half of the season.

The Jets are a good team.  They have a road-grading offensive line that dominates in the running game, they have a top-notch secondary lead by a youngster who is playing at an all-world level, they are clearly led by excellent coaching, and their kicker makes kicks...and punts!  There was no need to showcase their young, problematic quarterback.  Their plan was to win without him, and for the most part, they did just that. 

Success in the Playoffs will have to be a process for the Bengals.  Since the hire of Marvin Lewis, the franchise has taken baby-steps into respectability; moving ahead into future Januaries isn't likely to be any different.  Saturday's Wild-Card loss demonstrated all the deficiencies we fans worried about all season.  The problems were too severe, the holes too great.  Even the men who led this group were humbled by what took place; there are no adequate excuses for the outcome.  It was a defeat in every way.    

Mojokong---run, Shayne Graham.  I can't hold them off much longer.