Not only was Sunday's loss especially disheartening, but how could the players come off that game (or whatever you called it) saying to themselves that they were proud of being shutout and losing by 37 points to a team that you will play next week? There were several points to be made as for the reasoning and why people shouldn't be concerned heading into the first round of the playoffs.
The Bengals weren't playing at full strength. When Cedric Benson starts, the Bengals are 9-4. When Benson starts, the Bengals have a formidable rushing offense. Instead, Sunday's offense against the Jets was geared for the pass with Benson being inactive. Without Benson, the Bengals offense simply doesn't have the same rhythm that we have seen all season -- at least the ability to sustain drives and pick up first downs. Along with Benson, the Bengals were without Domata Peko, Chris Crocker, Rey Maualuga and Robert Geathers -- all whom are starters. Believe what you want, but that much talent sitting out against a team that's going for broke with the final playoff spot on the line, you're asking for a massacre. At this point, what did you really expect to happen?
...so that means the Bengals depth isn't that strong. I'd challenge anyone to name a team, any team, that could sit at least five starters, including four on defense, and not struggle. It's one thing to replace a person here, or there. It's quite another thing to replace players in bulk with backups.
The Bengals didn't want to show our hand. This makes sense. However, it doesn't matter what game plan you put into place if you're missing blocks, dropping passes and failing to shed blocks -- medial tasks in football. Other than that, I believe that the Bengals wanted to keep the game plan as different as possible. Of the 15 first half plays the Bengals ran, four were called running plays. In nine games this year, the Bengals ran at least 30 times and in half of their games this year, the Bengals ran more than passing. So it makes sense that the offense would rather go against the ideology they've used all season. But that still doesn't excuse Palmer's 1.7 passer rating, which translates to one completed pass on 11 attempts for no yards passing; much of it the result of dropped passes.
The Bengals would have rather played the Jets than the Texans in the playoffs. I believe even Cris Collinsworth made this point during Sunday Night's broadcast because Cincinnati lost to the Houston Texans 28-17 earlier in the season. In that game, the Texans only had a 20-yard advantage in the first half where Cincinnati was actually leading 17-14. In fact, the Texans really didn't extend any advantage until Daniel Coats fumbled on the Bengals possession following Houston's third touchdown. J.P. Foschi fumbled a few possessions later and the Bengals offense completely shut down, recording their first second-half first down (not by a penalty) with 2:53 left in the game.
I'm not taking away what Houston did to the Bengals earlier this year. However, I do find it hard to believe that Cincinnati is looking to avoid a rematch with Houston simply because Cincinnati made several second half mistakes against the Texans. Furthermore, who would support a team that would sacrifice a game just to meet a lesser opponent? That's why I don't believe the Bengals would orchestrate something like that.
Well, I didn’t want to lose the football game and (with) how we lost it, I don’t think that really matters. We didn’t want to lose the football game. We had something to play for tonight and we didn’t get it done. Now, we are where we are. Our goals are ahead of us and let’s go.
Either way, I honestly don't believe that Cincinnati gave the Jets much to game plan in their week 17 meeting. And that's fine by me. A win is always nice -- especially considering that momentum benefits teams much more than resting starters, so it seems. However, I wouldn't expect that the Bengals would do the same thing this Saturday.
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