Cincinnati had just beaten the Baltimore Ravens in a classic bare-knuckle brawl in front of 64,000 insane Bengals fans wondering how they could approach Mike Nugent to buy him an adult beverage for being awesome. But instead of a parade that passes through Fountain Square, Cedric Benson went all down-to-earth on us complaining about the offense, saying that they lacked identity. Marvin Lewis responded saying that this is the way it's going to be.
The following week Terrell Owens hinted at protection problems with the offensive line, even though in four of six games this year, Palmer has been sacked one time or less. The issue was more about pressure, having defensive players in Palmer's face, forcing him to throw off-balance, ditching technique for expediency. Owens would go on to say that while the team is making their own mental mistakes that's causing problems, the coaching staff wasn't taking his vast experience into much consideration.
And just over two weeks ago, we began feeling the impression that the players and coaches were starting to divide, ever so slightly with Palmer indirectly questioning the team's decision to pass on third-and-13 late in the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead.
Palmer will take every bit of the blame on his shoulders. If the wind picks up and knocks an attempted game-winning field goal off course, he'll take the blame saying that they should have picked up more yards on the drive, or scored more touchdowns earlier in the game. Sacked by a defensive end as the game is coming to a close, and Palmer will say that he should have released the football sooner. The defense gives up 400 yards to the opposing offense, Palmer will say that the Bengals offense should have done a better job controlling the football and keeping the opposition off the field. That's the type of teammate he is.
“I don’t think we’d run that play yet. As I said before, we were just a little bit off all game. When you’re playing teams in this league, those little mistakes can turn into big ones. That turned into an interception which ended up tying the game. We’re not going to beat people playing like that.”
Since then, things have simmered down. Players aren't speaking out and the offense is starting to get comfortable in three wide receiver, single-back formations and the no-huddle offense.
“Offensively, we’re a different football team than we were last year and we had to find ourselves,” said Whitworth before Thursday’s practice. “I think we’re well on our way in a groove we’re comfortable in.
“Yeah, I think that you feel comfortable enough with some of the great guys that can catch the football and do good things with it and, honestly, we have a line we can move people and run the ball in a one-back set ... it’s a different style, faster pace. Less big, brute running people over. Using skill guys and different players we want to get their hands on the ball and make plays. So it’s just a little different where last year we were handing it off every play and going for short third downs. This year it’s a different style.”
And it shows. According to Geoff Hobson, the Bengals offense has recorded 1,240 yards of total offense in the past three games (all losses), which is the most during a three-game stretch since exploding for 1,318 yards against the Chargers, Saints and Browns.
Here's the breakdown, comparing the offense in the first half of the season (first three games) and the second half (last three games)
|First Three Games||Last Three Games|
Yet, you wonder, they lost. True. But as we've started pointing out this week, we can hardly put the blame of that on the offense. Look at the defensive breakdown, breaking it down to two halves -- the first three games, the last three games.
|First Three Games||Last Three Games|
It's 2007 all over again.