I went to the playoff game last season and I don't remember one minute of that game that was as loud as most of the minutes this past Sunday against the Ravens. It was electric in the stadium I was giving out high fives to people in different sections from me. Offense is exciting, don't get me wrong. I love watching the Bengals offense, especially when it's hitting on all cylinders but there is just something about watching the Bengals defense, especially when they are totally dominating the opposing offense. When the Ravens were in third-down situations and the Bengals were lining up and throwing their hands up in the air in that "get on your feet" motion, the entire stadium got on their feet and got louder than I can remember in a long time. It was a blast. There were a million things that made me happy from tailgating to the walk back to my Who Dey Bus. Here are the seven that I picked out this week.
Point One: The Defense
Of course this would be point one. The defense looked unbelievable against the Ravens. They had Joe Flacco running like a scared child throughout most of the game and on more than one occasion, the pressure got to him and he decided to throw the ball up for grabs just to get rid of it. Needless to say, the secondary made him pay, picking off four passes, a career high for Flacco. They also only allowed Ray Rice to rush for 87 yards and kept him out of the end zone throughout the entire game. They didn't allow T.J. Houshmandzadeh to have a single catch despite a few targets in his post-Bengals Cincinnati debut and if you take away the one touchdown to Derrick Mason (his only catch of the day) then the defense would have been pretty much perfect. It's funny to me that Ray Lewis is crying about the bad calls made against the Ravens and that the Bengals didn't earn the win. It's funny because I'm pretty sure that the Bengals defense absolutely earned the win by being tougher against the Ravens offense than the Ravens defense could be against the Bengals offense. Either that or Ray Lewis should start complaining that we didn't earn a win because Joe Flacco decided to gift wrap the win and he threw it to Adam Jones, Leon Hall, Brandon Johnson and Chinedum Ndukwe.
Point Two: The Offensive Line
I'm not going to pretend for a minute that the Ravens don't have a solid defense because they definitely do. Ray Lewis may be crying over spilled milk but that doesn't take away from the fact that he's one of the best middle linebackers to ever wear a uniform (too bad it's purple). The rest of the defense is just about as tough as he is and when it comes to beating up on quarterbacks, the Ravens are one of the best. However, for the most part on Sunday, the Bengals offensive line kept Carson Palmer on his feet and out of harms way. The pocket may have been a little cluttered now and then and Palmer got hit a couple times but when you think about the fact that the mighty Ravens defense couldn't really get to Palmer more than a couple times you can't help but be impressed. Not many teams can make a quarterback tremble in their cleats like the Ravens can and if the Bengals offensive line can play that well against them, they can play well against anybody.
Point Three: Adam Jones
I'm not going to lie, I used to really dislike Pacman Jones and I thought Jerry Jones was an idiot for keeping him in Dallas. I was upset when I heard that the Bengals were allowing Pacman Jones to work out for a spot on the team and I was more upset when I heard that the Bengals decided to sign Pacman Jones. Then I learned that Pacman Jones was no more and he had been replaced with a guy named Adam Jones who had all of Pacmans attributes and none of his baggage. He has worked hard and kept his nose clean and he has earned a spot on one of the toughest defenses in the NFL. Against the Ravens on Sunday, Adam Jones, not Pacman, was the first Bengals defender to pick off Joe Flacco and Adam Jones, not Pacman, made Ray Rice see stars when Leon Hall was the second Bengals defender to pick off Flacco. I like Adam Jones and I'm happy he's a Bengal. I'm excited to see what else he can do this season.
Point Four: Geno Atkins
Geno Atkins kicked some major butt in the preseason and got everybody excited about this rookie that just seemed to teleport from the defensive line to the quarterback's face. Then the Bengals defense looked terrible against the New England Patriots and I just kind of forgot that there was such a thing as a Geno Atkins. Then, Atkins reminded me that he exists when he recorded his first NFL regular season sack on Flacco on Sunday on a huge third down that helped the Bengals seal their victory. Not only did Atkins sack Flacco once, but he was also responsible for Flacco being chased out of the pocket during most of the game. I won't forget he exists again.
Point Five: Mike Nugent
Holy Crap I forgot what it was like to have a field goal kicker that you can actually depend on. Mike Nugent is perfect on the season so far and that includes one kick that was over 50 yards and some high pressure kicks against the Ravens. It seams that the Bengals decision makers have made the correct decision in keeping Nugent on the team. So far, I'm extremely impressed and so far, my heart doesn't beat out of my chest when the Bengals line up for a field goal. It's nice to not have a cardiac specialist tell me that watching the Bengals kicking game is killing me anymore. It's also kind of fun to yell "NUGE!" at the stadium. I don't really know why.
Point Six: Bernard Scott
Scott must be doing something right because he's getting on the field more and more often. Now, I don't think for one second that Scott is taking Benson's job away because he's not. Benson is still the main guy but Scott is becoming a solid Crockett to Benson's Tubbs. On top of that, Scott returned kicks and one kick return went well beyond 50 yards and set up the Bengals for Nugent's game winning 38-yard field goal. Without Scott, the game would have been completely different. I'm glad to see him on the field more and more.
Extra Point: Chris Henry Tribute
I'm lucky that I saw it and I don't think many people did. As I exited the stadium, I went down a flight of stairs that I usually don't go down and I stumbled upon a prayer written to Chris Henry on the outside of the stadium. It was a really cool way to end an awesome game. Most people I talked to weren't lucky enough to catch it so I'll share it with you here. It read:
It is football season 2010
Lord let our angel fly again
Give us wings to help us soar
To hear that deep Bengals roar
Give us courage to never stop
As we climb our way to the top
We need "15" by our side
So no team can break our stride
Lord give us "Slim" to help us win
Let him be a Bengal once again
It was surrounded with orange and black streamers and a couple other signs that said things like "we'll never forget you Slim". I don't know if it was just something that a fan put up, Henry's family or if it was the Bengals players that were responsible but I do know that, for a lot of Bengals fans, it was a great way to cap off a great win.