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What We Learned from NFL Week 6: Bengals vs. Panthers

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After two straight weeks of defensive suckage, the way we (and the national media) view this team has changed.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

This defense is not who we thought they were

For the past 5 weeks, we have been touting this defense as a top-5 defense - no one is more guilty than yours truly. After surrendering 80 points in the last two weeks - against mediocre offenses at best - this is not a top-tier defense. They have been exposed.

Last week, they had the excuse of Burfict being out. They no longer get the benefit of the doubt. The defense struggles covering tight ends, can't stop the zone read, and worst of all, can get zero pressure without a blitz. That is a recipe for trouble.

Mike Nugent cannot continue to kick for this team...but he will

Make no mistake about it, that loss is not on Mike Nugent, that loss is on the defense. With that being said, Nugent had the opportunity to win it on what is a chip shot FG in today's NFL (36 yards) and shanked it. The miss would be forgivable if not for the fact that Nugent ranks dead last in FG% among all employed kickers (64.7%). I have been a Mike Nugent fan since his days in college, but a kicker has to be reliable, and right now, Mike Nugent is not. Over the last four years, Nugent has seen his FG percentage drop every year: 86.8%, 82.6%, 81.8%, 64.7%. In a day and age where the NFL average is around 82 percent+, Nugent's career average is now 79.9%, not acceptable.

Adam Jones should return every kick/punt

I am a big proponent of playing your best players and giving them every opportunity to impact a game. Adam Jones has the innate ability to return kicks/punts and change games. Brandon Tate does not. I don't buy the argument that the Bengals need him fresh on defense. Last I checked, the Bengals have two first round picks being groomed for a starting role behind Jones - when Jones needs a breather, play them.

The offense played well

There were some penalties that need to be cleaned up, but the offense played well. If you take into account the players they were missing, you could say they played great. The Bengals scored 37 points and were forced to punt just one time. 37 points is plenty of points to win whether you are at home or on the road. Not to mention, in the last five minutes of regulation and overtime, the offense had one game tying drive (TD) and what could have/should have been three game winning drives.

Jeremy Hill just became my favorite Bengal

I have been waiting for 25+ years now for a Bengal to pay homage to Ickey Woods and do the Ickey Shuffle. Finally, someone did. The rookie came through and was the highlight of my afternoon. I would love to see it more often. Congrats to Jeremy Hill for "getting some cold cuts!"

The defense was no better with Burfict back

We all gave the defense a pass against the Patriots because "the Patriots were fired up" and "Burfict was out." Well, the Panthers weren't nearly as "fired up" and Burfict was back and the defense still sucked. While I believe Burfict's penalties were bogus, the fact of the matter is, he continues to get penalties that hurt the team.

The Bengals were more focused on a rookie named Fozzy Whittaker than on a guy named Cam Newton

Note to Paul Guenther and everyone who plays defense for the Bengals: Cam Newton is the dangerous runner of the football, not a rookie named Fozzy Whittaker. Force Newton to hand the ball to Whittaker, Whittaker is not the guy that is going to hurt you.

The Bengals defensive line is no longer their strength...in fact, it's their weakness

We have been drooling over this line for the past two years and in 2014, that drool is not warranted. I said it last week, the Bengals D-Line sucks right now. Atkins is not "Atkins", Peko is terrible, Still is not ready to play a big role and for all the talk about Margus Hunt, he has done nothing. The only guys playing well - not great - are Dunlap, Gilberry and Geathers. This line is getting zero pressure on the quarterback when they rush four guys and that causes a ripple effect. Against two terrible lines (New England and Carolina), the Bengals vaunted D-Line generated zero sacks. Zero.

Emmanuel Lamur has to know the situation at the end of the game and get up

Easy for all of us on our couch to criticize, but Lamur has to know the situation at the end of the game and injured or not, get off the field. Crawl off the field if you need to. Have a teammate drag your ass onto the sidelines if needed. With six seconds left, Lamur tackled Bersin in bounds and the Panthers had zero timeouts. If Lamur simply gets up, the Panthers either 1) run out of time and lose, or 2) have to rush onto the field for an extremely hurried 44 yard game tying FG attempt. Instead, Lamur stayed down until the Bengals were forced to take a timeout... then Lamur stood up and walked off the field.

The injuries are piling up and becoming difficult to overcome

Every team has them, but some are more devastating than others. The Bengals are now missing their three top receiving options, their best run stuffing DT (Thompson), a pro bowl caliber RG, two of their three starting LBs appear to be out for extended time (Lamur and Maualuga) and Bernard is dinged up. The injuries at WR and LB are going to impact this team big time.

Mohamed Sanu has to stay in bounds on the final drive

On the Bengals final drive in regulation, Dalton made a poor decision on a pass to Sanu on the sidelines that should have been picked. Instead, it was tipped and Sanu made an incredible play - except he went out of bounds. If he stays in bounds, the Bengals can take the clock down under the 2 minute warning or force the Panthers to use their last timeout. This was a crucial error. Had Sanu stayed in, the Panthers would have got the ball back down three with about 1:20 left on the clock and one timeout or, had they used their final timeout, they would have got the ball back with about 1:50 with 0 timeouts.

I no longer know what a clean hit is in the NFL

I still don't see anything Burfict or Gilberry did wrong on their three respective personal foul calls and it is becoming harder and harder to determine what a clean tackle is anymore. In the case of Burfict, his reputation precedes him, but I still believe the calls on him were terrible. It is becoming more and more frustrating to watch games because seemingly every play gets a flag.

Just make a rule that the quarterback cannot be touched

If the hits by Gilberry and Burfict were truly roughing the passer penalties, the league may as well just not let the quarterback be touched. I get safety and the desire to protect the quarterback, but it is getting ridiculous. At some point in time, the NFL will realize that these guys are playing football and because of that, they are going to get hit. You cannot legislate injuries out of the game.

That crew of referees better get a poor grade for that game....unless the NFL's goal is to throw a flag for every tackle and make games painful to watch

The NFL has a lot of issues on their hands right now, and one of the glaring "on the field" issues is the epidemic of the yellow flag. It really is getting frustrating to watch. It seems that on every play I am looking/waiting for a flag to fly. Maybe the calls are correct, but the refs need to start letting the ticky tack stuff go and call the "true" penalties.

The Bengals are not the best team in their own division at the moment

Two weeks ago I would have thought this statement to be ludicrous, but after seeing the Bengals struggle at home, against a Panthers team that Baltimore just beat 38-10 two weeks ago, I would say Baltimore is the better team right now. Heck, after the Browns comeback in Tennessee and beat down of the Steelers, it could be argued that the Bengals are the third best team in the division.