Football coaches love tenacity from their defensive unit. If Sunday's game was any indication, there has to be some sense of pleasure by the Bengals' coaching staff because of their overall performance and aggression against the Raiders, but concerns are also lingering.
A couple of Bengals players crossed the line though, and were flagged with personal foul penalties. After a big hit on rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper, Bengals safety George Iloka taunted him and allowed Oakland to continue their drive. A little while later, things got extra chippy when cornerback Adam Jones went at it with Cooper and slammed his head into his helmet after tearing it off.
Jones was lucky to avoid an ejection, but likely won't be as fortunate when it comes to his pocket book. Many believe he'll take a big financial hit for the incident, but won't be getting a future suspension for it either. Said Jones of his incident, "Whatever you saw happen, that's what happened. I'm just here to play football. I don't back down from anybody and I'm not out here trying to start anything. I'm just out here playing football."
Iloka had his own explanation/excuse for his actions, citing a simple celebration with his teammates. Still, Cincinnati's safety is in his fourth season and is an emerging star--he has to know better than to stomp around a writhing receiver after a big hit.
Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio towed the NFL company line to not get himself in hot water, but he wasn't pleased with Jones' actions at all.
"It was clearly way over the line," Del Rio said of Pac Man's actions. "I understand why our offensive linemen went down there and took issue with it. I respect that. I really don't understand how that was missed and I will certainly report that and inquire as to how something like that could be missed with so many eyes on the situation. It was right there at the end of the play and clearly a part of the end of the play. Coop just did a great job blocking. I think the guy got frustrated because Coop just did a great job blocking downfield. Unfortunate to see that kind of thing go on in our game and hopefully the right thing is done there."
To Del Rio's point, it did seem as if the officiating crew was also on preseason time Sunday afternoon. A couple of other penalty flags that were thrown were picked up and later went as non-calls. Cooper was a little aggressive blocking Jones on the big play negated by a penalty, but the defensive back was way over the line with his retaliation.
Marvin Lewis, ever the buttoned-up head coach, wasn't pleased with the personal fouls, either. From a football standpoint, the team easily could have hurt themselves against a more formidable opponent and these types of plays could have given the team a different result. He's also a friend of Del Rio, so obviously he isn't wanting to give the impression he's coaching his players to play dirty.
Per reports, Lewis said issues "were handled last night" and added:
"We have got to be better than that," Lewis said. "We have to walk away. We're supposed to make plays. This is NFL football. You're supposed to make plays and walk away to the back of the huddle. We can't have the penalties we had in those situations because those things can change a game and they can really hurt you. We've got to do a better job."
Lewis has a point and to echo an earlier statement, a concern has to be that these penalties came against veteran players who should know better. These aren't jittery rookies getting too hyped up for a Week 1 game.
Still, Lewis is walking a fine line here. Of course, you don't want your players going after others, injuring them or incurring self-inflicted penalties. But at the same time, Lewis can't take away the aggressive edge from his players either. Be pros, be classy, but play inspired and emotional as well. Hopefully that was a part of the message Lewis sent to his team and to those players guilty of infractions.