Marvin Lewis had a strange takeaway from the Bengals’ tie in London.
“The best lesson learned today for our football team is you just got to keep playing, regardless literally of the situation, football game, where we are, what's going on - just keep playing, go to the next down and keep playing,” Lewis said.
This gives me more questions than answers. Did Lewis not know that regardless of the situation, you must keep playing until there is no time remaining in a football game? Did the team not know this? Did Lewis think he had the Redskins beat? Was he not trying to coach his team to “go to the next down and keep playing” before Sunday’s tie? Why isn’t this all something the Bengals already knew, rather than a lesson learned on Sunday?
Lewis often says strange things, but, for him to start his post-game press conference, unprompted, with this statement is more troubling than anything else.
“You know, that's a good takeaway,” Lewis continued. “Obviously not winning the football game, there's disappointment. We had opportunities, both sides of the football, to win the football game. You know, for the time and energy and everything invested in it, that's what you want to get. So there's some disappointment in there.”
I’d hope there’s disappointment, maybe even more than “disappointment”. As Lewis said, there were plenty of opportunities for the Bengals to win the game, but each unit on the team played a hand in the Bengals ending up with a tie. Andy Dalton had missed throws, an interception and a fumble. The offensive line continued to allow an unacceptable amount of pressure to mount on the Bengals’ quarterback. The defense allowed big play after big play, many of which came courtesy of tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis who combined for an unacceptable 192 yards and 1 touchdown. The defense also allowed a combined 101 yards and 1 touchdown to a No. 2 and No. 3 running back, on 28 attempts. The penalties by Domata Peko and Dre Kirkpatrick come to mind as unnecessary, to say the least. And on special teams, there was Mike Nugent’s missed field goal, missed extra point and Darqueze Dennard’s penalty for fair catch interference, due to not paying attention to the returner and only watching the ball in the air. As an experienced gunner, that’s not the type of mistake Dennard should be making in his fourth NFL season. Finishing the game with only 1 tackle and that penalty shows how lackluster Dennard has been, and why he’s lost the slot cornerback role on defense to Josh Shaw.
“You know, we can't have turnovers, basically the turnovers today offensively, penalties on defense, we miss a PAT, miss a field goal, those things eventually come back and they get you beat,” Lewis said.
That’s something I can agree with. All those mistakes “get you beat” and while the Bengals didn’t lose on Sunday, they also didn’t win. What does Lewis have to say about that?
“You don't get the win but you don't get a loss either,” he said. “We know at the end of the year that pays dividends. We just handle our business. If we still handle our business, we're fine.”
The Bengals are going to need to “handle their business” more effectively than they did during four quarters and overtime in London. I’m not sure if Lewis thinks that was handling their business.
So, what does Lewis believe went wrong? While admitting he couldn’t, “remember all the things”, here’s what he did remember.
“In general, you know, defensively we've got to do a better job of understanding and getting our jobs done, particularly in the perimeter, in coverage. Linebackers, secondary, everybody fitting together, making sure everything fits together the right way all the time,” Lewis said.
Does he think a tie was a defensive victory when it came to the end of the game
“Well, obviously when we end up with the ball down there, you know, they had the one before halftime; we were able to get off the field. So we had a couple opportunities today where we actually defended the goal line pretty well, which are positives for the defense today.”
Lewis believes there are positives to coach from as the team heads into its bye and gets two weeks off before a Monday Night Football game in primetime against the Giants.
“We’ve just got to correct some of the negatives and continue to press forward,” he said. “There's always going to be something we're not happy with, but we've got to continue to press forward and keep going.”
Lewis’ press conferences don’t often inspire much confidence or leave you with much of substance, but consider me particularly unimpressed with his thoughts after the Bengals’ third tie of the last decade, a league-high during that span, all under his reign.