The Bengals have dropped another game, falling to 3-5-1 on the season. Will a return to playing in Paul Brown Stadium help them get up? Will facing a Bills’ team on a losing streak help them? Can the Bengals turn their season around? What did Marvin Lewis have to say about this all, and more importantly, what did he mean? Let’s take a look at the head coach’s press conference this week.
Lewis opening comments: ...It doesn’t get much easier getting ready for the Bills this week. They are a football team that started out and lost two, then they got on a roll, and then they’ve lost the last three. They’re coming off the bye week. They’re running the football very effectively. They do a good job with their scheme. Their quarterback is playing very efficiently and is doing a great job running their offense. It’s impressive to watch what they’re doing.
Commentary: In the NFL, there is rarely such a game as a “sure thing”, unless you are facing the Browns. But when Lewis alludes that facing a team at home, who has lost the last three games, isn’t easy, it doesn’t give you the feeling that he has a lot of confidence in his team’s ability right now.
Question: One positive has to be that this is the first true home game in what seems like forever ...
Lewis’ Answer: It does seem like it.
Commentary: Yes, it does seem like that. The last three weeks have been played in London, on a bye week, then playing in New York. So it’s essentially been one month since the Bengals last played a home game in Cincinnati.
Question: Some of the assistants have said that practice has gone very well during the week, but for whatever reason it’s not translating to the game. How do you get it to translate to the game for a player?
Lewis’ Answer: They’ve just got to relax and do it. But that’s our job to get it done.
Commentary: This is what happens when you insist on playing players who “practice well”, but aren’t great NFL players. It’s why Carlos Dunlap sat for three seasons behind the likes of Robert Geathers, and why Darqueze Dennard and Dre Kirkpatrick get drafted in the first round but had to sit and watch for years, and why guys like P.J. Dawson never get a shot... Dawson somehow backfired more than the rest as they didn’t even let him stay on the 53-man roster bench. He’s been demoted to the practice squad for the year.
Question: It’s been so close for you guys this year ...
Lewis’ Answer: Every game is close...
Commentary: Well, let’s not get too carried away with the revisionist history. Three of the Bengals’ five losses have been by at least a dozen points: DEN 29-17, DAL 28-14, NE 35-17.
Question: What goes into decision making for a fourth-and-inches situation?
Lewis’ Answer: The number one thing is your opportunity to make the fourth down. It’s the consequences if you don’t make it, where the field position is, the situation in the game, and the time on the clock. They’re all important. The strength of the kicker on both sides matter as well. Field situations and wind are also things you have to take into consideration.
Commentary: Essentially, Lewis does not believe his team can convert in that situation. Based on what the team has done this year, it seems to be an accurate, although disappointing, assessment, since a coach should be able to come up with a scheme, formation, personnel grouping, play that can get you a few inches out of 100 yards.
Question: Coach McAdoo did the same thing when the Giants went for it on fourth-and-three. So do you tell your quarterback not to force anything on third down because of that?
Lewis’ Answer: With that situation in the game, they had an opportunity, if they didn’t make it, to hold us there and make us punt the football back...
Commentary: Well, that’s not a very exciting assessment. Basically he says that the Giants are smart to go for it on fourth down, because they’ll likely just force the Bengals to punt if they don’t convert on fourth down.
Question: In a positive moment looking ahead, you have lots of division games left ...
Lewis’ Answer: We do. That’s important. We have to take advantage of where we are, understand it, and have great preparation this week. It’s a very important football game for us. It’s a home game, and we have to go pin our ears back.
Commentary: Thankfully the Bengals are in a division where no team is having a great season, so their one shot at a playoff spot remains in winning the division. They are only 1.5 games behind the Ravens, who they have two games against in the weeks ahead, and they still get the Steelers at home, who they only trail by half a game in the division as well.