As far as bad omens go, I'd put a game like the Cincinnati Bengals played in the preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs right after being bitten by an owl or having your Tesla break down during a solar eclipse (which actually happened to me). But my opinions don't really matter. The real question is what Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis thought, and at his press conference after the game, he kinda, sorta told us what he thought.
Once again, I'll do my best to translate the wisdom of our own equivocating chief into straight-talk.
Marvin Lewis: “I think going back to the first part of the game, what I remember most is that we are not converting third downs. We are moving the ball; we are getting stalled out. We have to do a better job of that. We are making first downs, and getting into third down situations and not converting.”
TRANSLATION: We lost because we didn't do so well. And since that doesn't seem to be good enough for you, well, here's something: What about third downs? That sounds like something you guys would be into.
COMMENTARY: Yes, the Bengals did indeed have trouble converting third downs, converting four out of 14 third downs to the Chiefs' 6 out of 12. That's not the story, though. The story is the Bengals had problems throughout the game, not looking very hot even when the starters were in. Total net yards for the Bengals was 257, while the Chiefs had 410. More telling, the Bengals only had 72 rushing yards all game long, as opposed to 228 for the Chiefs. In fact, "not converting" on third down is merely a symptom of a much larger problem--the offensive line is not good, hence the poor running game and the pressure on the passers. But ML is not a fan of giving bait to those sharks in the water with microphones. Let them eat third downs!
QUESTION: It seems like the kicking competition is going to go down to the wire?
ML: “It’s going to keep going.”
TRANSLATION: I have been burned by kickers before. And, as the hard rock band "Great White" has said, "My, my, my, once bitten twice shy babe."
COMMENTARY: While ML's polygamous approach to the Bengals’ kicking situation is shocking to some, it's not to me. I know exactly what he's doing. He says it later in the press conference himself! "We are working on guys vying for spots," ML said. "That is what the preseason is about... That is the best part for us as coaches. We want the execution to be 100 percent, and that is what we are striving for, no matter who is out there." You see, by creating a lover's triangle wherein veteran Randy Bullock and rookie Jake Elliott fight for his love like two desperate siblings, he will have not one but two good kickers. The Bengals' kicking situation last year was atrocious, and having two decent kickers around will ensure that it's not like that for a while. How, you ask, will they keep both? Well, to find out, you need to read a beautiful, conspiracy-laden article by my friend Jason Marcum.
QUESTION: What is your biggest concern about this team midway through the preseason?
ML: “We haven’t played a regular-season game yet. You can’t gauge, and I am not going to tell you what it is anyway.”
TRANSLATION: Why are you still here? I have tofu nuggets burning in the oven, and you're asking me to give you information?
COMMENTARY: I love when ML does this. He's very straightforward about the fact that professional football is complex and constantly changing. Those around you don't seem informed enough or even smart enough to understand, if you're a prodigy at the level of ML, and let's be honest, despite his post-season failures, he really has one of the greatest coaching minds (especially defensive coaching minds) the NFL has ever seen. It makes for really good football, but really bad press conferences.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on Shawn Williams?
ML: “I don’t.”
REPORTER: Can you comment on the other receivers?
ML: “I can’t do much from the top of my head.”
TRANSLATION: You do remember what I just told you about tofu nuggets, right?
COMMENTARY: ML's plan is ML's plan. We won't know it until we see it in action. Judging from past seasons, that could be good news for fans. But judging from some of the glaring issues that have arisen--on both offense and defense--in this preseason, there's also a chance it might not be pretty.