Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bengals 27 Points, Ravens 20 Points

Don't do it. Don't you dare complain about how ugly they looked in victory. Really, I don't want to hear it. I don't care if the Bengals only won by seven points despite turning Baltimore over six times. Sure, the Bengals need to patch up a bunch of holes, and they're quite obviously a tier (or two) below San Diego, Indianapolis and New England, but...Jesus, they're 1-0, with a head start in the brutal AFC North. How spoiled have we gotten around here? Remember when Neil O'Donnell would drop back on 3rd & 9 and complete a 6 yard swing pass to Brian Milne? How about Gus Frerotte and Jon Kitna being positively careless with the ball in their hands? What about Akili Smith being one of the ten worst players of the modern era? Do I even have to mention Bruce Coslet or Dick LeBeau? All of these things happened in the last decade! How soon we forget.

Arrests notwithstanding, these are the good times, Bengals fans.

Now, I'm not accusing every Bengals fan of possessing this disposition, but it sure as hell seems like it. And even though I'm only using my friends as proof, I believe my gauging of Joe Q. Fan's mood is spot-on. Here's why: I talk to the same eleven people after every Bengals game, and their opinions range anywhere from informed and critical, to uninformed and blatantly biased. And they're almost always drunk. Basically, they make up the typical talk show caller in Cincinnati, which is why I feel qualified to accurately measure the temperature of the average Bengals fan. So last night, when the obligatory "what did you think?" questions began filtering in, I noticed that every one of them--even the people who should know better--had a tone that reeked of "yeah we won, but..." And this was before they even gave their opinion; this was in the first five seconds of our coversation, when they were simply asking me a question!

Is this an alternate universe?

I'm not saying the bar shouldn't be raised for the Carson Palmer era, because it absolutely should. And I don't subscribe to Jim Tressel's "There's no such thing as an ugly win" nonsense. But Monday night was different. They won a game that prominently involved Scott Kooistra. Scott freaking Kooistra! And Andrew Whitworth seems like a nice fellow and a fundamentally sound blocker and all--and he undoubtedly would destroy me in a best three-out-of-five arm-wrestling duel--but he ain't exactly the ideal mammal to play LT versus Baltimore, know what I'm saying?

When ownership decided to extend Willie and Levi for big dollars, while letting Steinbach walk, one point became abundantly clear: Offensive tackles are even more important than geniuses like me previously believed. Eric Steinbach is young, athletic, versatile and polished, yet he was viewed to be less valuable than a 32 year-old RT with a zillion miles and microfracture surgery in his rear-view. Says a lot, no? Keeping Willie around wasn't about loyalty, it was about winning a Super Bowl.

Look, Carson Palmer is indisputably the best player on the Bengals, and I would give Chad the edge for No. 2, but beyond that...I'm putting Levi and Willie tied for 3rd, with TJ on their heels in 5th place. Scott Kooistra? Before Monday, I would have ranked him between 40-53, someone you'd never want lining up against Terrell Suggs. Which is why nary a complaint should be filed from Bengals fans about the lack of style points in the season opener.

I hate baseball, but here's a baseball analogy for Whitworth and especially Kooistra...

This would be like Tom Shearn--in the heat of a pennant race--getting a spot start, going six innings and allowing three earned runs against a division rival...and getting the win. This was huge. It would be impossible for me to overstate this.

Have I rambled long enough?

Quick observations from Monday night:

(Note: I'm boycotting bullet points. I'm crazy like that)...

1. Herana-Daze Joes might have been my whipping boy last year (or at least his parents were for naming him Herana-Daze and pronouncing it "Hernandez"), but he's an animal on special teams. He might be the best player covering kicks for the Bengals since Ron Dugans.

2. I really like Ron Jaworski's analysis, but he needs to learn how to say Houshmandzadeh.

3. Did anyone else notice Chad Johnson forming an OC (for Ocho Cinco) with his hands after his 33 yard 2nd quarter reception? I hope this catches on.

(By the way, why did he ever drop the "Oprah, call me!" line? He would have been on the show by now had he been persistent.)

4. Leon Hall is going to make a lot of plays this year. In fact, I might even start calling him a playmaker. He's like Keiwan Ratliff, but good.

5. I don't remember the last time the Bengals delivered that many knockout blows to an opponent. Off the top of my head I can remember Caleb Miller, Dexter Jackson and Leon Hall separating man from ball.

6. Someone besides Marvin Lewis should be in charge of challenging. He continues to throw away timeouts in big games, and it's going to bite him in the ass before too long.

7. Here's what should most concern Ravens fans for the 2007 season: Ravens OT Adam Terry (2) had more tackles than Ed Reed (1). Statistical aberration? OK yeah, but that's a bad offense. And Kyle Boller is the backup QB!

8. The ESPN-Verizon commercial, where a guy was interviewed outside of a funeral, was brilliant. When you add that spot to the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame ads with Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Alstott, sports commercials might be an all-time high.

(Note: I spent ten minutes looking for the ESPN-Verizon commercial on YouTube, only to come away empty handed.)

9. Why are Steve McNair and Brett Favre the only QBs that ever get credited for being tough? Is Peyton Manning not tough? The dude has started every game of his career! Am I supposed to believe he's never played with pain?

10. Robert Geathers...Holy Potatoes, Batman! And I really don't care about his sack or forced fumble; I'm only concerned with his athleticism on his diving interception. From his impressive catch, to his quickness getting up, to his speed down the sideline, I couldn't believe it was him. In fact, until he was tackled I couldn't tell who it was. I thought it was an OLB or safety, but definitely not a DE.

11. Landon Johnson played his best game as a member of the Southwest Ohio Bengals.

12. Moonlight Graham's bum hip doesn't concern me, although it probably should.

13. This team is really going to miss Ken Irons this year. I truly believe that was a bigger blow than we realize.

14. The only way I'm wrong about No. 13 is if Chris Perry returns to something approaching his 2005 form. And if he does, he will only add to what is already one of the strangest careers in recent memory.

(By the way, the coaching staff made the right decision to keep Perry on the PUP to start the season. The last thing Perry needs is to be rushed back from another injury. His role will be far more important in December than it would've been in September.)

15. From the prediction department: Skyler Green will mishandle several punts this year. I only say this because my time down at training camp revealed that Green has awful hands. I know catching a punt and catching a Doug Johnson special aren't the same thing, but still.

16. Where in the hell was Tab Perry? I thought any No. 3 WR would flourish playing alongside Chad and TJ. Translation: Chris Henry is good.

17. Marvin Lewis uses futuristic-looking crutches, and somehow that makes me jealous.

18. Chad's non-effort to make a tackle after Rudi's fumble was downright laughable. I'm not sure if it's true but I heard a rumor about the Ryan Freel Fan Club (aka Price Hill and Cheviot) protesting outside of PBS at this very moment.

19. Carson Palmer is good at playing the sport of American football. I'd write more about him but I already slurped him enough in my season preview. And.........if you didn't read the season preview, you can do so by scrolling down approximately seven inches to fulfill your reading desires.

It may be a bit strange of me to wait this long to mention the most important play of the game, but that's how I roll, playa. Anyway...

20. The Ravens got screwed when Todd Heap was called for P.I. Capital S, Capital CREWED. I'd add more but there's nothing else to add. I like eating tacos.

Finally, and this is important...

21. My status as a J-list celebrity was bumped to G-list status Monday afternoon. And why? Because as I was successfully slinging "Free Chris Henry" shirts in the parking lot during the pre-game tailgate, a guy who I've never seen before was screaming things like "TwinKilling...Brad Spieser...YEAH!" and "Are you going to have a diary posted for tomorrow, man?" In my world, that's big news.

That's all for now, stupid idiots. More Bengals goodness is on the way.