I was planning on blasting Marvin Lewis in this space for not challenging the spot on Braylon Edwards' 7 yard reception on 3rd & 8, with 3:11 remaining in the 4th quarter, which somehow--thanks to them cheatin' (or maybe just old, stupid, fat and blind) refs--resulted in a first down. That gift spot essentially sealed the victory for Cleveland, and it made me want to punch several people, namely the refs and Marvin Lewis.
But then something happened--I went back and watched the game, and it revealed that I'm an idiot. In my head, the Bengals still had one challenge remaining. I thought Marvin's previous challenge, a failed effort, came late in the 2nd quarter and not early in the 3rd. And since you can't challenge two plays in the same half, Marvin was up shit creek.
I apologize, Marvin.
Either way, the play in question, the gift spot on Edwards' "first down" reception, absolutely killed the Bengals' chances of slapping together a legitimate two-minute drill. Instead of getting the ball back with 3:00 left (plus the two-minute warning), the drive didn't begin until the 1:03 mark, and it started at their own 8 yard line--a near impossible feat.
And before you think this is just after-the-fact whining about a few inches, let me assure you I have a legitimate gripe. Even on first viewing it seemed pretty obvious that Edwards was stonewalled by Caleb Miller and Dexter Jackson a half yard before he even approached CBS' accurate yellow line. And then I watched the play on Tivo, and I only needed to see it once to confirm what I already knew...Edwards wasn't even close to the first down marker.
And to make matters worse, the refs spotted the ball a good 18 inches past the yellow line, making it approximately a full yard difference between the actual spot and where the ball should have been placed. And to make matters even worser, the Browns got the first down by less than the length of the ball. An accurate spot, or even one close to accurate, means Carson is given another shot at the porous Browns secondary, and a shot at a history-making seventh touchdown pass. I ask you, would you bet against Carson and the Bengals under those circumstances? I have your two word answer: HELL FREAKING NO!
One other thing about the lousy spot by two different officials: I understand it's not easy to have the perfect mark on every play, but this play was easier than most. It's not as if Edwards was right at the stick when he caught it, only to get drilled backwards--I imagine forward progress calls like that are always the most difficult for the zebras. But this play was different. Edwards caught a 2 yard dump pass and ran straight ahead until he was met by Miller and Jackson, two feet in front of the first down marker. And Edwards didn't move the pile an inch, and he didn't reach the ball forward in an attempt to achieve a new set of downs...nope, he simply tucked the ball away in his belly and went to the turf after a good fight.
The Bengals lost the game, sure, and the defense was pitiful, but that doesn't mean they didn't get screwed at the end of the game. Just think, had the Bengals gotten the ball back with 3 minutes to go, and if Palmer connects on his seventh TD (a game winner) we are talking about different things today. It wouldn't have masked the troubles on the defensive side of the ball, but it certainly would have taken some of the sting away.
Now the Bengals are looking at an away game against Seattle (an impossible place to win--the new Arrowhead) and a Monday tilt with the Pats, who appear to be a combination of the '85 Bears, the '94 49ers and the '99 West Canaan Coyotes. But better.
There was a time (like, two days ago) when a 2-2 record at the bye was the worst case scenario; now it might be the best.
Part Threux (sometimes I make up words) is on its way. I'll probably gush about Glenn Holt, my new favorite mammal. I also tell you why TJ Houshmandzadeh was a semi-goat in Sunday's loss.
Stay tuned, jerks. And keep the faith, dammit!