Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Browns 51 Points, Bengals 45 Points-Leftover Crap

As we speak, I'm sitting down. I'm in a room that is approximately eight degrees warmer than what I'd consider ideal. Which is why I'm the blogging equivalent to Clubber Lang. Now that we got that out of the way...

I've been writing for 13 months now, and I've probably written two sentences more than any other: (1) I hate myself, and (2) I'm an idiot.

Neither of those sentiments are ever untrue, but No. 2 is rearing its ugly head at the moment. You see, I've written 3,000 words about Sunday's 51-45 loss to the Browns, and hardly any of it was game reaction, which I'm pretty sure I promised.

And now it's Tuesday afternoon (which is also the name of a gay song by the Moody Blues that my Dad used to make me listen to when he drove me to the batting cages), and I still haven't delivered the "goods." For that I'm sorrier than I've ever been about anything in my entire life (or maybe not). So how about a compromise? How about if I briefly touch on the things I still feel are relevant from the game...deal? Deal.

My postgame blog on Sunday asked a handful of questions--a few of those I answered, but most of them I didn't. Of the questions I didn't answer, one of them still needs to be. And that be...

Q: Does Chuck Bresnahan need to be fired?

A: Obviously. Just not right now. Throwing him on the street two weeks into the season wouldn't solve a single problem. In fact, it might make things worse to panic so early.

Regardless of the poor performance of the defense, is it really Chuck B's fault? My answer to that is...maybe. Then again, maybe not. The expression "you can't make chicken salad out of chicken crap" annoys the hell out of me, but in this case, it clearly describes the Bengals' defensive woes.

Here's what Justin Smith had to say after the game:

"It was mental errors. It's ridiculous. At this level of football, you can not have mental errors and let guys run down the field like that. That's what killed us. We missed a few tackles, but the big plays were mental errors. ... Guys are too good, too fast, too strong for you not to be where you need to be and then not to exploit it. That's what we did all day. You're going to get your butt beat if you do that. And we did, defensively."

and John Thornton shared his $0.02:

"I'm not trying to be (a jerk)," said defensive tackle John Thornton of Lewis' 66-yarder. "Any time somebody gets a run like that, somebody made a mistake. It's not a physical thing. That's when it hurts, when one guy or a couple of guys mess up, that affects the whole defense. We all have to have ownership of that. When they started out three-and-out, I thought it was going to be like that all day. Then they got a turnover, a short field, and kicked a field goal and they got into a rhythm. We didn't put them out early like we were supposed to do."

Here's my response to these large mammals: Guys, listen, I have no reason to believe you didn't miss assignments. In fact, I would bet $600-$675 saying that you absolutely missed you're assignments, BUT...that doesn't explain the whole story.

The whole story is this: the Bengals' defense stinks, and it's not because of a lack of execution. It's because the players who are failing to execute are pedestrian at best. The reason the Ravens, Bears, Pats, et al. have strong defenses isn't just because they have good coaches, although I'm sure it helps. The reason they excel is because they are loaded with supremely gifted humans...it's as simple as that. I'm sure Brian Urlacher occasionally misses an assignment, but I'm also sure he's athletic enough to make an adjustment on the fly to prevent serious damage from taking place.

The point being that the Bengals don't have players like this on defense. But they do on offense, and look at the results of that unit. Are you going to tell me the success of Palmer and Chad and Daniel Coats is due to Bob freaking Bratkowski? Please. That guy was your whipping boy for years until Palmer shuffled into town. Now, you barely hear his name.

But back to the Bengals not having any guys like Urlacher (or Shawne Merriman, Ed Reed or whoever). We've been here before, but the only truly disruptive force that played on a Marvin Lewis team is/was Odell Thurman. And you know how I feel about Mr. Thurman. I believe that his rookie season in 2005 was the best by a defensive player in my twenty years as a Bengals fan, and I would argue that to the death with anybody stupid enough to engage me. What's funny about my strong feelings towards Odell is that Marvin and Bresnahan loved telling us how he was always missing assignments.

Irony's ironic sometimes.

One final thought on the "Should Bresnahan be fired?" question: As a Reds fan, how many times have you heard somebody call in to sports talk radio to demand that a Reds pitching coach be fired? We heard it with Don Gullett, we're hearing it now with Dick Pole, and we heard it with every guy in between. Coincidence? I think not. I blame Phil Dumatrait.

Two of the questions I kind of answered in the postgame blog should probably be posted again, just so you know my stance on playing scared during shootouts. Here's the brief Q & A with myself:

8. Why did Marvin Lewis choose to kick the 19 yard FG on 4th & 1 on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter? It was after a turnover, they're on the road, they were trailing 27-21...do I need to continue? You have to go for a touchdown in a shootout; FGs aren't good enough.

9. Why did Marvin Lewis choose to punt on 4th & 2 near midfield (and maybe in Browns' territory) with 13:00 remaining and trailing 41-38? If you learned anything from question No. 8, it's that you don't punt in shootouts unless you have no other choice.

I could expound upon my answers, but you get the point: you don't bring a knife to a gun fight. Plus, I'm getting tired of typing.

Here are the leftover things that I haven't touched on (and again, I'm continuing the ban on bullet points. Fuck 'em, you know?):

a. Chad Johnson is waaaay better that TJ Houshmandzadeh. I only bring this up because some "experts" act as if the gap is close, or that Houshmandzadeh is as good or better. For those of us smart people, Chad's superiority over TJ has always been evident. But for those who listen to uninformed people, or people who are simply annoyed by Chad's act...well, what's the matter with you? Does your face even have eyeballs? Listen, TJ Houshmandzadeh is a fantastic football player, but he has so many limitations (deep speed, mainly) that hold him back. but Chad Johnson is the best WR this organization has ever seen. By a lot. And this is coming from a guy who thinks Carl Pickens might be the NFL's most underrated player of the 90's. Either way, I hope last week's outburst has settled this once and for all.

(And to those aforementioned smart people: I'm sorry to waste your time on something so stupid)

b. I received a text during the game wondering if the Bengals are shopping Levi Jones. My short answer was "Hell no," and I still believe that; star LTs--in the middle of their prime--don't get dealt. Ever. Plus, midseason football trades never go down the way they do in baseball or basketball. The last high profile midseason trade I remember was Mike McKenzie being shipped from Green Bay to New Orleans, but that was in the middle of a contract holdout. So no, Levi isn't going anywhere, but the situation seems odd. The fact that he plays on some special teams tells me so. Now, there's no doubt that Levi is still less than 100 percent physically, but I'd venture to guess that he's more game-ready than Willie is. Did you see that elephant out there Sunday? He looked like he ate Sam Adams. And he still did a solid job!

The Levi situation reminds me of the Lavar Arrington situation from a few years back. If you don't remember, Lavar Arrington, a multiple time Pro Bowler in his absolute prime, was benched by Joe Gibbs. Well sort of. Instead of deactivating Arrington, he chose to embarrass him. Gibbs decided to only play Arrington on certain blitz packages, with the message being "You're not good enough to start, but you can help us as a backup OLB." I don't know much, but I know professional athletes, especially those with Arrington's credentials, hate being disrespected publicly more than anything else.

So I might be looking too far into Levi's minimal activity, but something definitely smells funny.

c. I'm gonna go ahead and say it...Glenn Holt is good. We've seen one week wonders before (James Hundon late in '97, anyone?), but something about this dude seems different. His performance blew me away. He made big catch after big catch, big return after big return, and he kept coming back after getting his bell rung.

I have no idea why he wasn't drafted out of college. Perhaps he's an idiot. Maybe he's a punk. Maybe he was just an injury prone underachiever while playing for the lowly UK Wildcats. Who knows? What I do know, though, is that he can play.

(Blog interruption: I thought I just deleted everything you've just read and that caused me to scream really bad things, like the F-word, over and over. And over. I screamed so loud, in fact, that a neighbor just knocked on my door to see if everything was okay. This is a true story.)

d. Aside from anything that happened when the Bengals were on defense, the most crushing sequence took place with just under nine minutes remaining in the game. Trailing 48-38, and staring at a 1st & 10 from midfield, here's what happened on the next three plays: (1st & 10) drop by TJ--it would have been an 8 yard gain, (2nd &10) another drop by TJ--it would have gained at least 6 yards, and after an inexcusable Delay of Game penalty...(3rd & 15) Chad dropped a perfectly thrown, 20 yard laser that would have gained at least 10 more yards after the catch.

That was a goddamn killer. And with the down and distance being 4th & 15, Marvin had no choice but to send out Kyle Larson.

(By the way, give Chad a break for not getting out of bounds on the last play of the first half. It wasn't an easy play like many are saying. And he wasn't trying to make a play with the ball. He was sitting down in an awkward position and the DB came flying up on him before he could really react. Sure, I wish he would have touched his hand out of bounds but it was a difficult play.)

e. Here's exhibit A as to why I'd still rather be a Bengals fan than a Browns fan at the moment: Did anyone else hear the music being played over the loudspeakers at Cleveland's stadium (forgive me, I can't remember the name) after Leigh Bodden's INT officially slammed the door on the Bengals? How hard would you laugh if I told you it was Tom Petty's "Even the Losers?" If you're unfamiliar with that song, the hook goes something like this: "Even the losers...get lucky sometimes."

Translation: Even if we beat the Bengals, we still suck.

And you thought Bengals fans were apathetic.

Finally, I leave you with this, courtesy of the high class folks inhabiting the Dawg Pound...

More football goodness tonight! (exclamation point)

-Brad Spieser