Cincinnati Bengals Raise City's Collective Blood Pressure as Cardiac Cats

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2009

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 11:  Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks passes against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 11, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Bengals defeated the Ravens 17-14. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

What a five game stretch for the 2009 Bengals.

Every game has been decided in the final 60 seconds and the feeling of excruciating defeat and astonishing victory has been felt weekly. These Bengals don’t do anything easily, but 4-1 is 4-1. 3-0 on the road and 3-0 in the division are numbers that can’t be ignored.

Quick recap: crushing loss to Denver on a fluke tip after the Bengals drove the length of the field to go ahead with 20 or so seconds remaining, QB Aaron Rodgers runs out of time on a possible game tying drive in Green Bay.

Two game winning last second TD’s from QB Carson Palmer to WR Andre Caldwell over divisional powers Pittsburgh and Baltimore sandwiched between a should have been game winning last second drive at Cleveland that was forced to OT due to the errand snap on the extra point. The game was later won by another solid Palmer led drive in OT.

Callers to Cincinnati sports radio have been complaining of high blood pressure all week. The Cardiac Cats are doing wonders for doctors in the region. Each week the offense shows flashes of brilliance in the first quarter, before going into hibernation until halfway through the fourth quarter.

This team reminds me of the kid that is real smart but doesn’t do his homework till right before it needs to be turned in. He scribbles down the answers frantically and gets it in just in the nick of time and he some how receives full credit.

One of the big reasons for such tension was released yesterday in Brad St. Louis. After two bad snaps against Baltimore and six over the first four games, the Bengals released the veteran long snapper/tight end on Tuesday and signed Clark Harris.

Kicker Shayne Graham has looked extremely tentative in his kicking and as a result has had two field goals blocked against the Browns’ Shaun Rodgers. A competent long snapper should solve that problem.

The offensive line looked to be a huge issue going into the season because of the horrid play of last year. But the unit has unexpectedly gelled together nicely. The line has protected Palmer well and has opened holes up the middle for RB Cedric Benson.

Speaking of Benson, he leads the NFL in rushing with 487 yards. He is on pace for a team-record 1,558 rushing yards which would shatter the Bengals team record. The scary thing is that the Bengals have yet to use unknown explosive rookie RB Bernard Scott much.

The rookie from Abilene Christian has only 10 carries on the year for 45 yards but has shown signs of his raw speed. He scored 60 TDs his last two years in college after letting off the field incidents derail his chances of getting a division one scholarship.

But this guy has talent and considering Benson leads the NFL in carries, Scott will be getting more touches as the grueling 16 game schedule rolls on. He will be a good waiver wire fantasy pick-up in the coming weeks.

Back to the O-line, once LT Andre “the giant” Smith is able to get on the field the depth will only increase. He has been sidelined all year with a broken foot. Reports out of Cincinnati suggest that his foot is almost 100 percent healed and he actually is in decent shape. Considering the Alabama product didn’t even allow a sack in his final year in the SEC, his future is promising.

In the secondary the linebacking core is black hole deep. Dhani Jones provides the veteran leadership, Keith Rivers leads the team in tackles with 29, and rookie Rey Maualuga provides the devastating blows. On top of the stellar starters, back-up Brandon Johnson has provided solid support in the run game and Rashard Jeanty, whom has been battling injuries all season, is a asset in the passing defense.

The secondary features two of the top young corners in the league in former first round picks Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall. The duo held wide receivers Greg Jennings, Braylon Edwards, and Derrick Mason catch-less and limited Hines Ward and Brandon Marshall under 40 yards. That is some impressive coverage on each teams top target.

Add it all up and at 4-1, the Bengals can still improve in multiple areas. Nobody’s ready to crown them AFC North champs yet, because these are the Bengals, but it seems as if the clouds have cleared up over Paul Brown Stadium. Three home games in a row and a bye means they wont be on the road again till a Nov. 15 tilt at Pittsburgh.

For the first time since 2005, the sky is the limit. It’s no coincidence that Carson Palmer is at his healthiest since ‘05, and the veteran leader seems determined to resurrect this franchise.

All the talking heads on radio, and T.V. forgot about the guy, instead praising the likes of Tony Romo and Joe Flacco over Palmer. Well folks, now is the time to jump back on his bandwagon. Now is the time to watch a 29-year-old pro bowler in his prime.

Sit back and enjoy the show Bengal fans, even if it means you have to keep your heart doctor on speed dial.