Anything that can be said about a bad football team can be said about the Bengals. I can espouse any cliché about blocking and tackling, winning the turnover battle, being tough up front, and/or running the ball—and I’d be right.
Football is a simple game. So how does a team that is 0-5 turn things around?
The bye week is too far for a season-saving makeover, but the second half of the game in Dallas may be the subtle turning point. The Rudi “tip-toe” Johnson era officially came to a close when Cedric Benson dove into the line full blast, knowing that three yards per carry can put you in position to win football games.
The emergence of Benson could bring back two words that have seemingly been left out of the Bengals playbook: Play action. Not since Rudi Johnson was trying to earn his way into the starting lineup have Bengals fan seen a running back run with reckless abandon, and we got 10 doses on Sunday. It was refreshing and long overdue.
Cedric Benson is playing for his career, and we need urgency like that on this team.
Needless to say, Benson is not ready to shoulder the load of the playbook, let alone 20 carries a game.
Marvin Lewis needs to step up to the plate on TV and say what he means, or turn in his clipboard. If you’ve ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People, you know that it is important to keep score for motivational reasons.
(See Chad Johnson’s checklist: Every week he’s putting a defensive player’s name in lights. The knowledge that the defensive player will be at his best helped Chad to be at his own best. Crazy, but crazy like a fox.)
As motivation, it is important to put the score in a public place so that bad actors can be exposed. This is one of Lewis’ biggest problems. Marvin Lewis’ comment a season ago about players being “selfish” was aimed at THE DEFENSE, not Chad Johnson.
The media and many others assumed he was talking about Johnson, but defensive greed is what Marvin was talking about, being out of position and not playing in the system. His “coach-speak” set off a chain of reaction based on assumptions that turned into an offseason without Chad Johnson.
There is a line between treating your players with respect and covering for them. Your job and the success of the team are on the line, Marvin Lewis—expose the weak links for who they are.
Go deep young man! If you are not calling plays with a deep option early in the progression, how will you get it deep? I’m no Bill Walsh or anything, but I do know that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. The big plays don’t just happen—they are made.
In the words of Kenny Smith on NBA 2K8, “Good offenses take what they want.” Let your playmaker make plays. Just ask Brett Favre how that works out.
A good offensive scheme uses the instincts of a defense against it. Bob Bratkowski seemed like a savant a couple of years ago—now he just seems like an idiot. This is the NFL, so you cannot keep coming in season after season without evolving what you do, especially on offense.
Why do we throw so much on first down in our own territory? There is a very simple strategy for losing the field position battle. Get the ball on the 20 and throw an incomplete pass on first down. Now you are almost forced to run on second down attempting to “ensure” that you won’t see third and long.
Since I know you are about to run, here come seven in the box (eight is not needed against the Bengals). You get two yards, and now who doesn’t know you are about to pass on 3rd-and-8? PUNT.
It’s really simple. The Bengals have become so enamored with the thought that they have a top-flight passing game they have forgotten what got them to a division title—accountability, playmaking on both sides, and ability to run the ball to set up third and short instead of third and long.
Football is about as easy as avoiding the police blotter. Maybe that’s why the Bengals suck so bad.