Friday, October 24, 2008

The Heart of Darkness--A Bengals Fan in Pittsburgh

(Previously posted on CincyJungle)

Due to my crazy work schedule, this was the first game I have actually been able to watch. Since I only have read of the horror and not seen it, I'll post some thoughts.

I watched it in typical surroundings (for me), in the home of a Pittsburgh Steelers fan with my Bengals jersey on (Who Dey!). This week was particularly interesting because the guy who was hosting was my buddy Tom, the head chef for Heinz Field (thanks Tom--the omelets, wings, and shrimp were great!). I tried to convince him to poison Rooney's food, but he wasn't in to it.

As far as the game went, obviously the Bengals are awful across the board. To pick out the negatives would take a while, so I want to highlight some positives. Although the offense was anemic, when Benson got going, he actually looked decent. He hit the whole quick and hard and delivered blows to get extra yardage. He may be a guy we should consider resigning. I don't see him as bell-cow, but he could be a good between the tackles/situational back. Benson and a healthy Watson complemented by a mid-round draft pick could make a decent RBBC next year. Obviously, with no real deep passing threat and a weak running game, it isn't difficult to defend against the Bengals--given that, Fitz had his moments. His biggest problem is the incessant pass rush and his "happy feet" in the pocket. Given the weak pass protection, some of that is understandable, but sometimes he would be better off just standing in the pocket and throwing rather than running. He just can't read the defenses adequately to find the open guy.

I see what people are saying about the defense. They looked a lot better. Although there is no excuse for giving up 38 points--a lot of it can be attributed to the offense's inability to sustain a drive (beyond the last drive of the first half ). The secondary, aside from Pope's blown coverage and Joseph's fourth quarter breakdown, looked decent. The lack of pass rush was disconcerting, but if we had a decent pass rush, our secondary could be a strong group. The front seven came up big several times in short yardage situations, which was heartening. In the fourth quarter, they clearly broke down---partially from exhaustion--partially from lack of will in a game they weren't going to win.

Caldwell looked really good on kick returns and I hope they get both him and Simpson in the mix more often.

Although Pittsburgh fans are typically a very (over) confident bunch, at the end of the first half, I noticed a little perspiration on the brow--it could have been a splash from the Iron City Beer--but I am going with sweat. The rational centers of my brain knew the Bengals probably wouldn't win, but after the closing drive of the first half--my heart lifted, because it seemed like they were actually playing as a team on both sides of the ball. I stayed quiet, however--Pavlovian conditioning from the Bengals pathetic record against the Steelers--but inside I was chanting WHO DEY!

Of course, in a manner that I could have scripted from watching too many years of Bengals football, Cincy unraveled in the second half--with Hines Ward's blow on Rivers being the symbolic moment of the game---physical Steelers football blindsiding the Bengals once again.

The Bengals are a bad football team (newsflash!). But I don't think they are nearly as bad as their record indicates. The rest of the season could be rough. If they decide to sit Palmer, we may be lucky to win a game. This is an eventuality for which I am prepared.

What's really upsetting is that I am depending on the Bengal's front office to correct the myriad of problems.

The horror! The horror!

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