Monday, November 28, 2005

Steelers represent opportunity for Bengals

Marvin Lewis is growing tired of the questions. His frustration appeared to reach its peak following last week’s loss to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium.

During the post-game news conference, Lewis became somewhat perturbed when a reporter asked him what a relatively narrow 45-37 defeat to the Super Bowl shuffling Colts said about his team.

“Considering the Colts are probably the best team in the league, what conclusions can you draw about your team from this game?” the reporter asked.


Deep breath.

Ok, here goes …

“Well, we’re not satisfied with losing,” Lewis said. “We’re not going to go down that road again. The Colts are a very good football team and we went toe-to-toe with them. We’re a good football team. But, in order to prove that we need to go out and beat the other good football teams out there.”

The national media – I don’t believe the aforementioned reporter was local – are a little too eager to paint the 8-3 Bengals as a Cinderella story. A one-year wonder.

Truth is, the Bengals are anything but an overnight success.

The Bengals are coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons. They’ve managed to remain in the playoff chase into the month of December both of those years.

It has taken Lewis and his staff more than two seasons to make the personnel changes necessary to build the foundation of a winner.

This year’s Bengals are barely a shadow of their bungling past.

“We’ll keep climbing up that ladder,” Lewis says. “We’ll keep working at it. We’ll keep coming at it and swinging at the plate. We’ll stay together and we’ll be fine.”

Bengals QB Carson Palmer, who was 25-for-38 for 335 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts, was asked the same question.

“We did some good things, but we lost,” Palmer said. “We don’t play to come close. We play to win. This game hurts. We don’t play to lose.”

Still, the Bengals have failed each time they’ve had an opportunity to silence the skeptics:

Jacksonville 23 Bengals 20 - Early penalties shifted the field position in the Jaguars’ favor and a late Palmer fumble helped Jacksonville seal the victory.

Pittsburgh 27 Bengals 13 – A replay-reversal negated a Chad Johnson touchdown and Chris Henry’s dropped pass in the end zone prevented the Bengals from building an early lead and shelving the Steelers running attack.

Indianapolis 45 Bengals 37 – Despite what the final score might indicate, it was an off-side penalty on a third-and-10 play which prevented the Bengals from forcing the Colts to punt on their first possession. Indianapolis kept the ball and took a 7-0 lead moments later. Game. Set. Match.

“We didn’t get off the field on third down,” Lewis said. “It started with that first penalty. We made some plays, but not enough plays.”

The Bengals have yet another chance to legitimize themselves to a doubting public when they travel to Pittsburgh for a rematch with the rival Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field.

The Bengals defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 42-19, at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday.

A victory over Pittsburgh this week would provide more than just vindication for the Bengals. It would put them in the driver’s seat for the AFC North Division title and make them legitimate contenders for the postseason and, quite possibly, a home playoff game.

Few people would disagree with Lewis’ assertion that the Bengals are a good football team.

But, they’d rather not wait until the Pro Bowl rosters are released for confirmation of their talent.

“We can play with the best of them, period,” said Chad Johnson who had six catches for a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. “We tried to show the world this isn’t the same Bengals anymore. We still need to put up a ‘W’.”

The “Cinderella” Bengals are dressed for the ball. They’ve been fitted for their glass slippers.

But, the invitation is, as they say, in the mail.

“We’re getting closer,” Lewis said. “One day we’re going to have that breakthrough victory. That will be great for everybody.”

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bengals fans: don't worry C.J. not T.O.

Chad Johnson and Philadelphia Eagles receiver Terrell Owens do have a few things in common.

They both are considered to be among the best receivers in the NFL, if not the best.

On the playing field, they are intense competitors who succeed in making their respective teams ,and teammates, better.

Oh, and they both are clients of super-agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Please, if there’s any justice in the world, let the comparisons end there.

In truth, anyone who would jump to the conclusion that C.J. and T.O. are of the same ilk has spent little or no time around the Bengals receiver.

To the outside observer, Johnson dances to taunt, jaws at quarterback Carson Palmer about his lack of touches because he’s selfish and creates lists to defy the authority of head coach Marvin Lewis.

That’s T.O.. Not C.J.

But, Bengals fans can’t be blamed if they watch the circus in Philly and worry.

Owens was unceremoniously released last week after he engaged in a series of altercations, physical and otherwise, with quarterback Donovan McNabb and head coach Andy Ried. He’s sparred with the media, made a spectacle out of doing push-ups in his driveway and spent much of the past ten days making apologies which couldn’t be any more lacking in sincerity.

Rosenhaus, who rescued a child who was drowning in a pool at Disney World recently, might need his complete arsenal of CPR skills to revive T.O.’s career.

Johnson’s infamous “List” of cornerbacks who “won’t” cover him during the 2005 season has been a popular topic among fans, media and Bengals opponents.

He says it’s more of a challenge to himself. Lewis called the list “irrelevant” but felt compelled to remove it prior to the Bengals game at Baltimore and replace it with a more “team-oriented” list.

Johnson complied with Lewis’ wish and proceeded to satisfy every request listed thereof.

How would T.O. react if Ried was fiddling with his “paperwork”?

Johnson has caught 53 passes for 808 yards and five touchdowns this season. He ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards. He and Palmer are making significant strides toward becoming one of the NFL’s top one-two combinations a la Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in Indianapolis.

The Bengals (7-2) play the Colts at 4:15 p.m. Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

In a recent interview with USA Today, Johnson said his antics are all designed to add a little more fun and entertainment on Sundays. No malice exists in his intent.

When Johnson unveiled his sign which read, “Dear NFL, don’t fine me again. Merry
Christmas”, we laughed.

When he unleashed the “Riverdance” earlier this season, we laughed again.

When Johnson talks trash on the field his opponents often laugh.

Ever see anyone “laugh” at Terrell Owens? Nope. That’s cause T.O. is no joke. Just ask Rosenhaus.

Johnson’s operates on a different level.

“The outside world doesn't know me,” he said. “They only see a cocky, arrogant, trash-talking receiver. But I want people to understand the hard work I put in each week. I put in hours of watching film and going over the game plan. I come in on my off-days. I wish people would understand I'm not just talk.”

Johnson has been known to call Lewis in the wee hours of the morning to discuss how to get open on a particular play. He has an insatiable drive to be the best.

The cliché “Don’t judge a book by its cover” aptly describes Chad Johnson.

What also differentiates Johnson from Owens is his support group. Although Ried finally took a stand, one has to believe that Lewis would have acted a lot sooner. See Corey Dillon.

The veteran-stability that exists in the Bengals locker room won’t allow any individual player, especially Johnson, to stray too far from the team’s task at hand. Willie Anderson won’t stand for it.

But, Bengals fans are holding their breath.

Johnson is due a substantial raise this off-season.

Rosenhaus will be crawling out from his proverbial sewer looking to manipulate the media, fans and the Bengals’ brass into believing he, er I mean Johnson, deserves every penny possible.

Here’s hoping the system doesn’t corrupt Johnson. Right now, C.J.’s just having fun.

So are we.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Today's trivia question:

Which is more astounding?

a) That a Bengals fan could scale a 9-foot wall at Paul Brown Stadium, reach the field of play, sprint 80 yards and steal the ball from Packers quarterback Brett Favre during the fourth quarter before security caught wind of what was happening.


b) That a group of local investors, including a food wholesaler, could wrestle majority control of the Reds away from Carl H. Lindner.

Take your time. This is a tough one.

Bengals enjoying fine first half

The Bengals are halfway home.

With eight games remaining on the schedule their record stood at 6-2 putting them in excellent position to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1990.

Coming off a 21-14 victory over Green Bay, the Bengals led the AFC North division by a slim margin over the Steelers.

Head coach Marvin Lewis finally conceded that his team had “written the script” for a good start. After beginning each of the past two seasons 1-4, the Bengals have reversed their early-season misfortunes.

“We’ve taken care of business when we’ve needed to,” said Lewis. “6-2 is a good record. We’re halfway through. Let’s be better in the second half.”

Four of the final seven games will be played at Paul Brown Stadium beginning with a nationally-televised clash with the Indianapolis Colts (game-time 4:15 p.m.) following this week’s bye.

Here’s the way we see the Bengals’ season thus far:


Lewis has been pleased with Palmer’s performance this season, but he still gets frustrated at times with the Bengals’ third-year QB who has a tendency to shoulder too much of the burden.

It was Palmer’s fumble which cost the Bengals a chance to tie the score or take the lead late in a loss at Jacksonville. He had his worst outing of the season in the biggest game of the year, a week-seven loss to AFC North Division rival Pittsburgh.

Still, Palmer maintained a 104 .1QB rating through eight games with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions and was quickly establishing himself as one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars at his position.


Ten years of agonizing dedication are finally paying off for Willie Anderson. He addresses reporters following each game with a narrow stream of blood running down his nose. We keep waiting for him to bleed orange.

Anderson, who is listed at 6’ 5” 340-pounds, is the locker-room neighbor of 6’ 4” 340-pound Bobbie Williams. The Bengals locker room leans noticeably in their direction.


Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to have one?


After an injury-riddled rookie season, Perry is finally displaying the ability that convinced the Bengals to make him their top draft choice last year.

Perry’s still learning but isn’t it fun to watch him display the type of turn-the-corner speed that made him a standout at the University of Michigan?


“We play well together,” said cornerback Tory James. “We’ve got some ball-hawks back there.”

Hawks is right. The loss of Madieu Williams hurts but Ifeanyi Ohalete has filled in admirably.


Need further confirmation of Lewis’ astuteness as a NFL head coach?

Remember all those penalties the Bengals were committing early in the season?

That’s good coaching. Identify a problem. Fix it and move on to the next one.


Remember him?


You’ve got to love him. He’s Jerry Rice with a personality. He’s Terrell Owens without the selfishness. He’s Jim Rome’s favorite NFL player. Ok, two out of three are positive.

Johnson has garnered his share of attention from “The List” and his dance moves. Let’s hope the sideshow doesn’t distract from the main attraction.


Has there been a quieter 681 yards in the NFL this season?


While Bengals fans were pressing the panic button following the loss to the Steelers, the Bengals players were all business.

“Good teams don’t lose back-to-back games,” said James following the Bengals’ victory over the Packers. “We worked real hard to come back and win this one.”

The Bengals have yet to lose two consecutive games this season.


The Bengals knew coming into this season that anything short of a playoff appearance would be considered a disappointment.

The difference between them and Bengals teams of the past is that they “expect” to win.

“We can always look back at the Jacksonville and Pittsburgh games and wish we were 8-0,” said Palmer. “But, we’re happy where we are. We’ve got a chance to take the division. We have to keep working to get better but we like where we are.”

The Bengals have executed Lewis’ training camp mantra “Do your job” to the letter.


The Bengals are poised to set the Queen City on its ear. If they haven’t already.