Apologies for the dearth of posts this past weekend; the holidays always seem to soak up more time than I expect. Between shopping and family events, I did manage to catch bits and pieces of the game. It was more competitive than I, or most others, had expected – but in the end the same problems that have haunted Cincinnati all year emerged to trip them for another loss.
As has become common, the Bengals couldn’t play clean. They were flagged nine times for 55 yards Sunday, with three of those yellow hankies tossed on three consecutive plays during an embarrassing series in the third quarter.
1-10-CIN 22 (6:21) PENALTY on CIN-74-D.Roland, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at CIN 22 – No Play.
1-15-CIN 17 (6:21) PENALTY on CIN, Illegal Substitution, 5 yards, enforced at CIN 17 – No Play.
1-20-CIN 12 (6:21) PENALTY on CIN-9-C.Palmer, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at CIN 12 – No Play.
Another false start, delay call and an illegal formation on Andrew Whitworth would bring the tally of mental mistakes to six and 30 yards.
The Bengals did have several good, and largely penalty-free, drives in the first half, but repeatedly settled for field goals in the red zone. On their first possession, Cincinnati drove to the San Diego 11, only to boot a field goal after two incomplete passes and a three-yard run. And at the end of the half, the team got to the SD 7, but again failed to punch it in when two passes fell incomplete.
Finally, on their last drive of the game, Cincinnati went from its own 5 to the SD 19 before self-destructing and having to once more call on Shayne Graham.
1-10-SD 19 (2:34) PENALTY on CIN-88-J.Foschi, False Start, 6 yards, enforced at SD 19 – No Play.
1-16-SD 25 (2:32) (Shotgun) 9-C.Palmer pass short left to 87-A.Caldwell to SD 45 for -20 yards (51-T.Dobbins). FUMBLES (51-T.Dobbins), recovered by CIN-9-C.Palmer at SD 45. 9-C.Palmer to SD 45 for no gain (32-E.Weddle).
2-36-SD 45 (2:00) 9-C.Palmer pass short left to 88-J.Foschi to SD 39 for 6 yards (70-A.Boone).
3-30-SD 39 (1:11) (Shotgun) 9-C.Palmer pass deep left to 12-Q.Cosby to SD 16 for 23 yards (32-E.Weddle).
Timeout #3 by SD at 00:57.
4-7-SD 16 (:57) 17-S.Graham 34 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-46-C.Harris, Holder-10-K.Huber.
San Diego would subsequently get the ball back with enough time to get into range for a 53-yard field goal to win the game.
The final element of fail Sunday was playcalling. Consider this puzzling sequence from the third quarter.
1-10-CIN 49 (9:54) 32-C.Benson up the middle to SD 48 for 3 yards (32-E.Weddle, 70-A.Boone).
2-7-SD 48 (9:21) 32-C.Benson right end ran ob at SD 42 for 6 yards (23-Q.Jammer). SD-95-S.Phillips was injured during the play.
3-1-SD 42 (9:00) 9-C.Palmer pass incomplete short right to 23-J.Johnson.
Timeout #1 by SD at 08:55.
4-1-SD 42 (8:55) 10-K.Huber punts 42 yards to end zone, Center-46-C.Harris, Touchback.
Mmmmmm-kay, let me get this straight: after picking up 9 yards on two runs, your call on third and one is…a pass? Moreover, a pass to FB Jeremi Johnson, who has five whole receptions on the year? OK, maybe you can justify it if you’re planning to go for it anyhow on fourth down. But they didn’t. Instead they punt, and when teams can’t down it inbounds, they end up netting 22 yards on the boot. Ugh.
I know there’s a lot of moral victory talk out there today, and I get the sentiment. Heck, I’ve even expressed it before. But the Bengals performance this season – at least, their performance over the first nine or so games – made me greedy. And the playoffs aren’t guaranteed for any team in any year, and based on Bengals’ history, it may be a while before the pass this way again. In short, I would very much like more than one-and-done in a wild card game but, sadly, that looks like where they’re headed. They are just not playing smart enough football right now to expect anything else.