As I warned last week, the season is over. Today’s loss, putting the Bengals at 0-4 overall and 0-2 in the division, is just the icing on the turd. That said, I saw some things I like today.
For one thing, the defense continues to progress. Half the points Cleveland scored were handed to them by the offense, which twice coughed up the ball deep in Bengals territory. Chinedum Ndukwe, Leon Hall and Keith Rivers all had good days, as did Fear the Fanene. Robert Geathers put in a so-far-this-year-rare appearance. Raven-cum-Browns RB Jamal Lewis, who routinely kills the Bengals, never really got on track, and Cleveland QB Derek Anderson didn’t look much better than Bengals’ No. 2 Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Bottom line: Mike Zimmer is a keeper.
Offensively, it’s tough to judge with Carson Palmer on the sideline, but a couple things are clear:
1. Chris Perry’s ball security issues are unacceptable. Perry now has three four fumbles in 60 carries — one fumble for every 20 15 lugs. He needs to get on the phone to Tiki Barber and find out what he did to overcome his fumbling problems. Something. Anything.
2. The offensive line is regressing…again. Now, I expected we’d see False Start Jones again, and we did. What I wasn’t looking for was the return of Eric “The Pushover” Ghaicuic. The Pushover had improved his game since Baltimore, but today it was back to watching him getting shoved into the QB’s face all day. Andrew Whitworth, who had been solid all season, drew a drive-killing holding call. And Stacy Andrews whiffed on he final drive, leading the the sack/fumble of Fitz.
Defenders will no doubt point to the Cleveland strategy, which was to stack the box, bring the house, stuff the run, and dare Fitz to beat them. But the line knew that would be the case going in. They knew they had to raise their game. Instead, they lowered it.
It’s too late to do anything now, but once this season limps to its painful conclusion, the o-line will have to be completely rebuilt.