Game 5 – Bengals at Cowboys Pre-Game Thoughts
Game 5 – 2008 Bengals Season
Bengals at Cowboys, October 5th, 2008 – 4pm EST – Nationally televised game
How will the Bengals Offense Look?
Carson says: “I will play.”
Marvin says: “We’ll see how he feels Saturday.”
If history has given us any guidance, we have no way to know who will be starting. Palmer’s injury had been shielded from public knowledge until the last possible moment, not giving the Browns a chance to review Fitzpatrick tape (what little there is). Palmer threw Friday, according to the Bengals. It will be a late decision for him to play. If Fitzpatrick starts, I think we will see him only add to his career INT column and the Bengals have next to no chance to win. If this shows us anything, it is that a better back-up QB should be on the post-season shopping list as Mr. Fitzpatrick is not an effective second.
With Watson injured (AND NOW RELEASED!!!), Dorsey added to IR and Perry with a “ghost” hammy issue (true/not true?), the Bengals added….wait for it….(if you are reading this I know you already know)…Cedric Benson, he of two DUI arrests and dismissals and eventual release from Chicago. Now, remove the legal issues, which appeared kind of bogus anyways, and you find a talented guy who generally underperformed in Chicago’s offense. As the 4th overall pick in 2005, his play and ability is akin to a bigger Rudi with speed and cut-back like Fred Taylor. Should he catch on and take full advantage of this second chance, the Bengals could have themselves a true gem. I liken this to the situation they had with Deltha O’Neal, who came in a good value trade and gave the Bengals several solid season of play with a Pro Bowl and tied for leading the league in INT’ in 2005. While another visit to the back of a Sherriff’s cruiser would spell the end of the experiment, Benson brings good hands, solid vision and could be a very good resource in this offense.
COMMENT: Releasing Watson seems like a very poor, knee jerk reaction move. If I only had a brain, a heart, the nerve…a GM.
For this week, with 4-5 days with a Bengals playbook, Benson could have a handful of basic runs scheduled. With Brat calling plays, it is more likely we will see him get a carry or two or none.
As for the O-line, Mr. Jones continues his low-level contribution to the productivity of the offense. Collins has been getting more exposure, a good sign and indicative of Coach Alexander seeing the need to have an option ready should Levi’s play never get back to what he had been capable of.
On the whole, the line performed decently as it was thrust into a weird spot with Fitzpatrick under center so expecting high-level play is asking a lot.
Facing a very good Dallas defense will give the O-line many challenges. Running a 3-4 hybrid, the Dallas D can be scored on. Veteran players like Spears, Ellis, Ware, Canty and Thomas anchor the base D.
Last week we pointed out a few stats as to “how to lose a game”. This week we will examine the progress (or lack thereof) from Game 3 to Game 4.
Total Net Offense:
Game 3 v Giants – 347 yards
Game 4 v Browns – 211 yards
3rd Down Efficiency:
Game 3 v Giants – 10/17 – 58%
Game 4 v Browns – 4/13 – 30%
Time of Possession:
Game 3 v Giants – 33:15 (including OT)
Game 4 v Browns – 25.58
Game 3 v Giants – 406 yards (but 5/12 on 3rd down)
Game 4 v Browns – 261 yards (5/13 on 3rd down)
All passing success will hinge on who plays QB. If Fitzpatrick, look for another David Carr-like game. If Palmer, and his arm is OK, then there is a chance to win the game.
Chris Henry will return to the field this week and could supplant the struggling Chad Ocho-No-Show in spots, presumably in the red-zone.
How will the Bengals Defense Look?
The Bengals D-line stood up well to Mr. Jamal Lewis, aka Bengal Slayer. After getting 42 yards on the Browns first two drives, he was held to 37 for the rest of the game, with 12 rushes for 2 yards or less. That is tough to complain about. Holding the Browns to 134 yards total rushing is indicative of far improved play. This D-line played up to task.
Facing a solid Marion Barber, a yet uncorked Felix Jones running behind a massive Dallas O-line, this will be the Bengals stiffest test. In pass protect, Romo has only been sacked 3 times.
Decent LB play continues, limiting big running plays or short passes to breaking for big YAC. Winslow was the leading WR for the Browns and had the longest pass play for the game for 20 yards. Not unexpected given his superior ability.
The Bengals LB’s face another Pro Bowl level TE in Jason Witten, arguably the best TE in the game. He has a very tight connection with Romo and plays a highly functional role in the Dallas D, contributing to opening up the run and the plays over the top with his short and mid-range effectiveness. Witten has been amazingly consistent this year with 6, 7, 7 and 7 receptions in the first 4 games.
Protecting the passing lanes and being very physical with Witten are the only chances to get him off timing with Romo.
At CB, Jonathan Joseph looks to be back, Castille has been released, David Jones had another quietly efficient game against the Browns and Leon Hall continues his solid play. The unit is solidifying but must work on staying healthy as depth is not exactly the strong point.
Dexter Jackson is out. Seems odd that the team would cut a strong contributor like Watson while D-jax lingers on the sidelines, with Safety being an area of decent depth. Mind boggling.
If there has been a game that the DB’s need to bring their A-game, it will be here. We will see how much improvement there really is, as opposed to just better stats due to opposing teams focusing in on the run when playing with the lead, driving up the passing D’s stats.
How will the Special Teams Look?
Honestly, Glenn Holt has been the star of this team. Sounds crazy right? But he has been the most consistent player this season so far. 12 of his 17 returns have gone more than 20 yards, with another 2 longer than 40. This has been a key factor in getting the field position advantage needed but so far squandered. Keep it up Glenn.
Chatman has been solid at PR, so hats off to Antonio finally providing the Bengals some value for his salary for the last few years.
Dallas has big play ability on KR with Felix Jones who brings a very high top-end and must be contained, hopefully by kicking touch-backs. No benefit in giving the potent Dallas offense any head starts in field position. Knock them back Mr. Graham.
Pac-Man can be dangerous returning punts but has not broken any so far this year.
Injuries – Dallas has Newman listed as 50-50. This will affect the rotation of their DB’s and may, MAY be an opening to exploit if Carson gets to play.
For Cincy, Dexter Jackson is out, Watson is released (I know it is not an injury but he had been injured and would have been out. Now he is out for good.) Dorsey lands on the IR. Palmer is a game-time decision, Mays is probably out, and several other are dinged up, like Peko, Dhani Jones and Joseph.
Stadium/Fans – This is the last year of use by the Cowboys at Texas Stadium. There is an interesting site dedicated to the history of the venue. I am not a Cowboys fan but I do have respect for the franchise, its history and the tradition there. It is the embodiment of class, competitiveness, dedication to winning and leadership in many areas of the league. For better or worse, there are not many fans who can say the Cowboys don’t understand the game, what it takes to win or how to run a successful franchise. The is a certain person who owns a certain Ohio franchise who could learn quite a few lessons from the Cowboys, maybe we could arrange an internship?
It is worth mentioning this trip to Texas marks the return of current Bengals D-Coordinator and former Dallas D-Coordinator, Mike Zimmer.
Weather – Partly indoors, a function of the partial roof, bad weather is not a factor but for the sake of being factual, it will be relatively hot and sunny calling for a high of 88F.
Historically – Dallas leads series 5-4. Last meeting was Nov. 7, 2004 and the Bengals smoked the Parcells/Zimmer Cowboys 24-6.
Relevant Stat – Last week was the first game missed by Carson Palmer since becoming starter in 2004. He has never missed two games in a row.
Prognosis – Always the optimist, Bengals 23 – Cowboys 20 …any given Sunday, right?