Observations from the Bengals 20-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys…
-Despite all signs pointing to the contrary for three-plus quarters on Sunday, the Bengals just barely managed to clasp on to the outstretched hand of defeat that pulled the squad and city back within the grasps of reality, subduing those haughty visions of playoff games and double-digit wins for the time being. Sigh.
-With the way it ended, it's tough to think back and recall the good things early in the game, but they did happen. That first offensive drive was pretty slick, with a few creative/gadget calls taking the team down the field in a handful of plays, capped off by a pretty flip-toss to Andrew Hawkins for a score.
-The defense grooved its way into getting after Tony Romo as well, causing quite a bit of havoc in the Cowboys backfield for the majority of the middle quarters. Geno spoiled us yet again with another massively impressive game, becoming the first Bengal since Robert Geathers back in 2006 to rack up 10+ sacks in a season. Carlos Dunlap had another good game, pestering Romo and the lineman attempting to block him, yet consistently whiffing on sack opportunities once he had chances to bring the QB down. This is something Dunlap has made a habit of this season—getting to the quarterback but failing to make the tackle—but it certainly feels as if he's right there. His pass rushing ability has stood out the past couple weeks.
-There were a few other bright spots in a game that was only lost on the final play, but let's not Clorox this toilet bowl any more than necessary. Pittsburgh loses, Baltimore loses, and the Bengals have a pristine opportunity to hurtle themselves into primo position in the Wild Card race, and even keep the Ravens sweating just a bit. It appeared as if, in keeping with the theme of the past month or so for this team, good things were happening.
-And instead, bad things happened. The Bengals went all Eric Forman and discovered ways to ruin an enviable situation: dropping passes, racking up penalties, and wasting precious timeouts on substitutions and game situations that you learn in high school two-a-days. And why do bad things happen, Red?
-Or maybe it was just bad luck, an off day, a sticky wicket that's bound to happen once every five games in the NFL. How many sure-fire touchdowns or third down completions do you think AJ will drop the rest of his career? How many short routes over the middle is Andrew Hawkins going to bobble or cower away from in fear of getting drilled? How many times will a safety land a perfectly-timed hit on Jermaine Gresham, dislodging a lofted touchdown from his extended arms? How frequently will a technicality cause a scoring grab like Marvin Jones's to be negated by a shove out the back of the endzone? I'm not often one to entertain hypotheticals, but the Cincy Jungle family conveniently broke down a few “what ifs?” from Sunday.
-In addition to hypotheticals, I generally find complaining about the refs to be quite lowbrow (at least outside the confines of my living room), but that unnecessary roughness penalty on Reggie Nelson was, well, incorrect.
-The Bengals defense was clearly fraternizing with the offense a tad too much, with neither unit moisturizing those fickle hands of theirs during the past week. There were at least three easy interceptions that found the turf.
-Missed sacks, bobbled interceptions, dropped passes, silly timeouts, curious play calling, and squandered redzone opportunities. If the Cowboys hadn't been plighted by similar problems, this game might not have come down to the final play.
-Triumph was right there on the Bengals fingertips. It too fell incomplete. But alas, the world is an imperfect place, where prime chances are spoiled far too often. Fortunately for Cincinnati, it's a short week, with the team traveling for a Thursday matchup with (speaking of imperfection) the Philadelphia Eagles. And hey, the playoff hopes aren't dead yet.
-We should also note that this is just football, and the Dallas Cowboys were coping with far more serious and significant events this weekend. Sometimes, it's only a game.
Things I liked: The Andre Smith vs Rob Ryan bout, the Jerm’s one-hander, Marvin Jones’ upside, Kyle Cook’s return, Boom Herron on punt coverage, Josh Brown’s boomstick of a leg.
Things I didn’t like: The drops (on offense and defense), the penalties (warranted and unwarranted), the management of timeouts, all the other tiny things that made “bad things happen,” Brandon Tate.
Parting Thought: Ugh.
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