The Rams-Bengals game this week wasn’t exactly the greatest game ever played, but I’m going to write a little more about. A combination of blackouts and family engagements have prevented me from watching much this year, but Sunday I was able to block out the time to settle in on the couch with a plate of Christmas cookies and a large glass of milk (We know how to party in the Powell house.) and watch the Bengals start to finish. A few notes from the experience:
1. Steven Jackson being stuck on that Rams team reminds me a lot of Corey Dillon on the early 2000s Bengals. There are few less glamorous jobs in sports than talented running back in a bad offense. Even in the age of fantasy football, it doesn’t seem like Jackson gets the credit he deserves for his prodigious ability. Jackson is one of the hardest runners in the NFL, but because the Rams have struggled to keep quarterbacks healthy (the Bengals problem was always finding one in the first place), he constantly faces eight and nine man fronts. With few holes opened by the offensive line, Jackson is forced to create something out of nothing, often carrying defenders with him when he can’t dodge them all. I hope that some day Jackson gets to make a cameo with a title team, like Dillon did in New England.
2. You may have already noticed this, but A.J. Green is really, really fast. When Dalton launched that bomb down the field in the first quarter, I thought he had overthrown A.J. by about 10 yards. Silly me, I forgot that overthrowing the blazing rookie is impossible. He made a diving catch for a 55-yard gain. It’s tough to know for sure, but A.J. might be supplanting Maurice as the fastest Green(e) in America.
3. Speaking of running backs who can make defenders miss, turning hopeless plays into big gains—Cedric Benson is not one of them. Because of injuries to the Bengals O-Line, Benson has had fewer holes through which to run of late. On Sunday, the number of times he was stuffed at the line, especially on third-and-short, was disastrous. Cedric’s strength is his consistency, but he’s a one-cut, straight-ahead runner. He has no burst of speed and no moves with which to evade defenders. If a linebacker can get into the backfield, Benson is going down.
4. The Bengals are very lucky that their opponent on Sunday was the Rams. The way they played, I don’t think the Bengals could have beaten any other team, even the lowly Colts. The Bengals settled for field goals, turned the ball over, were putrid on third down (3-for-11), and gained just 283 total yards for the game. Luckily, the Rams committed 109 yards in penalties, killing several of their own drives and giving the Bengals five free first downs. Somehow, the Rams were even worse than the Bengals on third down (2-for-13) and while they did outgain Cincinnati with 305 total yards, many of those came on the late touchdown drive that was mostly meaningless. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an offense worse than the Rams were for the first three quarters.
5. The Bengals better fix their own offense if they have any hope of winning the next two games and sneaking into the playoffs.