It is difficult to say what was most disturbing about the opening few minutes of the Bengals’ adventure in Jacksonville: the freaky suicide of the pet jaguar with the bungee cord, the sight of 320 lb Domata Peko doing the Macarena, the fact that most of my notes read – rather desperately – “ooh, great punt”, or the sight of Blaine Gabbert, a quarter back who sounds like a 19th century disease and looks like French cartoon Tin Tin, shredding the artist formerly known as our defense.
Fortunately the Bengals turned the tides with a cheeky and momentum-shifting faked punt, Cedric Peerman charging down the field much to the surprise of everyone, it seemed, including Bengals QB Andy Dalton who claimed afterwards that he had no idea that it was coming. “I didn’t know it was going on” he admitted, “I was just going back to the bench when I turned around and saw us running down the field.” Frankly, I’m not sure what it says about us that our most important player can’t be trusted to know what we’re doing on a given play, especially one that meant he’d be on the field right away instead of a few minutes later. What if he’d gone to the bathroom, or to check up on the suicidal mascot? However, if it is this sort of CIA-level secrecy that has allowed the Bengals to make successful, game-changing trick plays in back-to-back weeks, then I’m all for it.
The only person, it seems, who wasn’t surprised was, interestingly, the Jacksonville Head Coach, Mike Mularkey. “I had a gut feeling [the Bengals were going to fake punt]. They still got it, which is disappointing.” I know Marvin Lewis isn’t exactly Charlie Sheen when it comes to interacting with the press (I know Marvin. I know. We did some things well, some things we have to do better and you have to look at the tape), but as least he’s never admitted knowing what the other team was going to do but not bothering to mention it to his coaches or players.
To be fair, Mularkey is the Head Coach of a team who’s mascot (not the one that tried to kill itself pre-game) can’t spell his own name. “Jakson de Ville”? Really? What was the thinking behind removing the “c” from the town’s actual name? I’m sure he’s a nice man but you can mis-spell your name all you want, you’re never going to be cool if you’re a 38 year old man dressed up as a cuddly toy.
Anyway, the Bengals never looked back. Once again, A.J. Green posted well over 100 yards and grabbed a touchdown, his early interception aside, Dalton looked sharp and in control, and the only sour note came with The Law Firm’s second fumble in 22 carries. Prior to last week, The Law Firm hadn’t fumbled since 2003 so it’s inevitable that, arriving on the Bengals, he promptly started to get the drops on the 1 yard line.
Perhaps the best news came in the form of the defense, who tied down the dangerous Maurice Jones Drew, and also, half way through the first quarter, remembered that Gabbert not only looks like a cartoon French child, but reacts to pressure like one too, crumbling, waving a white flag and laying down roses on the road to Paris (wait, did I digress?).
OK. I’ll be the one to say it. We all wondered what on earth had happened to the tough, miserly Mike Zimmer defense that we’d come to know and love. And now we know the answer. Chris Crocker. Yep. No interceptions this year? Here comes the Crockodile Hunter to snag us one. Conceding 500 running yards per quarter? Enter the Crock and the mighty MJD can’t break 40 the whole game. Not to mention the previously anonymous Reggie Nelson suddenly turning into the hard-hitting pinball we’d come to know and love. I mean, it might just be that the Jaguars are genuinely dreadful, but it would be kind of nice if Crocker wasn’t remembered just as the guy who fell over embarrassingly in front of Arian Foster in the Play Offs last year, to seal the Texans’ win.
Anyway, in the end, something of a walk in the park: Bengals 27-Jaguars 10.
Man Of The Match: OK, again, I’m robbing Andy Dalton, who calmly and quietly made sure this was never even a contest. But how many times am I going to get to give this award to the Crockodile Hunter? Chris Crocker!