Match Report—Bengals 30, Jaguars 20

Last year, the missed extra point would have been symptomatic of our team. This year, the way we came back from it just might be.

 In 2010 when Mike Nugent got injured during a (successful) on-side kick against the Colts, the Bengals panicked somewhat. For reasons best left unexplained, rather than signing a professional kicker, we picked up a guy who—until a week prior to his debut—was a real estate agent, and when he didn’t work out, we snapped up a fellow working in the Ohio State gift shop. We stopped bothering with field goals and when we missed extra points there was nothing more than a collective shrug of resignation. Mike Nugent, however, is a real kicker. We learned this last week. So when he missed an extra point against the Jaguars, it seemed like it might be the moment to bring out the tequila and avoid ESPN for the next six days.

That wasn’t the only obstacle for our young team; look, I understand—there are a lot of rules in football. It’s a complicated game and many of those rules, as I know, can cause confusion to the uninitiated (“unnecessary roughness”? Isn’t that just a description of the whole game?). So I don’t blame the referees for allowing the Jag’s D-line to treat neutral zones the way the Nazis did. Nor do I hold them at fault for allowing the electric Maurice Jones-Drew to run for an extra 10 yards after he was definitely down, no questions. I would take their side if, when Blain Gabbert fumbled the ball on the Bengals one yard line and they ruled it dead rather than a turnover, people were to call them “buffoons,” “nincompoops,” or “addlepates,” as I know some are want to. There are an awful lot of rules, and what with all the noise and the cheerleaders there are a lot of distractions out there for a referee. So let’s not chastise them. Let’s not hate them. But let’s just say…it didn’t help.

Ultimately those things didn’t matter. For the second time in two games, Andy Dalton led a victorious fourth quarter comeback. His opening touchdown to A.J. Green was a thing of beauty. When he found Jermaine Gresham in the red zone with just seconds remaining in the first half, they both looked like seasoned pros. Even when he threw a weak interception, he saved the day by head-butting Jags safety Dwight Lowery in the ankles on the one yard line. Our defense, with the highest hair per human ratio in the NFL, kept us in it; two killer goal line stands exemplified by a crucial Rey Maualuga strip in the end zone. When the otherwise splendid Reggie Nelson blew a coverage to give the Jags the go-ahead score in the fourthquarter it was the only blip on yet another dominant defensive performance from the number one D in the NFL. They were rewarded for their efforts too—what a treat to see us going for a fourth and six with three minutes left on the clock. Previous years may well have seen us settling for a field goal and hoping to get the ball back. But Jay Gruden believes in rewarding the defense for the work they do and Jermaine Gresham has been a fourth quarter rock. Our third down ratio may be the worst in the NFL but our fourth and longs have been impeccable.

With ninety seconds remaining the Jaguars botched their final snap and Geno Atkins charged home for his first touchdown in any form of football ever. (Yes, just to clarify, there is a good chance you had scored more touchdowns than Geno Atkins before yesterday. Certainly as many.) Undeniably, it was lovely to be on the other side of a final minute comedic disaster. And how about this for a stat? Yesterday in New York City, as the Bengals won their third game of the season, it was 83 degrees. Last year our third win came in the week before Christmas, 19th December. It was below freezing.

It was noted before the game that T.O. has been keeping sharp by practicing in California with a certain Mr. Carson Palmer. I wonder if they found time to watch. Speaking of watching, we’re at home next week to the Colts: Wouldn’t it be nice if these kids had a full house as they go for win number four? Who knows, maybe this year it’ll arrive before the snow…

 Final score: Bengals 30 – Jaguars 20.

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