Tuesday Afternoon Punter

Way Better than a Monday Morning Quarterback.
 

Seriously no one saw that quick snap coming. The Browns were stuck in the huddle. Sridhar Pappu was in the bathroom. The Enquirer’s Paul Daugherty was jotting something down in his notebook. For my part, I watched the game the way my dad taught me: I paid attention to the first quarter, napped through most of the second and third, and then woke back up for the fourth. So I was watching the surprise attack, but was just a little too groggy to understand what was going on—wait, why is no one covering that guy? It didn’t help that the CBS cameramen were equally startled, not cutting to the play until the ball was already in the air.

The quick snap was a cunning call from new Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, but the success of the trick still hinged on the Browns’ defense smacking the snooze button. For the Bengals, so often the team suffering the karmic collapse (Denver’s last-second victory at Paul Brown Stadium in 2009 still stings), it must feel wonderful—but also a little unnatural—to benefit from such a blunder. Surely, Sunday’s miracle can only be understood as the result of some serious reordering of the cosmos.

But what does this stunning victory—and the Bengals’ first 1-0 start since 2007—tell us about this team’s chances the rest of the year? Was Sunday just the first of many thrilling, come-from-behind victories for the 2011 Cardiac Cats? Or is this a case of a bad Bengals team beating a bad Browns team because the guys from Cleveland gave the game away? The answer is probably a little of both.

The Bengals shouldn’t apologize to anyone for the way they won. They didn’t break any rules, and their opponent’s incompetence shouldn’t take anything away from their performance. Maybe the most promising sign of all was the play of the team’s rebuilt defense, which limited the Browns to three points in the second half without the help of any major gaffes.

Then again, the Bengals won because of two big, and perhaps fluky, plays in the fourth quarter. Green’s touchdown accounted for more than a quarter of the team’s total passing yards for the game. Without that bomb, Bruce Gradkowski went 4-for-11 for 51 yards. Likewise, Cedric Benson’s untouched 39-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes to play accounted for more than a quarter of the Bengals’ total rushing yards and helped salvage what was looking like a mediocre day for Ced.

In the end, I guess what I’m saying is a lot like what Sridhar said in his post earlier today. A win is a win no matter how you get it, but there are 15 more games to play, so don’t schedule any postseason parades just yet.

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I don’t plan to spend much time on injury updates on this blog. We’re focused more on analysis than breaking news. But I’m throwing that out the window for Andy Dalton, the most important player on the team. According to this morning’s Enquirer, early signs indicate that he’ll be ready to play on Sunday. Also, the injury may not be to Dalton’s wrist, as was initially reported, based on this vague line from Joe Reedy’s story: “Even though the reports following the 27-17 win over Cleveland Sunday indicated that the injury he suffered was to the right wrist, it appears to be a bruised forearm.” Appears to be? How Reedy was able to assess the location of Andy’s injury just by looking at him is not clear at this time.

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First-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur’s postgame comments were bad signs for his future as an NFL coach. The defense’s slumber party on Green’s touchdown was a major embarrassment, and there were two viable ways for Shurmur to react. His best option was probably to shield his players from the fallout by taking responsibility for the mistake himself. A second acceptable choice was to tear into his players, hoping to motivate them while showing the fans that he won’t stand for a lack of effort. Instead, Shurmur acted like a sore loser, whining about how the Bengals didn’t give the Browns enough time to line up. A coach who responds to adversity by crying in his Corn Flakes isn’t likely to create a winning atmosphere in the locker room.

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