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Week 15: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good

  • Carson Palmer had his first 300 yard passing game of the season, getting 314 yards and 2 touchdown passes, including one long ball to Chad Ochocinco.  Palmer had only 94 yards in the loss to Minnesota, and had not had a 300 yard passing effort since the last game of the 2007 season.  In addition to the touchdown to 85, he also had other attempts of 20 yards or more, which was a good sign with teams trying to stop the run.
  • The offense put up 24 points after coming up short of 20 for most of the season.  Unlike other weeks where the defense came up with some of the points, all 24 were put up by the offense, though the defense did give them a short field off an interception. The Bengals put up over 400 total yards in the game.
  • Some additional weapons emerged for Palmer to throw to.  The talk leading up to the game was that Chad Ochocinco was getting doubled and there weren’t any other receivers getting open.  This week, the Bengals got excellent contributions from Laverneaus Coles (4 catches for 48 yards and a TD), TE J.P. Foschi (A career high 7 catches for 82 yards), and WR Quan Cosby.  Cosby, a rookie free agent out of Texas, caught his first passes of the season, ending up with a total of 3 catches for 47 yards, including a crucial 22 yard gain on 3rd and 29 that got them into makeable field goal range late in the fourth quarter.

 The Bad

  • One player that did not contribute to Palmer’s great passing day was WR Jerome Simpson.  The second-year player was active for the first time this season, and it was hoped that his speed and athleticism would help kick-start the passing game.  He finished with zero catches.  The former second round pick continues to disappoint.
  • Cedric Benson and Larry Johnson were held in check by the Chargers’ 21st ranked rushing defense. They finished with only 19 carriers and 88 yards combined.  The Bengals still held the edge in time of possession, but they never had a chance to get the running game going and wear down the Charger front.
  • The play of the defensive secondary was uncharacteristically suspect.  Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph were both beaten on touchdown passes, and there appeared to be at least one missed assignment.  They are clearly missing Chris Crocker.  Tom Nelson, getting the start for the injured Crocker, appeared late coming over to help on some big pass plays.

The Ugly

  • Penalties!!!  The Bengals continue to shoot themselves in the foot on almost every offensive series with unforced errors and stupid penalties.  The offense was called for delay of game, illegal formation, illegal substitution, false start, chop block, and holding.  During one sequence in the second half, the Bengals offense committed three penalties in a row (false start, illegal substitution, and delay of game), pushing them back to their own 12 yard line and wasting an offensive series when they were down two scores. The delay of game penalties are particularly troubling as they seem to occur every single week. The defense also committed a costly penalty when S Chinedum Ndukwe was called for illegal contact, giving the Chargers a first down after an incompletion on a 2nd and 18.  The penalty gave San Diego a first down and negated a sack by Keith Rivers one play earlier.
  • The Bengals continue to fail in the red zone.  At one point, the team led the league in red zone touchdown percentage, but they’ve been steadily falling down the charts for weeks.  On Sunday, they went one-for-four.  Had they scored another touchdown on even one of those other 3 trips, they would have won the game. This is something they must get fixed before the playoffs.
  • The Caldwell fumble. It is difficult to lay blame at one player’s feet for a loss, but Caldwell’s fumble late in the fourth quarter hurt the team tremendously and was clearly the turning point at the end. They were moving the ball almost at will and burning clock.  The Chargers were clearly on their heels. Then, on a first-and-ten at the Charger 19 with 2:32 remaining in the game, Caldwell fumbled a WR screen, which went backwards 20 yards.  Palmer’s alert recovery kept the Bengals in the game and, after some big passing plays, allowed them to tie it with a field goal. Had the fumble not occurred, the team would have been able to burn more clock, and potentially scored a game winning touchdown, leaving the Chargers with less than the 57 seconds they got and with a longer field to go. The fumble was the second one for Caldwell in critical situations.  His fumble in the Oakland game lost that one for the Bengals as well.

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