For a team that willed themselves to a division championship last year, this year’s Bengals have no heart, no killer instinct, and no confidence.
The Bengals embarrassed themselves in blowing a game they should have won, and now they have two weeks to stew. They will need the bye week to lick their wounds and fix several areas of this team that are broken.
Is two weeks too little time to hire a new offensive coordinator? Somebody find out for me, please.
The offense is simply not getting it done. Despite having Cedric Benson, Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Jermaine Gresham, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard, and Andre Caldwell, this offense cannot generate points as well as they can penalties, mistakes, and turnovers.
After a stuttering start, Cincinnati showed some glimpses of success some no-huddle offense and the long ball. The Bengals opened the scoring in the first quarter on a 43-yard bomb from Carson Palmer to Terrell Owens.
After a defensive stop, Cincy got the ball back at their own six yard line. It looked like the Bengals could be heading to the type of dominating win you’d expect versus Tampa Bay, and finally a breakout performance for the offense.
No such luck.
Palmer’s late, slow out route to T.O. was intercepted by rookie Cory Grimm and returned for the touchdown to knot the scoreboard at 7-7. Grimm had been considered a liability in the last 3 weeks, but he showed up well on the stat sheet today for Bucs coach Raheem Morris.
The Bengals settled down, and fans like myself assumed that while the score was tied, Tampa’s offense wouldn’t be able to keep up. Cincinnati finished the first half scoring with Mike Nugent’s 31-yard field goal on an impressive drive during the final minutes. The drive wasn’t good for seven as it stalled (as so often is the case) in the red zone. The Bucs went into halftime down by three, but with their confidence still intact.
The young Bucs used that confidence to respond with a nine play, 80-yard drive culminated in Earnest Graham’s one-yard plunge to give Tampa Bay their first lead at 14-10 midway through the third quarter. As always, penalties were a killer, as this drive was aided by a pass interference call on CB Leon Hall as he battled Mike Williams for a jump ball in the end zone.
As per usual, the Bengals, who were mistake-laden and sheepish all game, finally showed some aggression only after their backs were pressed firmly against the wall.
The Bengals then committed to power football, running with Cedric Benson out of the no-huddle, and sprinkling in some opportunistic, high percentage passes. First they were able to get a 35-yard field goal from Mike Nugent to pull within 14-13. Then, after the Bucs fumbled the ensuing kick-off, Cincinnati scored on Palmer’s second touchdown pass of the day, this one a one-yard laser to TE Jermaine Gresham.
The Bengals then went for two, and converted on Cedric Benson’s two yard dash. The conversion gave the Bengals a seven point advantage, 21-14 with just over 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
After a two Buccaneers punts sandwiched around one from the Bengals, Cincinnati got the ball back with just under five minutes to go, but were unable to run out the clock Benson picked up one first down, but on the next set of downs, things began to unravel in a foreshadowing of doom.
They inexplicably threw the ball on a 3rd and 13 with 2:27 left in the game. The Bucs were without any timeouts, so a run to get to the two minute warning, followed by a punt deep into Tampa’s end would be in order, right?
Wrong. The pass from Carson Palmer was intercepted by Aqib Talib at midfield, and the Bucs were suddenly and incomprehensibly in business.
The Bucs would quickly score the tying points as Freeman connected with Mike Williams from 20-yards out. Williams muscled away the jump ball from a pair of Bengal defensive backs. Connor Barth’s extra point knotted it again at 21-21.
Again, Cincinnati had their backs against the wall, and they responded, moving quickly to midfield.
Then things got ugly again, and what would become another in a long history of bungles in team history would ensue.
First, a 10-yard reception by Terrell Owens was called back for offensive pass interference. Penalties, penalties, penalties. The call was eerily similar to the one against Chad Ochocinco last week that likely cost them that game. Then Palmer’s next throw bounced off of Chad’s suddenly very suspect hands, and into those of Bucs Safety Sabby Piscatelli, who returned it to Cincinnati’s 35 yard line. A mere 25 ticks remained on the clock.
The Bucs were on the very outside of field goal range. Cincinnati had to force a stop, but in this bizarre season, they can’t do anything right.
Bucs QB Josh Freeman connected with WR Michael Spurlock to the 10. After a booth review upheld the catch, Connor Barth easily connected on a 31-yard kick to win the game.
Chalk up another meltdown for the annals of bungle history.
In the aftermath, there are nothing but questions about this Cincinnati club.
First of all, the coaching decisions and choices made by QB Carson Palmer in the fourth quarter were not only questionable, but wreckless. All three of Palmer’s interceptions led to points for Tampa Bay, and the decision to throw on 3rd down with under three minutes to go with 13 yards needed for a first down was just plain stupid.
Secondly, this team needs to correct the penalties, and fast. Giving them a mulligan for the trouncing at the hands of New England is fine, but the losses these last two weeks are unacceptable, and penalties were a huge factor in both. Cincinnati leads the league in false starts, and defensive penalties continue to keep opponent drives alive.
Thirdly, the defense still can’t get a pass rush without blitzing. Antwan Odom, Robert Geathers, and Michael Johnson have all been a major disappointment.
Where do we go from here Bengal fans? The season at this point is in jeopardy at 2-3 and with the hardest parts of the schedule still ahead of us.
At least they are guaranteed not to blow a game next week. They are lucky to get the bye now when they sorely need it.
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