Here are a few final thoughts on Cincinnati’s last-minute loss to Baltimore…
1. I suppose the officials made the correct call on Jermaine Gresham’s non-touchdown. However, as ProFootballTalk pointed out, the so-called Calvin Johnson rule has been interpreted so inconsistently that no one really knows what it is. Marvin Lewis, who is on the competition committee, thought it was a touchdown. John Harbaugh did not. And secondly, it has to be the stupidest rule in pro football today. Theoretically, a person could be stumbling for about twenty yards and if they didn’t control the football when they hit the ground – even if the ground caused said lack of control – it would not be a catch. Words can not express how dumb this rule is. I thought it was dumb when Calvin Johnson was robbed of a well-deserved touchdown last year. And I think it’s even dumber now that it negatively impacted the Bengals.
2. As critical as Gresham’s near touchdown was, the missed horse-collar tackle was even more important. Gresham’s drive still brought points, the final drive didn’t. Late in the game, Terrell Suggs forced an intentional grounding penalty after he grabbed Andy Dalton’s jersey from behind. That should have been a horse-collar tackle resulting in 15 penalty yards and a first down. Instead, Cincinnati’s own penalty pushed the offense out of striking distance and the game-winning drive fizzled. It was that kind of game for the Bengals, who also caught a bad break when one of the officials got in the way during a fumble recovery. Andy Dalton and Andre Smith appeared to be in the best position to recover it, but the ball bounced off the official, who ended up getting caught in the scrum, before Baltimore emerged with the football.
3. The offensive line looked bad on the last drive, but you have to remember that it was an away game and a crucial series and crowd noise may have been a factor as well. After the game, Andrew Whitworth said there were cadence issues and they seemed to make everyone look bad.
4. I don’t care how many times Brian Leonard gets run over by Terrell Suggs, he’s still one helluva player. Leonard gets every yard available on the field and always seems to deliver when the offense needs him. Leonard had an impressive five catches for 57 yards and six yards on the ground. I can forgive a failed block against one of the league’s best pass rushers.
5. At this point, there should be no doubt that Andy Dalton will be Cincinnati’s quarterback for a long, long, time. Even when he’s bad – and he was at times in yesterday’s game – he seems to keep his poise and produce later in the game. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. Dalton is also stronger and more athletic than I realized. In the face of a fierce pass rush, he shrugged off several Ravens defenders, avoided a few others, and ran the ball rather well in yesterday’s game. It’s nice to know the Bengals have been able to move on so quickly from the Carson Palmer era.
Extra point: Next week’s game with Cleveland is a must-win. Must. Cincinnati still holds the final spot in the AFC playoff race, but the team’s one-game edge could evaporate quickly with a more difficult schedule ahead. Likewise, the Jets, who are only one game back, and the Broncos, who hold a tiebreaker over the Bengals, have easier paths to the postseason. Thus, the Bengals can’t afford to drop a game in which they are favored to win.
Buckle up kids, the road to the playoffs will probably be a nerve-wracking one.