Another round of postgame observations following Cincinnati’s thrilling 23-20 victory over the Browns.
1. I thought for sure this game was going to end up as one of those mystifying Bengals losses that would haunt them for the rest of the season. Instead, this resillient group made big plays once again when they had to, improving their record to 4-3 when trailing in the fourth quarter. That’s a remarkable record that is a testimony to how mentally tough this team is. I’m not sure how things will end up down the stretch, but this team is gutsy, clutch, and a whole lot of fun to watch.
2. I’m ready to see more of Andrew Hawkins. The little guy came up big on a third-down conversion early in the game with a nifty catch-and-run on a receiver screen. Generally, he’s made the most out of every opportunity and I’d like to see him get a few more. Hawkins is hard to cover in the slot and he’s fairly dangerous after the catch. Plus, he’s a good complement to Andre Caldwell and will give opposing secondaries one more thing to worry about.
3. I think Cincinnati got very lucky dodging injuries in yesterday’s game. Cedric Benson got his ankle or Achilles rolled on the end of one run, Jerome Simpson seemed to get his knee tweaked, and Chris Crocker was dinged as well. All three of those guys appear to be okay. Pat Sims, who left on a cart, may not be so lucky. But the team emerged fairly healthy – including A.J. Green who said he is near 100 percent – heading into next weekend’s monstrous game in Pittsburgh.
4. I can’t wait for Carlos Dunlap to return for the defense. Cincinnati’s edge rushers could not duplicate Dunlap’s same blend of speed and power and the team didn’t generate all that much pressure on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. Geno Atkins, who should get some Pro Bowl consideration, was a beast in the middle, but Dunlap is an irreplaceable part of the defense. Hopefully, he will return next week for the Steelers game.
5. I continue to be underwhelmed by Andre Smith and still believe his best position – for the Bengals at least – is left guard. Anthony Collins may not be able to duplicate Smith’s power at right tackle, but I don’t think he’d have the same trouble with speed rushers. Smith has made some strides for the Bengals, but he has a long way to go, starting with his stance. It might be one of the worst three-point stances in all of football.
Extra Point: If yesterday was any indication, I don’t think Colt McCoy is the one holding Cleveland back. McCoy was victimized by a lot of dropped passes, many of them by Greg Little, who caught the ball like it was covered in Crisco. I thought McCoy was a franchise-caliber quarterback last year and I saw nothing yesterday to persuade me otherwise. I think Cleveland’s offensive struggles are largely due to a lack of talent at the skill positions and the transition caused by coaching turnover. McCoy could be good someday. Thankfully, he wasn’t quite good enough yesterday.