1. I’ve been on Brandon Tate at times for carrying the football like it’s hazardous waste and making fair-catch/fielding decisions that would rival Maury Povich Show regulars, but there’s no doubt that his punt return broke open the game yesterday. Tate’s 56-yard return helped lift the Bengals out of a 6-6 tie in the third quarter of a game that the old Bengals would have have withered away. Is this team different? Maybe. Maybe not. But nonetheless, Tate is a big reason they’ve stayed alive in the playoff chase for a few more weeks.
2. It’s hard to talk about this game without talking about everything that happened outside of it. A week after it seemed like all hope was lost (the Bengals had about a 13-percent chance of making the playoffs heading into Sunday), hope got several blood transfusions and is responding much better. Tennessee lost to Indianapolis, a team that hadn’t won all year. The Jets got blasted by Philly and face a Giants team that will be playing for its playoff lives next week. The Raiders lost in the last minute of a game they had controlled for most of the afternoon. And the Bengals won, pushing them back into a tie for the sixth playoff spot (they’d currently lose the tiebreaker to the Jets if it came to that) and giving them what figures to be a significantly better chance of making the playoffs. It was a perfect storm of events that usually conspires to punish the Bengals and their fans. This time it went our way. Hopefully, there’s more magic in the coming weeks.
3. The penalties that have plagued the Marvin Lewis era reared their ugly head again yesterday. Cincinnati had 11 penalties for 101 yards, a trend that continues to be troublesome. I’d like to see where the Bengals rank in penalties, both this year and in past years. My guess is that they’re a lot higher in the rankings than we would like them to be. I liked how Marvin Lewis mentioned his unhappiness with the penalties in the post-game press conference, but I’d like to see his team do a better job of eliminating them in the first place.
4. Kudos to A.J. Green for going over 1,000 yards on the season. It’s rare that a rookie receiver makes such an impact, and it hasn’t happened in the NFL since Marques Colston did it with the Saints. Green is a going to be a mainstay in Cincinnati for years to come. Hopefully, the Bengals front office will find a way to keep Andy Dalton and Green together (the Red Green show?) for their entire careers. It would also be nice if Green can hang onto his humility as his career continues its upward ascent.
5. I wouldn’t mind seeing Bernard Scott in the backfield more in the red zone. In fact, I loved the formation the Bengals used in Jacksonville in which both Scott and Brian Leonard were lined up as running backs. With Scott’s speed to the corner, he’s tough to defend and it stresses the defense. It might help Cincinnati break out of its red zone malaise.
Extra Point: As dark as last weekend was, this week is much brighter. Cincinnati still doesn’t control its own destiny and could very well miss the playoffs, but there’s a little more sunshine for a few days. Soak it up.