1. My gut reaction after watching Early Doucet trip up (and the Cardinals best chance at a comeback fall incomplete) was that the Bengals got lucky, that good fortune finally smiled on our black and orange brethren. And maybe it did a little. But I also think the Bengals made their own luck by bringing the blitz. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said the route called for Doucet to simply settle down in the endzone, a “stop” route of sorts. Quarterback John Skelton’s pass was rushed and he threw it outside of where Doucet was supposed to be. So Doucet had to adjust and in doing so, the Paul Brown Stadium turf tripped him up. Yes, it was a pass that could have been caught. But it was also the Bengals all-out blitz that forced the rushed pass and the route adjustment which ended up working in their favor. Two weeks after playing it conservative and losing against the Texans, the Bengals got gutsy to win against the Cards. And I hope they do it again if they’re in a similar situation.
2. Jerome Simpson flashed the athletic ability that is equally parts fascinating and frustrating for Bengals fans. How can a guy who is so athletic that he can do a flip and land on his feet – in the middle of a game no less – disappear in so many games? On talent alone, Simpson has the tools to be in the upper echelon of NFL wide receivers. But when everything else is factored in, he’s rather average. For whatever reason, he is unable to be a consistent performer for the Bengals. And is anyone else wondering how his legal situation will finally play out? It’s possible that Simpson’s last game this season could be his last game for a while if his legal entanglements turn against him. In the meantime, he gave everyone a highlight of one of the best football plays you’ll ever see.
3. One of the best plays I saw Andy Dalton make against Arizona was a sack. Late in the second half, Dalton was trying to elude the grasp of a Cardinals defender who was dangling from his legs. Dalton looked around and stared at an open receiver in the flat behind him. It looked as if he considered throwing the pass for a second and then ultimately thought better, tucked the ball, and took a sack. I’m guessing he realized that the “pass” would have been a lateral because it would have been backward and in that case wasn’t worth the risk. It was a great decision in the end, one that prevents a huge momentum swing the other way and gives his team a better chance to win. Bravo.
4. It’s getting pretty hard to trust Cedric Benson. Two fumbles, both deep in Cincinnati territory, nearly doomed the Bengals on Sunday. He had three other fumbles the week before. And you can only help but wonder if he’ll have any in a must-win game against Baltimore in Week 17. I think you’ll have to harp on his ball security all week in practice and still play him on Sunday. He’s the Bengals best option to win this season. But I also think it’s highly unlikely he returns as the starting back next season. Cincinnati has a number of draft picks, a possible candidate for a bigger role in Cedric Peerman, and could also look at a free agent crop that will likely include players such as Michael Bush, Mike Tolbert, and Tim Hightower.
5. I give the Bengals organization credit for finally doing something to help fill the stadium on Sunday. Shortly after the win over the Cards, news broke that season ticket holders have the chance to buy a ticket and receive a free one for this weekend’s game against the Ravens. Now, it’s time for the Bengals fans to do something and fill the stadium. Yes, ownership produced one of the most pitiful stretches ever for a franchise last offseason. But I think everyone should forget about that – for at least one game – as this young bunch of unheralded Bengals makes a push for the playoffs. This team has been a gutsy, blue-collar group of players who just kept plugging away despite minimal expectations and bountiful excuses. It would be extremely embarrassing if their play-in game for the playoffs was blacked-out locally.
Extra Point: With a win against the Ravens, the Bengals appear headed to Houston for a playoff rematch with the Texans and T.J. Yates. I’m sure Houston would be favored in that game, but as far as playoff games go, it would be a fairly tolerable matchup for the Bengals facing a team making its first playoff appearance ever. Let’s hope it happens.