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Chad’s Not The Problem


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Chad’s Not The Problem

By Tom Archdeacon | Monday, October 22, 2007, 12:53 AM

CINCINNATI — Here are a few observations — and one point of debate — I have after the Cincinnati Bengals topped the New York Jets, 38-31, Sunday.

Before this victory — when all anybody had to focus on were the four straight losses by this under-achieving team — one popular line of thinking shared by some sportswriters and fans was that Chad Johnson might just be more trouble than he’s worth.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I know the argument. They say his extra-curricular activities — jawing with his head coach, his quarterback, the other teams defenders, not to mention those touchdown celebrations — are a distraction.

They say they too often cost the team its focus. They awaken the opposition. They make it tough for Marvin Lewis to dispense equal discipline and keep calm in his dressing room and on the sideline.

Me, I don’t think Chad’s the problem.

If only the defensive players — with a couple of exceptions — had the same talent, same passion and same ability to make the big play in crunch time.

I know there’s a knock from some that Chad doesn’t always block and others think he’s quit on some routes, but I’ve seen him game after game after game make catches few players around the league can make. He had 102 yards in receptions again Sunday and has 680 for the season, second only to New England’s Randy Moss.

If the Bengals mostly had been winning these first two months of the season, none of this would have come up. When you lose, you need someone to point the finger at and he makes an easy target.

Rather, the critical attention should remain squarely on the defensive unit. It had its hands full with the lowly Jets.

Defensive end Justin Smith — designated the franchise player — has just 1 1/2 sacks and missed another Sunday when Chad Pennington brushed him off like unwanted dandruff before running six yards for a first down.

And veteran cornerback Deltha O’Neal — after getting burned on a touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles on the Jets’ first possession — ended up tackling air rather than Coles — same as his teammate Jonathan Joseph did — in the second quarter and that resulted in a second Jets’ score.

This team’s Achilles heel is still its defense — and not Chad Johnson — that will mean trouble when pissburgh comes to town next Sunday.

But there was one especially promising thing to surface Sunday. It was the coming out party that running back Kenny Watson had.

Filling in for injured Rudi Johnson, the often-marginalized Watson, carried the ball a yeoman 31 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 27 yards.

The offensive line and fullback Jeremi Johnson certainly blocked for him, but Watson put on a versatile show of his own. I agreed with quarterback Carson Palmer, who admitted afterward: “In the past, we haven’t used him enough.

“Most people look at him as a small back, but he’s all of 210, 215 pounds and he runs like he’s 225. When he gets to the hole, he runs people over. He never dives at the ground and avoids hits. He always hits people and falls forward.

“When he gets in the open field, he’s got a quick little sidestep he puts on safeties. At times he runs like a scatback. He can do it all. He’s got vision, hands, quickness and power. He can do anything.”

If Watson finally gives the Bengals a running game again, this is going to be a better season than it appeared it would be just before kick-off.

And finally here’s a Marvin Lewis’ note.

After the Bengals last home game here — an embarrassing loss to New England — the head coach ripped into his team big time in the dressing room. His yelling was heard by some writers through the closed dressing room doors.

A day later — after his eruption had been made public — he vowed no one would hear something like that again.

Sunday he had an entire posse of security types and team personnel guarding the outer doors that lead to a hallway approaching the dressing room. Too bad that much attention wasn’t put on the team’s other defense, the one on the field.

And too bad Lewis didn’t let folks get close enough to hear a dressing room rarity again.

For the first time since Sept. 10, he was able to give a victory speech.

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You'll also notice that they won yesterday without any of his nonsense, and he had very good day.

So apparently the "Chad has to be Chad" B.S. is just that.

Or perhaps Chad WAS being Chad yesterday. Maybe he has more sense than a lot of people are giving him credit for.

He's said in interviews, multiple times, that he knows when it's time to draw the line.

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He's both. He's a great talent, one of the best handful of wide receivers in the league. He's also overly emotional and that can take him out of games. Problem is, if this team's ever going to be great we need him to keep his head in big games.

I have every confidence he can pull it together to get a win over the Jets. Now let's see him run his routes hard and respond well to adversity in a game that means a little more.

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He's said in interviews, multiple times, that he knows when it's time to draw the line.

He's also on record saying he won't change to silence his critics.

So I guess my love/hate relationship with him will continue.

What sucks is that he says he'll resume the clown act the moment the Bengals start winning....putting me in a position where I'm actually pulling for the guy to be an asshat.

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