membengal Posted October 12, 2009 Report Share Posted October 12, 2009 Clark Judge's piece at sportsline.com (he was apparently at the game today):/>http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/story/12347820I believe. I believe the Cincinnati Bengals are for real. I believe they are more than a bunch of lucky guys touched by fate. I believe they are good enough to overcome the speed bumps that lurk ahead of them the next five weeks. And I believe they can and will contend for the AFC North title. I believe because I just saw them win another close one. Only this wasn't Cleveland in overtime. This was Baltimore. In Baltimore. And it was a 17-14 decision that should not have been as close as it was ... but it was because that's how Cincinnati plays everything this season. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer hugs daughter Corri before the game. (AP) The Bengals lost the season opener on a last-second miracle. Then they won at the wire the following week at Green Bay, beat Pittsburgh on their last drive and survived Cleveland on a last-second overtime field goal. Now this. Only this one might've been the most difficult. Not because it was in Baltimore or because it was against the league's top-ranked run defense or because the Ravens are supposed to be light years ahead of Cincinnati ... and most of the AFC. No, this was a land mine because Cincinnati played only days after the unexpected death of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's wife, Vikki. No one knew what to expect from Zimmer or his players, with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis admitting defensive players seemed in "a little bit of a funk" at last Friday's practice. But that happens. As linebacker Dhani Jones said, "emotion is the name of the game," and there was plenty of it tied to Vikki Zimmer's death. "What was said to and by Mike Zimmer?" Lewis was asked. "He said, 'You know how Vikki felt about all of you,'" said Lewis. "'She's up there now in heaven smiling at you.' Win or lose, she loved these guys. I was in their house on Thursday afternoon, and there were Post-It notes all around and treats for the players. And I reminded those guys of that Friday morning. I said that they were always on her mind." So the Bengals went out and pulled off one of their biggest wins in years -- or the past three weeks -- with Zimmer on the sidelines. Not only did he call the defensive signals, but he was joined by his father, Bill, his son, Adam, and one of his daughters, Corri. Don't ask me how he did it. I can't imagine. And don't ask Lewis, either. He said that Zimmer went "back and forth" before deciding to make the game, and good thing he did. He witnessed ... no, he helped engineer ... a victory that could be a defining moment for the Bengals as the season unfolds. "That's a good football team," said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. "They are everything advertised ... and more." That's a big 10-4. Cincinnati didn't just beat Baltimore. It dominated the Ravens. It shut down one of the league's most prolific attacks, holding it to one touchdown and a season-low 12 first downs and intercepting quarterback Joe Flacco twice in what was easily his worst performance of the year. The Ravens couldn't run. They struggled to complete a downfield pass. And they couldn't make a big play when it was demanded. In short, Cincinnati played the Ravens as the Ravens usually play everyone else, hammering them with tough, physical defense and winning it on a last-minute drive. I don't know whether to credit that to the emotion this team was feeling in the wake of a tragedy or to a club that is growing with each week and making a name for itself with its defense. What I do know is that the Bengals aren't going away anytime soon. "We know what we've always known -- that we're a fighting team," said Jones. "A lot of people look at us and they don't know what we know -- and that's within ourselves. If you go out there on the streets and someone challenges you, if you're not confident within yourself then you don't stand a chance. You have to have a certain confidence within yourself, knowing who you are." The Bengals found out who they are on an 80-play drive that began with just over two minutes left. It took 11 plays to cover the field, and it was helped by three Baltimore penalties -- all for first downs. But the point is: They did it, just as they did it in the last minute against Pittsburgh -- and for those keeping score, the Ravens and Steelers not only were the last two left standing in the AFC last year but are the teams that are supposed to keep Cincinnati down in the AFC North. But they haven't. And maybe they won't. I know it's early, but I can't get over what Cincinnati did -- go the distance on Baltimore ... in Baltimore ... on a last-gasp drive. I saw it happen with Pittsburgh last year when the Steelers came here in December and went 92 yards to beat the Ravens at the gun, and I saw what it did for them. I'm not comparing this year's Bengals to last year's Steelers, but I am saying they must be taken seriously. They can run, with Cedric Benson putting up 120 yards on the Ravens. That's extraordinary because the Ravens had gone 39 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. But when the streak was broken, it was Benson who did it. "What an awesome accomplishment," he said. "It's hard for me to put into words how wonderful a feeling it is." Then there's quarterback Carson Palmer. Nearly four years after suffering a serious knee injury, he finally seems himself -- unencumbered in the pocket, moving to avoid trouble and running for first downs. In fact, on the Bengals' last drive Palmer converted a fourth-and-1 with a 6-yard scramble up the middle. "If there wasn't a play to be made downfield sometimes it's better to make the 2-yard scramble or the 4-yard scramble," he said. "In a field-position game, you don't want to take chances." Cincinnati didn't have to because of Zimmer's defense. The Bengals missed an easy field goal. Star receiver Chad Ochocinco lost a fumble deep in Baltimore territory. Palmer's first touchdown pass was to Baltimore safety Ed Reed, who ran 52 yards with an interception. Tight end Daniel Coats dropped two passes that could have been scores. I don't have to draw you a picture. The Bengals made a raft of mistakes. Yet they persevered, and maybe it was because they were determined to win one for Zimmer or maybe it was because they were determined to prove they are legit. It really doesn't matter which. All I know is the Bengals just won a game I didn't think they could, and with it they won respect they deserve. "They believe they can win," Lewis said of his players, "no matter what the circumstances are. We keep talking about that: Just keep playing. Don't worry about. Don't flinch. Just keep playing. They believe that." Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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