This was a game of cognition.
On October 27th, I wrote this:
I had a dream that night that the Bengals were beating the Ravens 17-0 at home. For some vague reason, I was unable to sit and watch the game in the dream, but when I caught the glimpse of the score, I remember turning to someone there who also was impressed. We nodded and smiled, and agreed that the nation will finally take notice of the Bengals now. It remains to be seen if that’s what will happen against Baltimore, or if I was really only seeing the Bears game and simply had my facts wrong. Stay tuned.
I don’t normally see the future in my dreams, but there’s no question that it happened in this case. It seems, however, that I was not the only one who knew what was coming on that day.
The Bengals coaching staff game-planned and executed their strategy to a tee, outmaneuvering the Ravens every step of the way. Even Bob Bratkowski has play-called masterfully in the last two games, and once again, quickly gained what proved to be an insurmountable lead early in the first half. The players are doing their part by keeping penalties and turnovers to a minimum (tuck the damn ball, Chad!), but it’s been the preparation and coaching that has made the difference so far this season.
Cincinnati employs four undrafted rookie offensive linemen—Kyle Cook, Nate Livings, Evan Mathis and Dennis Roland—yet all four have contributed nicely so far this season. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander should be showered with superlatives and accolades for assembling a group of nobodies that have pass-protected and run-blocked as well as any team in the league.
These hungry, hungry hippos have quietly chomped down on defenses known for their aggression and fierceness. They aren’t afraid of the Bears, or Ravens, or even those loathsome Steelers; bring it on you scum! The Bengals enjoy cycling linemen in and out without losing rhythm or confidence, and manage to achieve all of this without first-round pick Andre Smith. Marvin Lewis and Alexander may find it pointless to try out the gooey young titan any time soon, since the backups don’t appear to be a problem at this point.
Another staff-member worth heralding is secondary coach, Kevin Coyle. His two gems, former first-round corners Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, completely negated any serious contributions from the Ravens’ receivers for the second time this season. Even though a statistical analysis may say otherwise, the tandem has elevated their play to a level where coordinator Mike Zimmer can focus on stopping the run first and not worry about who’s in coverage. Rookie corner Morgan Trent is also a testament to Coyle’s teaching ability, as Trent exhibits excellent technique and fundamentals as the nickel corner. Zimmer, Coyle, Jay Hayes and Jeff Fitzgerald, have all put their own stamp on this impressive defense, and it shows with the play-recognition and cohesion among each unit.
Marvin has talked about how this year’s roster is made up of “his guys”. He has trusted his team to ignore outside distractions and focus on the matter at hand, and that’s winning the division. This group appears goal-driven and steadfast in their commitment to the team’s success. A lot of that has to do with heart, but most of it stems from good coaching.
If the preparation and game-planning continue to be so thorough that it appears the Bengals know what’s coming, the league will either investigate the team for shenanigans or approve a new Paul Brown Psychic Hotline in the boiler room of the stadium.