On Second Thought: Steelers at Bengals
by Ivan Cole, Homer J., [and occasional comments by Rebecca as usual…]
What were the Bengals thinking?
“Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into that briar patch.” -Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby
Seth Bullock (after removing his badge): “Will I find that you’ve got a knife on you?”
Al Swearingen: “I won’t need no ******* knife.”
The two men fight violently for a time. Swearingen manages to pin Bullock and then pulls out a knife.
Swearingen: “I lied about my knife.”
-A Lie Agreed Upon: Part One; Deadwood, the television series
Why would the Cincinnati Bengals think that it would be a good idea to spit in the faces of the Pittsburgh Steelers and challenge them to an alley fight? Do they think they’re the Baltimore Ravens?
This has happened before. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis should have sat his team down and reminded them of what happened a decade ago.
In 2005 Cincinnati had a big win in Heinz Field that allowed them to clinch the AFC North title and effectively left the Steelers for dead. So giddy (and disrespectful) were the Bengals that day, receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh used a Terrible Towel to shine his shoes. Then in the visiting locker room the nation was treated to their “Who Dey” chant. About six weeks later the teams, improbably it would seem, met in the Wild Card round of the playoffs in Paul Brown Stadium.
And then the Steelers pulled out their knife.
Or, as Homer J. would have it:
Well, it’s good to see both teams are anxious to get this thing underway. My guess is that Dr. Wallace has been leafing through his Gray’s Anatomy text in search of the perfect—or should I say “Burfict”—procedure.
I’m surprised they haven’t thrown out Peezy yet. The last time they did that before a game started, Deebo made his debut, and the world hasn’t been the same since.
In an interesting coincidence, a parallel between that game and this was that in each case the Bengals lost their franchise quarterback to injury early in the game. And then things went decidedly downhill for the Bengals after that.
Forget for now any correlation between the hail of injuries the Bengals suffered and the tone and tenor of the game. But what happened in each case is that Cincinnati laughed at Pittsburgh’s misfortune, mistook it for a lack of toughness and then attempted to ridicule and out-bully the bully, with terrible results in each case. In 2005 NFL Films captured Joey Porter, then a player, near the end of the game, pretending to be taking oxygen.
“I’m so tired,” he yelled at the crowd, “of kicking your a**.”
And so the big story today is, this week the Bengals came to the mistaken conclusion that the briar patch might be a good place to hang out, and, as it was ten years ago, it may lead to the end of a promising season.
The other hand the Steelers seemed to come away not just victorious, but energized as well. From a karma perspective it appears that the loss of Le’Veon Bell has been avenged—they seemed to suffer no significant casualties themselves. Cincinnati come away decidedly weakened. And doesn’t the prospect of a third meeting sort make you lick your chops?
[Here is an assortment of Homer’s comments on the actual game:]
D-Will standing up into the end zone, Rosie Nix leads the blocking. 11 play draive—80 yards—5:37 on the drive. More perfect than Burfict. Replay shows Cinci defender [Rey Maualuga, IIRC] leaping at point of attack. D-Will simply changes course and bulls into the end zone..
The Red Devil goes deep. Hill tripped up on draw play by Shazier. Homer says “Turnover” and one second later Dalton throws shovel pass that’s intercepted by Tuitt, who returns it to the PIT 10 or so. [My question, Homer, is why don’t you call “Turnover” more often if that’s all it takes?]
This is the second game in a row that the Steelers manage a turnover deep in their own territory at the start of the Game. Tuitt rushed from the outside and stepped in front of Bernard. Shades of Deebo in the Super Bowl with his goal line interception.
Red Devil heads off the field—return is questionable.
Ben is having all day to find his receivers. D-Will finds a big hole up the middle to the 26. Great blocking by DeCastro and Alejandro. Steelers are dominating the line of scrimmage.
Boswell splits the uprights for the second time—13-0, PIT.
[A.J. McCarron is looking terrified. Then he looks at A. J. Green…]
Deep pass to A.J. Green—touchdown. 13-7.
Cincy is defending the short pass perfectly, but Ben hits Heath for the first down anyhow, with defenders all over him. These two complete each others’ sentences.
Berry’s punt downed by Darrius Heyward-Bey at the tow-yard line. Cinci gets nothing, is forced to punt.
After another Boswell drilling on a 45-yard attempt, he kicks a touchback. Cincy takes a knee and goes to the locker room down 16-7.
The Steeler offensive line had an excellent first half. Cincy dominated only in the number of serious injuries they suffered. 21:32 time of possession for the Steelers—8:28 for Cincinnati.
The second half kickoff is a touchback, and McCarron quickly throws his second pick on a sideline pass. Gay jumps the route and takes it to the house. Gay flagge for excessive celebration. 23-7.
Thanks to the penalty, kickoff is from the 20. Vince Williams dumps the return man at the 31.
Heyward knocks down a pass at the line of scrimmage. Will Allen gets a sack, but Allen and McLendon crack into each other.
After Nugent field goal, Ben hits D-Will for 9 yards. Burfict on tackle, gets hit helmet to helmet by his own man.
Ben is sacked. Carlos Dunlap beat Gilbert with a speed rush to the outside. D-Will was out there and could have helped but he was the hot read. That may have been the first sack allowed by Gilbert all year.
Big punt by Berry—53 yards, no return.
Giovanni Bernard picked up and tossed like a bag of trash by Heyward.
McCarron overthrows—intercepted by Robert Golden, who returns it to the 16. Good pressure on McCarron, who forced the throw, and Golden had to leap to snag the badly overthrown ball.
D-Will turns and spins and wheels and deals and slices and dices for the first down. [It sounds like he is running an infomercial for Ronco…] He just seems to better as the game goes on.
D-Will goes for two—scrum—Burfict gets a personal foul.
D-Will on the right side, behind DeCastro and Gilbert and Wallace, goes in standing up—33-13 with 3:49 remaining.
McCarron takes the ball down the field and hits Rex Burkhead for a touchdown. The onside kick was recovered by DeAngelo Williams. Turn out the Light—the party’s over.
Here are Ivan’s observations:
Wondered aloud last week what had become of the second year defensive lineman. He’s fine apparently.
In my view this may have been the most impressive performance of the Mike Munchak Era. The only real negative was a positive in that Marcus Gilbert gave up a sack. But it was his first of the season. Otherwise, they were not only effective but nasty. As Homer commented a number of times, in spite of going against what many consider to be one of the most formidable defensive fronts in the league, Ben had time to order pizza more often than not. You would never know that Villanueva has as little experience playing the left tackle position as he does. And David DeCastro has apparently been playing too close to Dr. Wallace as he got in some real good shots during one of the many scrums that the Bengals inadvisably initiated.
Last summer I when attending training camp with Rebecca, I watched in fascination as Antonio Brown, when not instigating fights with his own teammates, most notably Ike Taylor, was egging the defensive backs to commit acts of violence against the visiting Buffalo Bills. On one occasion he and Cody Wallace (naturally) started what was headed to be a full scale riot between the Steelers offense and Bills’ defense. He was on his way again.
The three interceptions were huge. Tuitt’s almost certainly prevented a score, perhaps a touchdown, while William Gay’s interception led directly to points. And Robert Golden’s blunted any chance Cincinnati had of creating late game momentum and set up a very short field for the Steelers third touchdown.
The splash plays should not overshadow an impressive body of work produced by Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier and James Harrison in particular.
Chris Bosworth’s four field goals were basically the margin of victory in this game, and established that significant positive contributions were had from all three phases.
But give credit where credit is due. Vontaze Burfict no doubt made a significant contribution to a Steelers victory with his antics. And fortunately, though he was clearly battered and bruised over the course of the afternoon, he will likely be in the lineup if and when the two teams meet again during the 2015 season. He will almost certainly provide a point of focus and incentive Steelers team that is gaining momentum and frightening the rest of the league.
Homer’s Report Card:
Quarterback: A Ben was nearly flawless, nuff said.
Running Back: B+ He was excellent.
Wide Receivers: B+ Bryant dropped a couple, even though he was mugged and held.
Tight Ends: A Vintage Heath
Offensive Line: A Simply outstanding on pass protection. Very good on the run. Chippy as hell. Love DeCastro’s scrum near the end of the game.
Defensive Line: B+ Biggest play of the game was Tuitt’s interception. They stopped the run when they had to, and put decent pressure on the QB.
Linebackers: B Good run support. Cincy never got offense going.
Defensive Backs: B Gay with the pick six killed Cincy, and Golden’s pick was the stake in their heart. They couldn’t stop Green down the middle, but most teams can’t.
Special Teams: A Boswell was spectacular and Berry was terrific.
Coaching: A Nothing to complain about here. They were certainly ready to play, and were as chippy as they have been in years. Final: Steelers 33, Cincy Bungles 20.
1) This team came out fighting and never stopped. It started before the game, and ended with DeCastro giving a facial massage at the bottom of a pile. The intensity was amazing. Coaches only dream of having players this united. This team is absolutely on a roll. Other teams are limping to the finish line, and it seems like the Steelers can’t wait for next week. And, after the brawl in the Rhineland, it’s good that they have a big chip on their shoulders.
2) Chuck Noll called George Atkinson of the Raiders part of the “criminal element in the NFL”. Chuck Noll never met Vontaze Burfict. Burfict spent all day Sunday deliberately trying to injure Steelers. Of course, given his history, this is no surprise. He’s like that off the field as well, so, even though he’s going to be fined – and maybe suspended – for what happened Sunday, his actions will eventually catch up with him. Something awful will happen between midnight and 5am on a Saturday and Sunday morning, and his name will likely be in a police report. He will be out of the NFL quicker than you can say “Aaron Hernandez.” And, from then on, the only league that will have him will be California Penal. His life’s work may well involve the manufacture of license plates.
3) Homer was surprised that the refs called a cheap – or non-existent – holding penalty against Cincy when James Harrison may or may not have been held on a pass rush. After all, they spent the entire afternoon missing serious penalties against the Bungles. They totally lost control of the game from the get-go. Missing the TD celebration where the ball was kicked into the stands was inexcusable. And the failure to eject Burfict was a crime against humanity.
4) There is justice in the world. Cincy spent the entire game trying to injure Steelers, yet it was their guys who ended up getting hurt. I guess the universe IS, in fact, unfolding exactly as it should.