Bengals fans have been a worried the last couple of weeks about the lack of explosiveness from the teams passing game. The Bengals showed on Sunday that those worries were not unwarranted. The Bengals went on the road to play one of the leagues best teams in
The defense did a good job in the first half. They gave up a couple long drives early but held the Vikings to 10 points midway through the 2nd quarter. The Bengals answered right back after the Vikings touchdown with an 82 yard touchdown drive of their own. The Vikings answered back with another field goal and it looked as if the Bengals would go into halftime down by 6 points as they got the ball back with 35 seconds to go. That’s when Bob Bratkowski decided to run some plays to run out the clock instead of sitting on it or throwing down field. That strategy backfired as Brian Leonard fumbled the ball on the second play giving the Vikings the ball on the Bengals 26 yard line with four seconds to go.
Now I have never been much of a fan of Bratkowski. A lot of people think his play calling is too predictable. I think he’s not aggressive enough. He has been leaning on the success of the running game all year and that works alright when you’re playing teams like the Lions and the Browns but you have to keep your quarterback and receivers sharp as well. The offensive line hasn’t been protecting Palmer very well the past couple of weeks and he has been struggling. It doesn’t appear that they have done much to address the issue. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic but I’d like to see more timing patterns or even a quick slant once in a while. There has to be a better way to attack an aggressive defense than dumping it to a tight end who can’t catch or hitting your receivers behind the line of scrimmage. What he was trying to accomplish in the last 35 seconds of the half still has me baffled.
The Vikings started off the second half with a 6 ½ minute drive for a touchdown. It was pretty obvious at that point that the defense was worn out. They had done a pretty good job of containing Adrian Peterson but he was starting to make some plays. I felt that if they could get some pressure on Brett Favre that they could rattle him or even knock him out of the game. I have to give the 40 year old Favre some credit, though, he took a couple of major hits and hopped right back up each time. The Vikings turned it up a notch in the second half and beat the Bengals easily 30-10.
The defense, who had played well all year, looked to be pretty beat up. They were already playing without Domata Peko and Antwon Odom on the defensive line. Jonathan Fanene and Tank Johnson hobbled off a couple times and so did cornerback Jonathan Joseph. Safety Chris Crocker suffered an ankle injury and is expected to be out 2 to 3 weeks.
The Bengals are now 9-4 and need one more win to wrap up the division crown. Of the four losses you could say two of them were fluke losses. The last time they took a beating like this was in week 6 against the Texans. The Bengals came back the following week and destroyed the Bears in what was their best offensive game all year. It will be a tall task to repeat that this week. They have to go on the road to the west coast to play the AFC West division leading San Diego Chargers.
The Chargers come into this game playing as hot as anybody in the league. They have won 8 games in a row with wins over some very good teams. There is also a little more on the line in this game than just a division title. As of today the Chargers hold the number 2 seed in the playoffs, which would give them a bye in the first round. The Bengals are one game behind them and could take that spot with a win.
The Chargers are lead by quarterback Philip Rivers and some people have thrown his name around as MVP candidate as he has a 64.8 completion percentage with 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson was considered the best back in the league a few years ago but is still having a respectable season. Tight end Antonio Gates leads the team in receptions (71) and wide receiver Vincent Jackson leads the team in touchdown catches (7). Both of them will likely have over 1000 receiving yards after this game. On defense the Chargers have three stud linebackers in Stephen Cooper, Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman. Merriman and Phillips have been bothered with foot injuries but they are still both very dangerous players.
The Chargers come in as 6 ½ point favorites. I thought it might be a little more than that considering it was on the west coast where the Bengals don’t usually play well and the way the offense has struggled here lately. My hope is that the loss in