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Old 11-09-2010, 07:45 AM   #1
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Default Collier: Thank special teams for Bengals' undoing

Collier: Thank special teams for Bengals' undoing
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

CINCINNATI -- Had it not been for a handful -- OK, a fistful -- of pie-in-the-face special teams plays, the Cincinnati Bengals would be alive today.

As it is, they're a dead AFC North entity, about as relevant to the second half of this football season as a blackened jack-o'-lantern with its face kicked in.

That the Steelers still needed a half-dozen clutch defensive plays in the final two minutes of this riotous divisional struggle was a result of their ridiculous play-calling with a 20-point lead, not to mention a meltdown of discipline that translated into four very-near lethal penalties, two against Ike Taylor, one against Casey Hampton and the other on offensive tackle Flozell Adams.

"I didn't like the way Casey responded," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Hampton's roughing-the-passer penalty on Bengal gunslinger Carson Palmer. "The focus there should be to simply get to the next play. We focus on things we can control, our readiness for the next series, but his reaction carried over and put us in a difficult spot."

Ahead, 20-7, to start the second half, the Steelers weren't satisfied to have Rashard Mendenhall (22 carries, 99 yards) nail the door shut on this one. They preferred a seemingly limitless series of empty set formations, reverse action, and, by the start of the fourth quarter, an Antwaan Randle El stunt that just happened to work.

Randle El whipped a 39-yard pass to Mike Wallace for the touchdown off a reverse that made it 27-7, even if it was underthrown, even if it was high risk when any risk simply wasn't necessary.

"We can do that in any situation," Randle El protested. "That was a good spot on the field for that. We can run it on first down, but second down was a good situation, too. But we had two chances to slam the door on them offensively, and we didn't do it either time."

The Bengals sprang to life behind a jack-in-the-box named Terrell Owens. T.O.'s 27-yard touchdown catch in the right corner started a wild fourth-quarter rally that ended within 6 feet of a miracle. James Harrison and Taylor broke up Palmer's fourth-down pass at the Steelers' 2 with 34 seconds left to seal a 27-21 victory.

"As I sit there right now, I'm not concerned about [the close call] at all," Tomlin said. "When we get back to Pittsburgh and look at it, then I might be concerned about it."

Should anyone out there be coordinating a coaching clinic, anyone who's looking for an inspirational video illustration of what it means to take the crowd out of the game, check out the opening kickoff, "Monday Night Football," Week 9, and behold the classical definition: Emmanuel Sanders, the fleet Steelers rookie already enjoying a successful autumn in the return game, fled downfield unblocked and wrapped up Cincinnati's Bernard Scott, just as Scott crossed the 25, with exactly the right combination of force and technique that would allow fellow rookie Jason Worilds to recover Scott's fumble.

The audience at Paul Brown Stadium, whipped into a lather by still another tedious Hank Williams Jr. customized version of "ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!," deflated into prolonged silence upon Sanders' impact.

Not only was Sanders' game-opening effort shocking to the desperate assemblage in the Queen City, but it also was portentous and vengeful, as well, for it was this same Bernard Scott who took a kickoff 96 yards a year ago this month to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh and send the Bengals on their way to a rare AFC North championship.

When Ben Roethlisberger faked a reverse to Randle El and hit Mendenhall with a clever flat pass for 17 yards to the Bengals' 1, setting up a Mendenhall touchdown and a 7-0 lead barely two minutes into the prime-time show, you could almost feel the Bengals slipping from further divisional relevance even before they got their offense on the field.

Scott's fumble came on the first of two consecutive Bengals special teams plays that ended disastrously. Lining up to punt after its first full possession, the Bengals somehow allowed William Gay to burst up the middle and swat Kevin Hubert's kick away.

By the time the Bengals' special teams looked ready to play, the Steelers were ahead, 10-0. By the time the Bengals had finished messing up a kickoff, a punt and a field goal attempt -- kicker Mike Nugent missed a field goal on Cincinnati's final possession of the half -- they had set up Jeff Reed for a career-best-tying 53-yard field goal that put the Steelers ahead, 20-7, at the half.

It shouldn't have been terribly difficult from that point, but if the Steelers can make most of a 20-point lead go away in little more than 13 minutes, it might signal a precarious second half of the season.

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10313...#ixzz14sJxgfuN
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Old 11-09-2010, 09:54 AM   #2
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Default Re: Collier: Thank special teams for Bengals' undoing

The audience at Paul Brown Stadium, whipped into a lather by still another tedious Hank Williams Jr. customized version of "ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?!,"

Bah! Better than having to listen to Faith Hill!
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Old 11-10-2010, 07:30 PM   #3
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Default Re: Collier: Thank special teams for Bengals' undoing

Last I checked we still won the football game. I don't care how it got done because we are now 6-2. Do we have things to work on...absolutely, but we have to be very happy about being 6-2 through the first 8 games.
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