GAC let's get it on!!
Bengals look to finish what they started
By GEOFF HOBSON
No “egg game.”
The Bengals know they can’t afford to play like they did the last time the Cleveland Browns came to town in December with a division title on the line, when they produced that flat omelet in the last game of the 2003 season. So with the snow swirling Thursday at Paul Brown Stadium, head coach Marvin Lewis continued to apply the principles of a sweltering training camp practice of August.
“What is this? Game 13? We’re practicing like it's Game 1," said wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh before practice. "I think that’s a reason we are where we are. This is a different team. We went into that game thinking and hoping we can win. We go into this one knowing we can win.”
With the No. 1 team on offense, the No. 1 turnover team on defense, and most importantly, four physical AFC North wins under their belt, this truly is a different team than two years ago.
“I don’t think we’ll lay an egg like that,” said defensive tackle John Thornton. “That’s not what good teams are supposed to do. Cleveland is good enough to come in here and beat us. All I’m saying is good teams don’t lay eggs. I don’t know why we played like that. Nobody played well that day.”
Lewis is making sure there is no let down against this Browns team that has four wins after the 8-7 Bengals lost a chance to finish with a winning record and push the Ravens for the North title against the 4-11 Browns two years ago. On Wednesday he appealed to the hot button that has pushed this team since the Oct. 23 loss to the Steelers.
Get even more physical.
“If you look at us in the first game against them, we were much more physical up front and that was a big difference in the football game than what we're playing now,” said Lewis of the 27-13 win over Cleveland in the opener. “We've got to go back to doing that. We have to do that. This is a good time to take a look at that, and reflect upon that and see, 'Boy, that's us.' And go back to that kind of mentality.”
Thornton is talking about how Browns running back Reuben Droughns is the toughest back they’ve played all year and left tackle Levi Jones is bracing for the relentless play of Browns talented defensive lineman Orpheus Roye.
“I think it all starts with the offensive and defensive lines,” said right guard Bobbie Williams.
After the Bengals ability to be physical was questioned in the 27-13 loss to the Steelers, the Bengals have muscled through scores every time they’ve been in the red zone when the game was still in doubt. They have averaged 111 yards per game on the ground in their last three division games against top 10 defenses, and on Sunday they held the proud Steelers running game to less than 100 yards.
But Lewis’s call to tighten it up even more seems to have found its mark. That’s another reason the Bengals are where they are. They buy into what Lewis tells them.
“Droughns is probably going to be that third Pro Bowl back in my opinion,” Thornton said. “He’s having a tough year. He’s the best guy we’ve seen. The way he’s running now, he’s probably the best back we’ve faced.”
Browns running game gets it going
Droughns is running behind an offensive line that has impressed Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes with the rhythm it has displayed by staying intact as a unit in churning out a running game accounting for Droughns’s 4.3 yards per carry. Left tackle L.J. Shelton, right tackle Ryan Tucker, and center Jeff Faine have started all 12 games, with right guard Cosey Coleman starting all but one and left guard Joe Andruzzi all but three.
If there’s one part of the Bengals that’s been consistently physical, it’s their offensive line, and they’re ready to do it again. How good has this line been? The Bengals are third in the NFL in allowing sacks per pass and are No. 12 rushing the ball despite playing eight of their 12 games against top 10 defenses.
“We buy into it. We need to get physical. The back-to-basics stuff is so we don’t get knocked off course,” Jones said. “I feel like we’ve been very physical as a line. We could always be more physical.”
Jones knows that a Romeo Crennel defense lies in wait.
“They’re going to have all 11 guys going to the ball and you know Orpheus Roye is going to be banging up in there all day,” Jones said. “We have to match their intensity and hopefully take it past that.”
Williams feels like his unit has to step up again in a game against a defense that wide receiver Chad Johnson says “bends but doesn’t break.” Williams sees Crennel’s magic starting to work on a defense that has allowed only one team to score more than the 27 points the Bengals scored on them in the opener. In five of its eight losses, Cleveland has held a team to 20 points or less and has one shutout.
“Linebackers like Andra Davis are starting to adjust to the defense. They’re beginning to look like the Patriots,” Williams said. “They’re very aggressive. It starts with them and we have to be up to that challenge.”
Jones said Wednesday was a spirited type of camp practice because “guys were flying to the ball and running around,” yet he also joked, “But I didn’t get into a fight so it really wasn’t like training camp.” Known as one of the team’s toughest men, Jones said, “make sure you write that any fight I’ve ever been in at camp, I didn’t start.”
Lewis doesn’t want his guys fighting, but he wants fight in his guys. The snow hit about an hour into practice and it was going good for about an hour before they came in, which seemed to suit the mentality Lewis is seeking.
“What snow?” Lewis asked.
There were no hints that he is moving Friday’s practice indoors. It looks like PBS, snow or no snow.
“We’re fine,” he said, which is how Houshmandzadeh saw it.
“If you ask me,” Houshmandzadeh said, “every practice is like this.”
Which is why they’re getting ready for this week’s version of the AFC North title game in the snow.