2012 NFL Playoffs: Quick-Hit Reactions from Bengals vs. Texans

The Texans defeated the Bengals 31-10 on Saturday to notch their first playoff victory in franchise history. Here are a couple of quick-hit reactions from this Wildcard contest.

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster rushes for a gain against the San Diego Chargers in the first half at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on November 7, 2010. UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher

– Many times during the postseason we see a defensive line take over a game and that’s exactly what Houston’s front four did on Saturday. Outside of one or two passes, Andy Dalton simply didn’t have enough time to go through his progressions and get the ball down filed because the Texans’ D-line was up his ass every play. The Bengals’ running game didn’t do him any favors but credit Wade Phillips for putting together a great game plan. (A game plan that turned A.J. Green into a ghost.) Dalton had some success moving the ball in the first quarter but once the Bengals got further off of their opening script, their offense crumbled.

– You say defensive tackle J.J. Watt was a former tight end in college? Huh, could have fooled me on that ridiculous catch he made on that game-changing pick-six right before halftime. It‘s hardly surprising that he turned out to be such a good player in his first year. He’s a fellow Central Michigan Chippewa and those guys can just…flat…out…play.

– Speaking of Watt, how annoying was Mike Mayock when he kept boasting about how he thought Watt should have been a top-10 pick back in April? We get it Mike, you were high on the kid coming out of college.

– Speaking of Watt x2: What were Watt’s odds for the prop bet, “What rookie will score first in Saturday’s Bengals-Texans game?” Andy Dalton 5/1. T.J. Yates 6/1. J.J. Watt 100,000,000/1.

– It’s amazing to think that Arian Foster was once on Houston’s practice squad. You watch how elusive, athletic and powerful he is and it makes you wonder how the hell he wasn’t considered one of the Texans’ top 3 running backs during a given year. That said, Foster has even admitted that he wasn’t motivated until finding out that practice players could be called up, so it’s probably not the Texans’ fault that he wasted some time when he first arrived in the NFL. And boy has he arrived.

– I hate to be critical because the kid is doing the best he can in a difficult situation, but T.J. Yates wasn’t very impressive. On one drive in the second quarter, he overlooked open receivers on two separate pass plays in order to throw to guys that were covered, and Chris Crocker nearly had a pick-six late in the third when Yates threw across his body. (Crocker inexplicably dropped the gift.) But again, how critical can you be of a fifth-round rookie quarterback who won his first postseason game of his career? Peyton Manning didn’t accomplish that feat and neither did Eli Manning or Matt Ryan. I only mention the fact that Yates wasn’t impressive because Baltimore’s defense is a) better against the run than Cincinnati and b) will likely score more than 10 points. Thus, Yates might not be able to step into the shadows and allow Foster and Houston’s defense to take over.

– One thing that was impressive about Yates was the double-move he put on Pacman Jones to burn the corner on Andre Johnson’s touchdown catch. Houston‘s o-line gave him great protection and Yates calmly juked Jones out of jockstrap. (On a related note, it’s easy to forget that Pacman is still in the NFL when he’s not being arrested every week.)

– This game was yet another example of what happens when a team doesn’t have enough offensive weapons. The Texans took Green out of the game and Dalton essentially didn’t have anyone else to throw to. You see this type of thing all the time in the playoffs and you understand why teams like the Saints and Packers load up on playmakers during the offseason.

– The coaches upstairs for the Bengals should have done a better job of telling Marvin Lewis not to challenge Owen Daniels’ first-down catch late in the first half. Had they done their jobs, Lewis wouldn’t have blown Cincinnati’s second timeout and more importantly, the team’s final challenge on a call that obviously wasn‘t going to go their way. That said, it’s ultimately up to Lewis to make sure he still has a challenge in his back pocket for the final 30-plus minutes of the game. That’s just bad coaching all around for Cincinnati.

– That’s a bad half of football, Chris Crocker.

– Despite this bitter ending, it was a hell of a season for the Bengals. I know fans wanted their team to advance but looking at the big picture, nobody expected Cincinnati to make the postseason back in August.

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Marvin Lewis aware that Palmer won’t be back next season?

Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis talks to quarterbacks Carson (L) and Jordan Palmer as they play the Baltimore Ravens’ at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on January 2, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

One unnamed NFL GM tells CBS Sports that head coach Marvin Lewis “knows” that quarterback Carson Palmer won’t play for the Bengals next season.

Essentially, the question is this: Can [Lewis] convince Brown to deal Palmer for draft picks, players or both to get something of value this season? Most people believe he cannot, and that was reiterated by our GM who said he’s certain Cincinnati won’t budge on Palmer because of what it would mean for others.

But he also said that if Palmer is true to his word and retires it might increase his value for 2012, with teams believing that if he has that much of a conviction, is that disciplined, is that true to himself, then he’s exactly the sort of quarterback they’d like as a leader.

“He can still play, and he can still play at a high level,” the GM said.

It’s kind of a moot point to talk about potential trades seeing as how we’re in the middle of a lockout but this Palmer situation won’t die down. Making matters more complex is that if the Bengals were willing to trade him, it would make sense to do so before the draft. But since teams can’t make trades right now, the Bengals are stuck.

It cannot be overstated: the Bengals have a mess on their hands here. Brown doesn’t want to set a precedent for other disgruntled players to follow Palmer and demand trades just because they want out of Cincinnati. But if Palmer follows through and retires, then obviously the best recourse for the Bengals is to trade him in order to get something in return. And if Lewis knows that Palmer doesn’t want to be his quarterback, then I would have to assume that he wants someone else in place who does.

For now, at least the Bengals have plenty of time on their hands to figure out what they want to do with Palmer. Because there doesn’t appear to be a quick resolution to the labor mess.

Marvin Lewis takes another shot at Chad Ochocinco

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (85) talks with head coach Marvin Lewis during the second quarter of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on November 14, 2010. UPI /Mark Cowan

The battle between Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and receiver Chad Ochocinco is turning into a tale of two scorned lovers.

Early last week, Ochocinco sent the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport a Twitter message suggesting that he’d welcome a trade to the Patriots this offseason. A couple days later, Lewis took a shot at his star receiver by saying: “Nobody was talking about him. He didn’t stand that,” which was in reference to Ocho’s desire for attention. Lewis then went on to say: “You want them to talk about you, win football games.”

At the Senior Bowl on Monday, Lewis again took a swipe at his receiver, this time saying that Bill Belichick is “smarter” than to acquire a player like Ochocinco. So in one week, Lewis basically called his best receiver an attention-starved diva and then suggested that one of the league’s best coaches was smart enough to stay away from him.

For a guy who reportedly wanted out of Cincinnati because of the circus-like atmosphere, Lewis sure is turning up the drama lately. And if Belichick is too smart to take on a headache like Ochocinco, then what does that make Lewis for keeping him on the roster? If he’s that much of a distraction, why doesn’t Lewis convince the higher ups to get rid of the Ocho?

Ochocinco and T.O. both said on their latest episode of “The T.Ocho Show” that they would love to play for the Jets next season. So while Ochocinco continues to lobby to play for other teams, his head coach is taking not-so-subtly jabs at him.

This situation is turning ugly.

Carson Palmer to return?

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer (9) gets off a pass as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson (95) is blocked by Bengals offensive tackle Anthony Collins during the second quarter of their NFL football game in Baltimore, Maryland January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Giza (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Marvin Lewis seems to confirm Palmer’s return in an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Will Carson Palmer be back? Barring a major change in heart, which looks unlikely to happen, one of Lewis’ major priorities will be finding complementary parts for Palmer.

“It’s important to recapture the spirit of our football team,” Lewis said. “I told him (Palmer) yesterday privately that it’s important to me that I will help him be the player that I know he is and I believe in him and he’s important to me.”

This is good news for a few of my early sleepers heading into the 2011 season: WRs Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and TE Jermaine Gresham, who is just the 7th tight end in league history to catch 50+ passes in his rookie season. Palmer played pretty well with this group over the final two games, throwing for 574 yards and five TDs against two pretty good defenses (San Diego and Baltimore). It appears that he may be better off if he doesn’t have his wideouts chirping in his ear.

I’m not sure how much longer Simpson will be a sleeper after the third-year wideout caught 18 passes for 247 yards and three TDs over his final two games of the season. If both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are gone next season, Simpson is a good bet to finish as a top 15 or 20 fantasy WR. Caldwell and Shipley are going to hold more value in PPR leagues, and they could cancel each other out if the Bengals go to a more run-oriented attack.

Marvin Lewis to remain with the Bengals now?

Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis talks to quarterbacks Carson (L) and Jordan Palmer as they play the Baltimore Ravens’ at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on January 2, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

In rather surprising news, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Marvin Lewis is now expected to return as the Bengals’ head coach in 2011.

Schefter knows what I ate from breakfast, so I’m sure this report is on the money. If so, it’s rather shocking considering it looked like Lewis was on the outs as of yesterday.

I don’t know why Lewis would want to return to the mess that is the Cincinnati Bengals but maybe owner Mike Brown promised to make some changes. The Bengals have one of the smallest scouting staffs in the league and Lewis was reportedly frustrated by the way Brown runs the organization. But maybe he had a change of heart after meeting with Brown on Monday.

If Lewis is given a new contract, his first order of business should be to figure out what to do with quarterback Carson Palmer. If the Bengals still feel as though Palmer can get them to the playoffs and beyond, they may want to think about parting ways with Chad Ochocinco. Palmer’s best game came against the Chargers in Week 16 and he played well against Baltimore in Week 17. Both of those performances came with Ochocinco and Terrell Owens were both out with injuries.

At this point, it might be worth it to the Bengals to see what Palmer can do next year without receivers like Ochocinco, T.O. and T.J. Houshmandzadeh buzzing in his ear. One would think that the Bengals’ offense would be worse off without a player like Ochocinco, but Palmer’s last two games tell a different story.

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