Notes and quotes in the aftermath of what may be the toughest loss in the 119-game Marvin Lewis era:
» Cedric Benson emerged as the voice of reason after his 10th 100-yard game as a Bengal in a dominating 144-yard performance on just 23 carries for 6.3 yards per run. It was the biggest chunks in a 100-yard game since Rudi Johnson went for 7.7 in his 202-yard day against the Browns in 2004.
After the kind of loss that can implode a locker room because of how sudden it was and how the responsibility for it was so tilted to one unit, Benson said he thought the Bengals would survive it.
"We'll watch the film and everybody is going to see something they could have done better, which in turn makes everybody work harder," he said. "You know, sometimes these things are good. It sucks, right? But sometimes they end up being good because this is what you use to build on. It propels you into the late part of the season. You've got to have this kind of stuff. You need to see what you can do better. Some teams can go without it, some can't. This is what we need to happen to us. Internally we need to see it as a positive and make some progress."
» The populace may have been booing Carson Palmer on the Paul Brown Stadium concourse Sunday, but there was praise for him in the coaching wing at PBS Monday. The two interceptions in the final 2:28?
Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said the last one was a pure drop over the middle by wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. "Perfect throw," he said. The first one, a ball to wide receiver Terrell Owens that corner Aqib Talib was able to wrench free, Bratkowski called miscommunication by quarterback and receiver at the top of the route.
"I'm not going to put the blame on anybody," he said. "The route ended up inside further than it should be, so the ball ended up further outside than it should be. When the quarterbacks throw it, they throw it prior to the break. The ball was still right there. It just wasn't where he could protect it and snatch it and the guy wouldn't have as much of a chance. So when it came out, the ball was back here, which is also where the defender was and he was able to come through and get it."
Palmer's awful throw came early in the second quarter and was Tampa Bay's only score for the game's first 40 minutes. Palmer tried to hit Owens on a sideline route from his own 3 and rookie safety Cody Grimm read it all the way for an 11-yard TD return.
"Obviously you'd like to have that one back. It was good coverage disguise. That looked like one coverage and it ended up being another coverage," Bratkowski said. "They hadn't shown it to this point. It would have fooled most quarterbacks because of where the safety was and what he did after the snap."
But all in all, after mixing in wide-open third-down drops by Benson, Owens and wide receiver Andre Caldwell (a crushing bobble in the red zone at the end of the half in which the Bengals had to settle for a field goal), Palmer was a lot better than his numbers.
"He made a lot of nice throws and had some drops, third-down drops. A couple of those were big plays," Bratkowski said. "Terrell was going to run a long ways and Andre's was going to put us inside the 10. Should've been first and goal with 30 seconds left and three legitimate shots."
» As they always do before every critical situation, Lewis and Bratkowski conferred on the headsets when it was third-and 13, 2:28 left, the Bengals up, 21-14, and the Bucs with no timeouts left.
"We knew if we got a first down, the game was over," Bratkowski said. "So that's the decision that was made. In those critical situations, I always get Marvin's take. I'm not trying to blame him. We always discuss those things. Just so that I know his thinking at the time. The thinking was if we complete that ball, the game's over."
» Bratkowski is taking heat for a pass-to-run ratio that at one point in the third quarter was 25-to-9 even though Benson was going nearly seven yards per against what looked like the kind of Cover 2 zone that invites the run. It ended up 36-to-28. The Bengals spent a good part of the game in the no-huddle, their most since the opener in New England.
"When we get in the no-huddle there are certain things that are going to trigger us to throw it," Bratkowski said. "Even if you're running it, you can't run it every play because you need to pick up some chunks. Going down the field in four-yard increments forces you to be perfect."
The Bengals went no-huddle less in the second half when they really pounded the ball, but that had nothing to do with it. And, Bratkowski said, it wasn't really a pure Cover 2.
"At the snap they were moving out of it a lot. And sometimes (Palmer is) reading it, concedes and thus," he said.
The big passing day last week in Cleveland and the big running game Sunday had Bratkowski shaking his head. He hopes the revived running game ignites balance.
"We just kind of go from one week to the other. One week it's the run game, another week it's the passing game," Bratkowski said. "We ran it 28 times. You would love to have had run it four or five more times and it would be over. Ced ran hard and good. There was good blocking. There was success in no-huddle runs as well as the called runs."
» The big question. What is the Bengals offensive identity?
"We still want to be a running team. We ran for 148 yesterday and that qualifies, yet have enough balance to get the chunk plays," Bratkowski said. "We had one deep ball yesterday. We just didn't get it in the end zone enough. Did not get down there and finish off the other drives."
» Both Lewis and Bratkowski were surprised by some of the offensive penalties called Sunday. A hold on tight end Reggie Kelly and false starts by tight end Jermaine Gresham and right guard Bobbie Williams were of particular note. Williams didn't have his hand on the ground when he got into his stance, and when he put it on his knee before the snap, he got flagged.
As for Kelly, "I don't know what else Reggie could have done," Bratkowski said.
The false start on Gresham was huge.
"It really looked close. Even when you (freeze the frame), you can't see any movement prior. But they called it. That was critical," Bratkowski said.
» Not all is quiet on the Bengaldom front. In Terrell Owens' interview on NFL Network on Sunday, he said the Bengals aren't listening to his suggestions for the offense.
"Trust me, I understand and some people here think I really don't know what I'm doing, but I have to do it their way," he told Michael Irvin. "They hear it, but it's one of those things: They're listening, but they're not hearing me."
T.O. also said he feels like he's playing for free, but he's on pace to make $1.3 million of his $2 million incentive. He gets $666,666 if he hits 100 catches and another $666,666 if he hits 1,300 yards and he's on pace for 99 catches and more than 1,500 yards with 31 catches for 476 yards in his first five games.