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Bengaldom booking

12-14-03, 12:15 p.m.

Bengaldom wants the book on Kitna, the the running game, and the defense.

Playoff scenarios?

To borrow a phrase, Keep It Simple, Bengaldom. Win out and get to 10-6 is the only sure way if Baltimore loses to Cleveland or Pittsburgh. **

The Bengals still have a legitimate shot at winning the North IF they can win out. I really don't think Baltimore can win out - that would require finishing the season 6-0 (since they are already on a 3-game winning streak). They still have to play Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I have a feeling that our division rivals are actually rooting for Cincy since Baltimore is basically hated by anyone outside greater Baltimore. Cleveland and Pittsburgh will do everything they can to make sure Baltimore fails. Joey Porter already said that the Steelers would take care of Baltimore for us. I know we can beat San Francisco and take the last game from Cleveland. That leaves St. Louis - if they aren't playing for home-field advantage next Sunday I can see the Bengals surprising the Rams who be looking past Week 16. I hope Marvin Lewis and his gang knows that the entire NFL is probably rooting for the Bengals and does not want to see those thugs from Baltimore in the post-season!

Also, where can your typical Joe Bengals Fan pick up one of those cool pullovers Coach Marvin was sporting during the Baltimore game? It seems like the selection at the online store is pretty scarce. Thanks again Jeff!!! Tony Covington, KY **

TONY: They knew this would happen when they let the Buffalo game get away and laid an egg in Arizona. Now, they're paying with the game against the Rams, which we think is going to a tough team to surprise at home. On the road in December, yes, a different story. But the Rams are 12-2 over the last two seasons in that place and that makes them a different team.

We agree with you on Baltimore. Anthony Wright has a four-pick game in him at some point.

Check out the Bengals' Pro Shop at Paul Brown Stadium. If Lewis is wearing it, it's most likely hanging up somewhere. That's where TalkMaster Andy Furman found his beloved Bengals' varsity letter jacket. **

I was wondering if you had the name and author of the book the John Kitna read that rejuvunated him

thx Douglas.**

"Wild at Heart," by John Eldredge. That has been our most frequent question this week. Kitna tells us it's on top of the bestseller lists at Christian bookstores across the country.


I realize the Kitna may not be with the Bengals next year so I am just looking for your thoughts on the outcome of next season. Do you feel that with a new quarterback we will once again feel the growing pains for an entire season or two? We have seen that the experience with key members on the offense has worked for the better this year. changing the qb could be a biggie.

Thanks for your thoughts! Todd -- Rochester, NY.**

Todd: Any time you change the quarterback, there is going to be a huge impact. It's just a matter of how long that transition is going to be. It took Kitna an entire season back in 2001 to get into a groove even as the unquestioned starter.

The hope would be Palmer's immense talent and his year in the system would let him get up and running before a season would be wiped out. At this point, Lewis isn't going to write off any year to quarterback building. Particularly with Baltimore competing for the division title with quarterbacks grabbed from a catalogue. **

I had a question to the Bengals Football Team what happened to the running game??? what happened to RUDI JOHNSON??????? **

RUN: Solid question. It seems to us against Pittsburgh and Baltimore that they didn't stick with the run like they have in some other games. Look for them to go back to it big time at home, particularly on a cold, snowy day against a West Coast team in the 49ers. Maybe the biggest observation here is that despite carrying the bal just 21 times the past two weeks, running back Corey Dillon seems to be silently and patiently waiting for more work.

With this being Kitna's team and them fighting for the playoffs, what is Palmer''s future here? Trade him to QB happy Spurrier's team, the Redskins, for Champ Bailey and their 2004 1st. What are the slary cap implications IF the Bengals deal Palmer? Bad, I suspect. Kimball.

KIMBALL: Very bad. You can't trade Palmer. Could you trade Kitna? Don't think you'd want to, because it's nice having such a solid guy around a new guy who can also play. The problem is, those two big QB salaries might prevent you from going to get a Chris McAlister-type cornerback in free agency. They have to sit down and hash it out after the season because they probably thought the season would end with Palmer as the quarterback and that they could go to Kitna to see if he would reduce in exchange for security. Hard to see that happening now.

**As a Resident of Arlington, VA that originally hails from the Queen City, I was quite pleased to go to a Bengals-Ravens game that actually meant something for the first time in my life. Unfortunately, the Bengals did not come out on top as I hoped. After being called every name in the book highlighted with every expletive and being physically threatened multiple times, I left the game almost glad they lost, fearing what the rabid Ravens fans would have done to a man that "dared" cheer against them.

I first wanted to plead to the fans of Cincinnati to not stoop to level of Baltimore - teach them a lesson in class off the field. As Sam Wyche would put it - "You're not from Cleveland (Or Baltimore)! Second, I was left with sour taste in my mouth that the Bengals did not even try to get the ball to Chad Johnson deep. Listening to the trash talk of Chris McCalister and Ed Reed after the game prickled my anger because if ain't that hard to stop a receiver if they don't even throw to him. The Ravens were obviously sitting on our short patterns and playing up to stop the run, making them vulnerable, it seems, to some long patterns.

Why didn't Bratkowski call Max-Protect and run some two man patterns deep? Extending the defense and making them respect the long ball helped us put up a bunch of points on the Ravens in Cincinnati and I was disappointed they did not take some shots earlier in this game. In a playoff run, the goal should be to get the ball to one's playmakers. If Chad won't say it, I will - "Just give him the damn ball!!!!"

.Chuck Arlington, VA**

CHUCK: From what we can gather, the problem wasn't sitting on the short patterns because they were able to get the ball to Warrick all day for eight yards a play. The Ravens did take away the long play they gave the Bengals in Cincinnati by pretty much keeping a safety deep so Chad wouldn't run by him. It would seem they needed more receivers than less, but when you can't block four linemen with five without max protect, you've got serious problems because the Ravens did all that damage without blitzing.

The problem? In our mind, against the Ravens it's not about pass protecting, it's about running the ball. If you run it, you take away that aggressive play in the secondary. **

Geoff, Of course, I love what Marvin has done here and I will be with them win or lose but I must wonder..are we better defensively than we were last year? Also, Is it right for me to have higher expectations with the top defensive coordinator (not to take away from the rest of his obvious administrative and head coaching capabilities) coming into Bengaldom and turning this defense around? And then the free agents that came in. Is it to early to look at this issue

Well, I had to look at the numbers and here's some interesting things. In 2002, the Bengals were last in scoring defensively at 28.5 per game but actually the defense only allowed 24.6 per game (I'm trying to forget how those other 4 points per game were given up). This compared to actually 21.7 for the defense this year (not including Kitna's 2 picks for TD's). Without going into too much more, one disturbing thing to me, is their rushing defense. In 2002, they were 22nd at 125.2 and 4.0 per pop. This year they are 24th with three to go at 126.2 and a gaudy 4.5 per pop. They are also allowing 5.4 per play overall, which is near the cellar as well. Yes, sacks and turnovers are up although not much, third down percentage is better and pass completion percentage is better as well as time of possession.

But the bottom line, is that "defense wins championships" and ours is not playing near a championship level. Are they better, because of all the intangibles as well? YES, YES, YES! Is it good enough? NO! The good news, is that I trust that no one knows this better (except, perhaps you!), than our head coach and rookie (lets not forget that) defensive coordinator and I have no doubt that it will get fixed! However, I am concerned for the rest of this year. Should I be? -Looking forward to having here, that monster he created in Baltimore- Joe from Columbus**

JOE: You make some excellent points and given what Lewis has achieved in the NFL, it's only right to expect an elite defense. But at some point. Not right away.

We think there are a few things at work here. We think Lewis and Frazier make a formidable team, but it's going to take time to meld their philosophy into a playbook and get the players used to it. Frazier has a keen mind and the players' respect, and he has mentioned occasionally how his blitz forever Buddy Ryan-Jim Johnson philosophy has differed some from Lewis' ideas. But if an offense gets a mulligan for making massive changes, then so should a defense.

Plus, they have a lot of solid players who are smart and athletic on that side of the ball, but they really don't have a drop-dead gamebreaker like defenses in Baltimore or St. Louis. The Ravens drill you up the middle with physical freaks like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed who just flat-out change games.

Of course, the Patriots don't have a guy like that and they're the best team in football. We think the Bengals can be like that in a playoff run: Well-coached, few mistakes, opportunistic when it counts. But over the long haul, they must and should improve with the combination of a familiar system and the addition of some playmakers.

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