Bengaldom enjoying the hunt

12-21-03, 7:35 a.m.

Bengaldom is just another name for heaven as the Bengals stand 120 minutes away (a Cincinnati win and a Baltimore loss) from a home playoff game in two weeks. And the populace is doing such a good job focusing on the last two games that Marvin would have to be proud of its civic duty.

(All those other issues in '04? Be glad they have those kind of good situations to resolve.)

Just a note on celebrations. We've had some serious reaction to Chad Johnson's sign in the end zone last week and his ensuing $10,000 fine from the league. Including a passionate open letter to Chad asking him to stop "punking out."

Here's our take. It's a game. It's a sport. It's not the Paris Peace Talks. Yes, we wish guys would hand the ball to the ref, or just spike it, or just do the "Ickey Shuffle," and be done with it. And, yes, we don't like what Joe Horn did.

But, honestly, it's hard to get worked up about it. Especially if some find it enjoyable. And, obviously the NFL isn't that upset because they're fining guys what amounts to $5 to everyone else out there. If the league were serious about it, the fines would be bigger and there would be suspensions.

As for Chad, he's just a young guy trying to find a niche, a signature. He's enjoying his new-found celebrity, and, isn't that nice? As long as it doesn't affect his team or his teammates, and it clearly hasn't. Let's enjoy watching him, unless it's a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff. That's the line. Like everything, there is a middle way. But there is never a middle way with youth. Let's enjoy him trying to find it.

A smattering of this week's Hobson's Choice off e-mail: **

hello : can you tell me the players with the last name of johnson & what year they led the bengals in rushing ?? i'm thinking essex johnson-year unkown, pete johnson-year unkown. are these right & are there any others ?? need the years also. thanks walter scott 23 year season ticket holder**

WALTER: Obviously, Rudi Johnson is going to do it this year. The last Johnson to lead the Bengals in rushing was Pete, from 1977-83. Before that, it was Essex in 1972 and 1973, so this is the 10th time a Johnson has been the team's rushing leader. **

If we are able to clinch the playoffs this sunday by beating St. Louis and Baltimore losing, should we sit Jon Kitna in the next Sunday's game vs. Cleveland and see the young gun Carson Palmer come in and get his first start of the season, or do you believe that Kitna should play that game anyways? Please respond back. My name is Eric**

ERIC: Absolutely. Give Kitna a week off before that home playoff game and let Palmer fire away. Poor Palmer. Kitna is not only the lone quarterback in the NFL to take every snap this season, but he could become the first quarterback in Bengals' history to throw the team's every pass in a season. The closest anyone has ever come to doing that is Ken Anderson, who threw every pass but one by Turk Schonert in the strike-shortened season of 1982. In a full season, it's also Anderson with 329 of the 332 in 1973. Greg Cook threw the other three.


First off, Whooooooooooooooo Deeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyy! Man it feels awesome to actually holler that and hear it hollered back. I've been a Bengals fan almost 3 decades now, since I first knew what football was, and it feels good to have the Bengal nation back. Secondly, I want to give you credit for the find balancing job you do. You are writing on the Bengals website and are obviously a fan yourself, and yet you still take the team to task for anything you feel it deserves to get jumped on about. I appreciate that.

Now, as to my actual point. The blueprint for beating St. Louis is already out there. You pound the rock right down their throats over and over. You wear their defense out and keep that turf show of theirs off the field. When their offense is on the field, you hit 'em, then hit 'em again, and then hit 'em some more. Bulger CAN be rattled, and as good as their receivers are, they still don't like a team that just lays a pop on them every single play. St. Louis' record, however, shows most teams can't follow that blueprint, or at least not successfully enough. I think WE can, but I was curious about your thoughts. What do you think Coach Lewis has up that wonderful sleeve of his? Do we have the personnel to successfully follow the blueprint? I think we do, but I would love to hear how you see this whole thing. I've run long, so let me end with saying what I started with...WHO DEY!!!!! Thanks. Israel**

Israel: Thank you. You make a pretty good call on the Rams. In our opinion, try to run it on their backup middle linebacker and undersized ends. On defense, we would think they have to blitz more than they did last week, which was virtually never in the second half, and no matter how banged up the secondary is, go back to playing like they did when they started this streak and give no cushion. **

was wandering what was going on with dennis weathersby has he recovered from his gunshot wound enough to play .i know we could use some help on the corners thats our main weakness on defense i was pleased with the performance of terrell roberts the other rookie but we have not even got a glance at supposedly one of the top dbs in the draft.please let me know a season ticket holder who sweats every pass play.**

SWEATING: This is the most asked question after a week Garcia went off for 344 yards. From what we hear, Weathersby is recovered, but guys like Roberts and Reggie Myles had the jump on him from the beginning and you can't really argue with the way Roberts has played from scrimmage and how Myles always seems to lead the team in special teams tackles. It's not like the old days when your record is 1-7 and you can just pump high draft picks into the lineup to let them play.

They still like Weathersby's size and speed, and still have him in future plans. But they knew this wasn't going to happen overnight when they took a guy who had been shot the week before. As Lewis says, this will be a process. **

What a season- this is the level of effort mixed with performance that die-hard fans have been waiting for from the coaches, players, and organization for 13 years, and perhaps the best part is that it looks like the first steps towards many years of success. My questions have to do with the play calling, which has really impressed me, particularly in the San Diego and San Francisco games.

Bob Bratkowski really seems to have struck a good run/pass balance, with opposing teams not knowing what's coming next. What percentage of the time has Bratkowski actually called the play, versus times when Kitna audibles out of the called play? Does Brat call more than one play, giving Kitna his choice at the line? How much is Kitna "allowed" to audible? When Kitna does audible, is it a true change of play, or is it more often an adjustment in the blocking scheme? Thanks, Geoff.**

CHECK WITH ME: Brat always strives to be balanced out of varying formations, but the thing that has impressed us is how he has stuck with the running game. We thought they abandoned it a bit in the second half against Arizona, but since then they have displayed great patience with it, and Kitna's 20-1 TDs-Int ratio stems in large part from Brat keeping them guessing. How's this for balance? So far this season they've passed 456 times and run it 433.

It appears that Kitna always has the ability to audible from a pass to a run, with the draw play to running back Brandon Bennett in the final drive in Pittsburgh the shining example. The various options are built into each pass play. Peter Warrick's TD bomb in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs came on a play in which that route was never open in practice or a game until that moment in time. The only time they really call more than one play is in a hurry-up mode so they can get off a couple of snaps quickly.

An audible is a rare thing, but it happens more and more as the players get more and more comfortable with each other and the system. **

Geoff, Just a quick note from an ecstatic Bengals fan in Denver. Ask my wife, my in-laws, my co-workers; I'm crazy when it comes to the Bengals. And now, like my Bengal brethren, I'm in a position I've not felt since I was a sophomore at Princeton High School. We are the leagues most improved team, with the coach of the year (is there any question about it??), the best "unheard of" RB, and the one of the best WR duo's. The Jungle is back!! I've watched every Bengal game this year, (thanks DirecTV) including the OT loss in Oakland while the wife and I were in Vancouver on our honeymoon.

To show you how awesome my wife is, she bought me a Home #85 replica jersey, only to be informed that Home #85 was sold out. (Since she's a Fond du Lac, WI native, I bought her a Home #4 replica jersey 2 years ago, and now she's returning the favor) Any word on when these jerseys will be available again?? Thanks, and keep up the good work at,, in the press box, etc... Alex.**

ALEX: Glad to hear the happiness. Chad's jersey should be back online some time after the holidays. **

Why do you suppose the Bengals defense has been shreaded the last couple of weeks? Can the stop the Rams? a fan since 1968. Dave**

DAVE: To us, the major thing seems to be that injuries in the secondary have decimated them. They've had to move safety Kevin Kaesviharn to corner, play a rookie corner in Terrell Roberts, and a lot of times make safety Mark Roman the corner in the slot. And, cornerbacks Artrell Hawkins and Jeff Burris have been less than 100 percent. It's not an excuse, but you asked, and we think that's a big part of it.


Dear Geoff, Thanks for all the news you give us about the Bengals. My question this week is about Rudi Johnson. Is his contract up this year? If so, can the Bengals afford to keep him? He seems to be a type of guy Marvin would want on his team, team player, professional, and gives 110%.

Secondly, do you think we can cover Torry Holt better than we did Terrell Owens? I know some of our DB's were sick or injured. But, I think St Louis has a more dangerous number two receiver (Bruce) than SF's Tai Streets. Thanks, Brian Columbus, OH**

BRIAN: You're right about Rudi. Marvin loved the fact he made the play on the on-side kick last week. He becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season, which probably means the Bengals are going to tender him the highest one-year offer possible to deter other teams from signing him. That tender figures to be in the $2 million range, which would force a team to give the Bengals a first-round draft pick if Cincinnati decided not to match an offer.

If he did sign an offer sheet with another team, the Bengals would have to evaluate the ramifications on the salary cap. Since they have Corey Dillon under contract for two more years after this one, it wouldn't be an automatic match.

You're right about Bruce and Holt. The scary thing is, before Streets caught that 41-yard touchdown pass last week, he hadn't caught a ball longer than 18 yards in the previous seven games. They've got to get pressure on Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, which means they have to blitz him more than they did Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia. With the injuries, the Bengals pretty much didn't blitz after rookie cornerback Terrell Roberts' sack early in the second quarter.


Hello Geoff,

I was just wondering, with the emergence of Rudi what can we expect to happen to Cory. If he gets traded, what would the bengals be looking for? Do you think the bengals will go after any of the big name CB's this offseason?

Thanks for your time,


SCOTT: That is still a situation to be played out. Nothing is in a vacuum. It depends on a number of things. What if someone pursues Rudi in restricted free agency? We still think they'd like to keep Dillon around for the two years he has left on his contract, but if they did trade him it would most likely be for a first-day draft pick.

It could also be affected by their desire to go out and get one of those cornerbacks and how much they actually save under the salary cap, if anything, with a trade of Dillon. We imagine they would love to go get one of those corners, such as Chris McAlister or Champ Bailey. But with Kitna and Palmer both making huge numbers, Rudi on the market, and the certainty most of those corners will be designated franchise free agents, they probably can't swing a mega player. Once a player is franchised, the compensation involves a first-round draft pick.


how's it going hobson my man....A.G. here to ask you a couple questions about the who-dey squad. First off let me just say that the game on sunday vs. the niners was COLD, I mean I was freezing the whole game. The 41-38 Bengals WIN warmed me right up though. It was a classic shootout with both offenses goin at it, back n forth, touchdown by touchdown. I have no idea where the defense was at on both sides, but the bengals caused 3 turnovers and it was still only a 3-point game. That shows us how hard playoff games are since the bengals don't really know much about.

Well, onto my questions, With Rudi Johnson playin so well, and probably gonna go over a 1,000 yards for the season, and the only bengal in franchise history to have three 150 + yard games in a season, and do all that in less than 16 games while splitting time with Dillon and only gettin an average of 20 carries per game, where does that put Dillon?? Who is gonna be our starter next year? Whats up with Dillon, is he stayin with us or what, if Dillon starts next year, is Rudi gonna stay? I'm real confused about that situation, I would hate to be Lewis in that situation because Rudi is playin like a pro-bowler, Dillon is already a pro-bowler, who to play, its hard to play both RB's in games because if you keep doin that it takes a player out of momentum and rhythm, and no other teams in the NFL do that. As a bengals fan, I love havin both of them on my team, I can deal with that all day, its better to have situations like that than to have situations where you can't even find a reliable backup at all.

Where it leads me into my next question, we haven't had a solid QB on our team in forever now, and the way Kitna is playin this year, and havin Palmer our #1 pick and heisman winner, how can u choose who's gonna play next year? Kitna surprised alot of people, especially me since I been doggin him since he came to the bengals, but he's really playin good this year, I mean you got people talkin about him goin to the pro-bowl, how u gonna bench a guy like that, but how u not gonna play a #1 pick who is the franchise player of this team. Plus, he hasn't already played this year, how u gonna sit him out another year and then drop him in there?

I have no idea how to be a coach, thats why I just watch and give my insights on things, I give alot of credit to Coach Lewis, hes gotta tough job ahead of him. Well thanks for reading my questions Hobson, lets get in the playoffs man, destroy everybody, can't nobody mess with the 2003 BENGALS NO MORE!!! WHO-DEY THINK GONNA BEAT THEM BENGALS!!!! A.G.- a die-hard bengals fan... dayton, OH**

A.G.: Way to work, A.G. We think you hit the nail on the head by saying that Marvin has done a good job defusing potentially explosive situations. And, really, Bengaldom ought to be savoring the experience of finally having good problems to think about. Since the streak began, Dillon has been a model team player with his public pronouncements, and Palmer has always said the right things from the days the Bengals began to court him.

It would seem to us Kitna has won the job for next year, and then they have to figure things out salary-cap wise. But Palmer would appear to be the guy at the beginning of '05 at the latest, but what if Kitna goes 25-11 next year, too? You just don't know. **

What would the chance be of the Bengal's redoing their uniforms? I would think that the new black pants would look good with the road white jerseys. also if they would wear the alternate color jersey (orange) with the black pants at home would be good. I've seen alot of other teams wearing different uniform combinations, why are the Bengals only allowed to wear the black pant twice this year?**

UNI: It's a given the Bengals are going to have a brand new uniform next year, but keep the same helmets. Changing uniforms is basically a two-year procedure, and Lewis got permission from the league before the beginning of this season to get a two-game dispensation for black pants. They wear them again next week against Cleveland after wearing them in the opener. **

Hello Mr. Hobson,

Thank you very much for all of the wonderful articles you provide to us on a daily basis!! I really appreciate it!! They keep us (the fans) informed as to what is happening!! Especially those of us who do not live in Cincinnati.

I have been a Marvin Lewis fan since he was the defensive coordinator at Baltimore. I followed his quest for a head coaching job and its seems as if he ended up where he was suppose to. I have also been a fan of linebacker Adrian Ross for a while (he is a fraternity brother of mine who really represents - Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity - GOMAB).

Because of these two gentlemen, I became a Bengals fan!!
I must say that it has been a real pleasure being a Bengals Fan. Everyone thought I was crazy when I told them that the Bengals would be at least 8-8 for the 2003 season back in July. I knew that Coach Lewis would have them ready. If only I had put a wager on it in Las Vegas - I would be a rich man. Oh well.. I did win dinner from one of my brothers though.

Anyway, thanks again and good luck in reaching the playoffs and the Super Bowl!! Terrence, New Bengals Fan in Huntsville, Alabama**

TERRENCE: Thanks for the note. You're an example of what it means to the franchise to have this turn-around season, and for that, what Lewis has done is, like the commercial says, priceless.

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