Coming out for Bengaldom

11-22-03, 1:15 p.m.

Bengaldom is just another name for heaven this week.

Once the most obscure team in the NFL, the Bengals had their coming out party with lead stories in "Sports Illustrated," and "The New York Times," and right tackle Willie Anderson held court in that other "Jungle," amid the karma that is Jim Rome's national radio show.

But while The Cat's away on a three-game trip, the mind games will play. Can they keep their watches on Cincinnati time to get that first California win since '90? Can they get back home 7-6 and is it all for naught if they don't? Can CD and Rudi live happily ever after in the same backfield?

A sampling of Hobson's Choice the week after the most meaningful home victory since Jan. 6, 1991 and the last playoff victory, 41-14, over Houston: **

Geoff, If the players had to rate their "Most Improved" area of performance, what would they say it is: stamina, technique, attitude, overall teamwork, what? I know that Marvin Lewis wants them in a mode of continual improvement, so that at no time do they feel as though they "have arrived", but we all admit that the last six weeks have improved the team's record. What do the players say? Steve, Washington Court House, Ohio**

STEVE: The One Heartbeat T-Shirt that Lewis handed out this week to his players, coaches and staff says it all. He has brought a sense of unity and togetherness unparalleled in the 12 seasons we've been around this team. A close second is their stamina that stems from their most intensive off-season conditioning program ever. **

WOW!! What a game!!! I was there and I witnessed 13 years of pent-up frustration that just exploded out. Just like the fireworks in the beginning of the game. I'm a life-long Bengal fan since 1968 and I'm still getting still getting goose bumps just thinking about the game. Yes, John Kitna is right. The Jungle is Back!! I seen grown men with tears in their eyes Sunday.

My only question is, do the Bengals realize the huge impact they have on this city? Thank You, Pete, Ft. Thomas.**

PETE: No question they realize it. If any other guy had owned this franchise in 1995 other than Mike Brown, they would be the Baltimore Ravens. One of the reasons he left much more money on the table in the Ravens' stadium deal is because he saw the parades at Fountain Square after the Super Bowl rides in 1981 and 1988 and he knew the Bengals belonged in Cincinnati. The terrific response in the last few weeks and the resiliency of the fan base in the past 12 years proves him right every day.

Plus, head coach Marvin Lewis immediately stressed and continues to emphasize the importance of the players getting involved in the community. Exhibit A is the 30 or so appearances the head coach made himself before the season started.

**

Geoff, I previously wrote and told you that I was disabled, now living in Columbus, Ohio after being born and raised in Cincinnati and how I still wanted to try to get to a game this year. Well, I made it Sunday against the Chiefs!

Wow, what a game! I must say, that what gave me more determination, was the comments from Marvin Lewis about "bandwagon fans" having nothing invested. Although, I dedicate a lot of my time in support of the Bengals, reading everything I can about them from Bengals.com (thanks again!) and anywhere else I can, I still felt like even in my circumstances that they deserved more from me as a "true" fan.

Some may have taken his comments wrong but he was absolutely right. Marvin, is not only changing the players perspective but the fans as well. What happened in the past is just that, "past!" When he tells everyone about what he did to turn things around here, he says things like "I just told them to look around and see what you really have and be appreciative of it."

Well, I think we as fans need to do the same thing and many already have. How awesome is it for us as fans to have an NFL franchise in our hometown! There are only 32 cities in the world that can say that! (not including NFL Europe) Obviously, being in my situation, I cannot go to every game, even though I would love too! But, spending $300 to go to a game, get some gear, food and pay for a hotel, made me feel as much a part of that win on Sunday as I have ever felt before. Worth every penny!

I also came away from Sunday's win with a greater appreciation for those who invest and labor to put the product on the field. Especially, after Marvin's comments in the locker room about Mike Brown. Maybe, it's because of becoming disabled since the last game I went to and I now have a greater appreciation for life in general but every "true fan" owes it to themselves to experience what I did there at, "Our Jungle!" Joe, Columbus.**

JOE: Thank you very much for your special letter. It's the best example I've seen this week of how important sports is to people while also keeping it in perspective. Your courage and support are what the game and fans are all about. **

"We play for pride," Tomlinson said. "You play not to get laughed at. Not to be called the Cincinnati Bengals of the league."

Give me a break. Eight consecutive losing seasons and that is his comment after being embarrassed by Denver. There are countless ignorant comments made by athletes every day but to be that far out of touch with reality really surprised me. I would love to hear his comments after watching film this week.

Hope this one makes it on the bulletin board.

I am also curious why the Bengals fight song is never promoted. First off, is it still their 'official' fight song? If so, why do you think they never scroll it across the big screen at the games to get the crowd fired up (not that we fans need any encouragement). I would think they could show it before the game or maybe at halftime. I realize it would be hard to show during the game because of all the replays, stats, etc., but to never show it doesn't make a lot of sense. Brian, Mt. Washington Season Ticket Holder Lifelong Fan.**

BRIAN: To be fair to Tomlinson, the national media picked up only the first half of his quote. Before it got cut off, he went on to praise the Bengals and how they have turned it around. And he has a good-guy rep in the San Diego media.

But no one reads more about his team than Lewis because that's all part of the details. If he sees anything at all that he thinks can help prepare his team for Sunday, they will see it in his weekly prep meeting first thing Wednesday morning. That first part of the quote fit right into what Lewis was trying to do in emphasizing not having an Arizona-like letdown.

As for the fight song, that too is making a huge resurgence and we would imagine if more fans want it, they might get it at some point during the last two home games on Dec. 14 against San Francisco and Dec. 28 against Cleveland.

**hey Geoff, I gotta tell ya. Sunday was a blast. Our little town is some 3 hours away from Cincy, but if we weren't so loud ourselves, I really think we could have heard the fans at the game yelling clear down here! What an awesome game.

P Dub - Hell of a Game! Way to rise to the occassion. Plus enough cannot begin to be said about that defense, especially in the first half. WHO-DEY!!!!

My question, what are the chances of keeping Corey AND Rudi in the back field next year? What a 1-2 punch that would be! I will never give up on Corey. He's been frustrated at times, but I really think the media blows it out of proportion quite often. When he's healthy, there will be no defense looking forward to Corey or Rudi, let alone both of them in the same game. What a dream! JJ......Chesapeake, OH**

JJ: At the moment, everything is up in the air and anything could happen. It does get you dreaming. Paul Brown loved having as many big backs as possible, especially in November and December. Even when he had the NFL's greatest runner ever in his prime in Jim Brown, he still traded for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Syracuse's Ernie Davis in the early '60s. If Davis hadn't died of leukemia before taking a snap, would we ever heard of Green Bay's Paul Horning and Jim Taylor?

But in this day and age with the salary cap, we think it'd be tough to do. Next year, we most likely think it's going to be one or the other. And Dillon obviously is trying to figure what he wants to do. Despite his apology, he didn't sound happy last month.

Still, what if. . . .They split about 900 yards in the last six games and go to the playoffs? The one thing Dillon has shown the past two weeks is he can be a team player.

**Am I the only one who thinks we need to sign as many guys named Johnson as we can in the off season? Every time you turn around another one is stepping up and helping this team out.

First Chad Johnson starts the year and shows he is one of the best receivers in the league. Then Corey goes down and after getting a feel for what their game is, Jeremi Johnson starts making room for Rudi Johnson to play like one of the best running backs in the league. How do his statistics compare to top running backs over the weeks he has started? At the same time, Jeremi has been scoring and making big plays too. And just when I thought it was the three Johnsons, Riall Johnson shows he belongs on the squad by making some good special teams contributions.

Too bad we couldn't pick up Kevin Johnson. Any chance we can trade Corey to Tampa for Keyshawn Johnson? How about working out a deal to get Teyo Robert, or Eric Johnson as a tight end ? Darrius Johnson from KC? Joe or Raylee for the defensive line? Michael.**

MICHAEL: Since Rudi's first start on Oct. 5 in Buffalo, he has produced two of the 10 biggest rushing games in the NFL this season. His 182 against Houston is fifth and his 165 last week is tied with Arizona's Marcel Shipp for 10th. Since Oct. 26, he has three 100-yard games. So do Ahman Green, Deuce McAllister, and Curtis Martin.

We just don't see anyone trading for Keyshawn with that huge salary cap hit. He'll probably have to wait to get cut after June 1. **

Is it my imagination, or is Justin Smith considerably heavier than he was last year? Did the coaches ask Smith to put on weight? Could the extra weight have something to do with his unremarkable performance rushing the passer? He seems to be improved against the run. Paul New Haven.**

PAUL: Smith says he weighs about what he has the past two seasons while fluctuating between 270-274 pounds. In the offseason, he had been toying with getting down to 262 or 263 but decided to stick. He has only 2.5 sacks, but he did get a game ball last week for applying pressure on Chiefs quarterback Trent Green. He talked last week about the defense being more disciplined against the run, and you could probably say that's one of the reasons he's improved there. **

Hobson: An indication of the change in Bengal focus could be indicated in the photo in one of the papers of Oliver Gibson restraining Myles. How things have changed. Dave of Minford.**

DAVE: That brought a smile to Gibson's face and he just said, "I guess it does." **

first i wanna say it is a great to be a bengals fan. ive been a die hard fan all my life. this season has been great. the question i wanted to ask is can the bengals afford to keep warrick and johnson together and i they can it would be nice to work a deal right now before his contract ends just like what they did with johnson. I think it would be a shame to seperate these two. they could possibly be the best duo in football. david from Dayton.**

DAVID: Good question. Some teams can fit two blue-chip receivers under the salary cap (the Rams with Holt and Bruce) and some like the Bills went elsewhere in letting Peerless Price get away from Eric Moulds. Much depends on the emergence of Kelley Washington.

It's usually the speedy outside guys that get the bucks and not the slot receivers/punt returners like Warrick. But if he keeps playing like this, they may have no choice but to keep Warrick. But you never see three big-buck guys. **

Hi, This is exciting! It's great to be looking into December with Bengal games not to be viewed as player or system development as in years past, but now as a playoff run! Rudi is playing great and Dillon seems to be changing his tune, however, I still believe if Dillon is healthy, Bengals go 100% with him. This is a guy who has produced in 8 to 9 man fronts. Sure Rudi has done a fantastic job in carrying the ball, however, it seems to me that the O-Line has picked it up a notch since Arizona. In comparison to the long run Rudi had Sunday, if it were Dillon, I think his speed would of broke it into the endzone! I'm hearing talk about signing Rudi to large money to keep him, and yes he has earned a raise, it's just, could you imagine what damage a 100% Dillon could of done with the O-Line playing this well.

Do you think we will see a full time healthy Dillon going forward or a split of duties? Rudi is a better substitute than Brandon Bennett however, I believe it would be a mistake not to go back to a full time dose of Corey and substituting Rudi in when he is tired, of course, assuming Dillon is 100%. People are talking about the 80's with Brooks and Woods, however two different styles of running backs then that complimented the offense. These two today have similar hard nose downhill running styles. I would hate at this time to start to hear the word "controversy". Jeff Canadian Bengal Fan.**

JEFF: They want to go with the hot back and Rudi is the hot back. But we think you'll see Dillon more than you have since his 19 carries in the Oakland game in the second week of the season. After that, the coaches are talking about getting the feel of the game and adjusting to who is doing what during the game. Their similarities make you wonder if it can be done.

**

so after that awesome win how do we keep from"the letdown"I mean that was a swet swet victory so how do the players stay up and focused??thanks,Becky E. galloway,ohio**

BECKY: That's the question of the week. If Marvin answers it, they're 6-5. They made adjustments this week so they won't repeat the letdown in Arizona three weeks ago after two straight wins. Such as getting recorded crowd noise blasted at them during practice Wednesday and Thursday. The Arizona game may be the old best-thing-that-happened-to-them gig because now they know what can happen if the minds are wandering. **

The first thing i want to say is to Peter Warrick. I'm sorry for every bad word I've ever said or thought about you. You are beyond a shadow of a doubt the most improved player, not only on the team, but in my opinion the entire league.

I've been a Bengals fan since I was knee high to a grasshopper and i can't ever remember getting into the games as much, or having as much fun watching them as I have this year.

I've only got two questions. First off, what are the chances of Rudi starting for the rest of the year? Don't get me wrong, i love Corey to death, he's been the only bright spot on this team for a long time. I hope and pray that he comes back next year bigger and badder then ever before, but if it ain't broke why try and fix it?

My second question is about instant replay. Is there any chance of the league changing the rules about being able to replay something once the whistle has blown? Obviously in a case like sunday's game, if the whistle has blown you couldn't give the recovering team any yards after they get the ball, but they could at least give them possion where they recovered the ball. Knee High, Frazeysburg, OH**

KNEE: It seems to us that Lewis is doing everything to follow the NFL creed of not letting a guy lose his job because of injury. He won't forget Johnson, but we think he's also trying to respect what Dillon has given to this franchise down through the years. Of course, in the end, winning is going to take precedence.

As for instant replay, stay tuned. The gut thinking is the league won't change it because it opens up more people to more criticism. **

Mr Hobson, I am a fan of the Bengals and any of there player! That being said I except Dillons apology and I am ready for him to play on the field! Through the years Bengal fans have at times ( Sometimes deserved) been rough on there players and coaches! But they are also quick to forgive ( Boomer & Coach Wyche examples). So I think the fans need to stop harping on Dillon; and make sure the media has only one thing to talk about, THE WINS!!

Few questions? First Now with Dillon looking good, are we looking at a Dillon Rudi backfield (reminds me of Brooks and Woods)? and if it works would Dillon like it and want to stay? Would the Bengals want to have them both? Might be a really big help for Palmer next year, every Rookie loves a great running support! I am not sure giving up Kitna for Palmer is a good idea though!!!!!!!

With that said, if the Bengals make the playoffs what are the chances for Cincy to get a home game? After 13 years I don't think any Fan will want to miss that game! Very Possible Cincy could get a KC rematch this year! WOW! It's great to be a Bengal fan this week! SUPER HAPPY FAN! Somerset, Kentucky**

SUPER HAPPY: Good question. Big question. This is a bit different than Brooks and Woods because back in the day the Bengals used split backs, something they rarely use now, if at all. Now, their offense relies a lot on a blocking fullback, and Dillon or Johnson isn't that.

Plus, Brooks' speed and hands made him such a huge threat catching passes, he was literally a third receiver. And, Brooks was never the centerpiece guy. The most carries he ever had in a season was 221, 12 less than the fewest Dillon ever had in a season. So it was easier for Brooks to go by committee because that's all he knew. But Dillon has been "The Man," and that might be a more difficult adjustment for him. **

I'm 23 years old and have been a Bengals fan since 3rd grade (15 years). Might not seem that great but I've lived in Miami, FL my entire life, so you can imagine the ribbing I've received in a football town like Miami where the Dolphins dominate.

2 weeks ago I accomplished one of my dreams when my fiance and I drove 18 hours from Miami, FL to Cincinnati to watch the Bengals beat the Texans. That game had to be one of the most exhilarating days of my life. I don't know how things usually are in Cincinnati, but I felt an electricity going through that stadium and excitement about a Bengals team that I haven't felt in over a decade.

This past weeks win over the Chiefs capitalized in that energy. I hope they do well down this road stretch (at least 2-1) though it has been difficult for them to win away from PBS. I wanted to know your opinion as to how you think the Bengals are going to come out of this road trip as well as what areas they need to concentrate on to win these games. WHO DEY BABY!!!!!!!!

thanks, Jorge Server.**

JORGE: Glad you had such a good time. We agree. Get off this trip 2-1 and so you're 7-6 with two home games left. The key is what it always is in November and December. Running the ball, no turnovers, and no special teams gaffes that allow easy scores. Ability to run the ball means fewer passes and fewer chances of interceptions. In their five wins, they have just one turnover. Since the defense forced three fourth-quarter turnovers Oct. 26 against Seattle, they've only forced two since and need to jack that up during the trip. **

Just wondering whatever happened to Ron Dugans?... He was a huge part of the Bengals receiving and special teams until this year when he was down with an injury. I rememeber Marvin cut him, but what happened after that? Any chance we will see him back in stripes next year? thanks, Josh, Loveland.**

JOSH: Dugans would like to come back obviously, but there's no room at the inn. Kevin Walter is playing well on special teams and T.J. Houshmandzadeh hasn't even been on the field yet this season because of his hamstring injury.

Been a season ticket holder for 20 years and stuck with them. This is great and I really appreciate the changes Mike Brown has made. One thing, though. Why do they not have fireworks after touchdowns and after a win? They always did at Riverfront. Why not now? George

GEORGE: There is no spot near the stadium where they can fire them off.

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