Fans: Waiting for something good

9-23-03, 6:20 p.m.

All and all, Bengaldom is giving its new chieftain a benefit of a doubt on Marvin Lewis' 45th birthday.

Still, there is an undercurrent of anger, frustration, and disappointment at the 0-3 start and Lewis is taking a bit of his first heat. The patience is thinner than J.Lo. From our vantage point, the Honeymoon that began with his hiring Jan. 14 was officially over on Sept. 21 with 2:30 left in the first half when the Steelers converted a fake 50-yard field goal minutes after Lewis had passed on a 50-yarder to punt.

But Lewis is resilient and resourceful. He knows life is tough after Little League. He's so thorough, he may be keeping a chart on all the band-wagon jumpers.

A spin around Hobson's Choice on Marvin's 45:

**

First of all, thank you for the columns you write every day. I always enjoy reading the latest about the Bengals.
I

have been a lifelong Bengals fan, 25 years. I went to camp this summer in Georgetown and got to meet some of the players. In my opinion, they were all absolute professionals and it was great to get some autographs. My question is this: How is the feeling in the locker room now? I know everyone was excited going into the season. They have several veterans from winning programs with playoff experience. But, now they are 0-3. Yes, I have still believe they can win every Sunday. But, how are the players feeling? Has the bad start and typical comments from ESPN and others begun to wear on them? Or, are they striving to improve and believing the season can still be saved?

Also, is anything being done to help the run defense? I really thought the D-Line would be a strength this season. But, we haven't stopped the run effectively or put much pressure on QB's this season. Luckily, the secondary has looked great. Thanks, Brian **

BRIAN: Thanks for the kind words. The attitude in the locker room is different than in other 0-3 starts. For the first time, there isn't a here-we-go-again," plague taking hold in September. The players see a light at the end of the tunnel. They wanted to see a commitment from management and they got it in the form of Lewis.

They have a great deal of confidence in Lewis. The fact a guy of his pedigree is leading them makes them somehow immune to the jokes. They know he's got a Super Bowl ring and they don't, so they're listening. Any doubts that Corey Dillon is on board is probably going to be erased when he tries to play with his strained groin Sunday.

That said, we also feel some sobering realism floating through the room. The first three games showed it's not going to happen overnight. A new regime needs time and some guys are starting to look around and wonder if they've got that much time because of Lewis' uptempo sense of urgency.

The one disappointing surprise has been the inability to stop the run, which directly correlates to why the line has just two sacks. You can only fix it by emphasizing it. The new set of linebackers looks like it is trying to get coordinated with the line, because the perimeter play hasn't been all that great. The safeties have been excellent against the pass, but you can't let a draw become an 11-yard run on third-and-eight and down a touchdown with two minutes left. **

Hi:I was wondering if you could tell me if Chad Johnson is injured or was sat for another reason – thanks. –mike**

Mike: Johnson didn't start Sunday against the

Steelers because of disciplinary reasons. Some have speculated he was late for a meeting, but others have said that he was on time during the weekend but that he popped off to a coach.

Whatever it was, he sat for a series, and he probably won't do it again. Johnson is a great guy to have on a team because of his willingness to practice and his enthusiasm. It's like Lewis said Monday. The guy isn't in it for the paycheck. He wants to win and do well. He just needs some help trying to get there as he goes through the maturation process..

Why is it that week after week we are subjected to hearing Kitna or some other offensive player/coach comment on how "the other team showed us different looks than what we were prepared for" or "we didn't see that in film at all"?? When you keep hearing that same comment week after week, you have to wonder about the coaching. I feel the coaches (ole' Bobby Bratkowski) need to step it up and prepare these players for everything possible. There is no reason a player should make the excuse of "well, we didn't see that in practice so...blah, blah, blah." Am I the only one who notices these post game comments?Thanks Again, Brian. "Lonely Bengals Fan in Cleveland"

LONELY: There's no question that Denver and Pittsburgh did some things that took the Bengals by surprise and it would be nice to see some head scratching on the other side. The offensive masterminds (Denver's Mike Shanahan and Pittsburgh's Mike Mularkey) got the better of the defensive guru with the Broncos racking up 30 points and the Steelers 376 yards.

But it's hard to get on Bratkowski because he has been without Corey Dillon for five of the last eight quarters on offense, and the defense is trying to work out a new scheme. And, the first three teams had intact playoff rosters and the Bengals are trying to get there.

We'll say this. The Steelers didn't hit a pass longer than 29 yards and that was on a screen. They probably left shaking their heads on how the Bengals dropped seven guys in coverage a lot of times and didn't give their receivers a lot of room.

**

The most disappointing thing to me about this year is Marvin's failure to establish an attitude. Having grown up in Pittsburgh during their Super bowl years and having been on Cowher's staff for 5 years, he should know that the way you win in the NFL is you run the ball and you stop the run. Coming into a new situation, you would think he would want to establish an attitude--no matter what, we will run and you will not run on us.

Had he established this attitude, they might be 2-1. Instead, they are 0-3 and heading for 0-5 with a quarterback with no upside. Carson Palmer has lost 3 games of valuable experience because they can't run the ball. They couldn't stop the Bus with 9 in the box because Pittsburgh has the attitude. Marvin's Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback because they ran the ball and stopped the run. The NY Giants are 2-1 even though Jim McNally has 3 first time starters on the offensive line.

Marvin made statement with the players by cutting some veterans. How about making a statement with coaches by firing Alexander the Terrible. His #1 pick last year gave up 3 sacks Sunday playing next to the top pick in 2nd round this year who was grossly overmatched in week 1. Time to make a statement and a change. No one available in the middle of the season? How about Hall of Famer Anthony Munos[sp?]? Dave **

DAVE: That's exactly the kind of physical, grinding mentality Lewis is trying to foster, and how can you make an evaluation that he isn't after 12 quarters? You can't transform what used to be a tentative, out-of-shape team into the Steelers overnight.

You don't have to tell him how he got to the Super Bowl with the Steelers and Ravens and, by the way, if you see Greg Lloyd, Rod Woodson, Jason Gildon, Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware on this roster, let him know and we're sure Marvin will get them into the game.

How can you run it in the opener when they don't have the ball in the first half because Clinton Portis gets 90 yards, and how do you run it in the last two games with Dillon on the bench for five quarters?

If you saw the Oakland game, you know he was trying to pound it even after Dillon went out. Both he and Brandon Bennett each had 19 carries in a half of work, something you wouldn't have seen last year.

Lewis obviously knows he has to do something up front because he has already switched the interior around once and note that none of the inside free agents have yet to sign a contract extension. And he showed he knows how important stopping the run is when he signed three free-agent starters to the front seven.

Sure, left tackle Levi Jones had a bad game, but a lot of left tackles have bad games against Pittsburgh. And he played well the week before in Oakland.

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander has had good seasons here. They usually run the ball well and two years ago the line allowed a franchise-low 28 sacks while quarterbacks threw a team-record 602 passes.

The better question might be, why haven't the Bengals invested more in free-agency in first- and second-round picks at guard and center like the Steelers have? And, like everything else, you have to give Lewis (and a rookie like Steinbach) more than 12 quarters for that. No one, of course, wants to hear that. **

when is coach lewis going to see that jon kitna is more of weakness for this team than a strong point. he is always involved in the mistakes that cost the bengals the game. If he does not want to use palmer why not give matthews a chance as the starter. I know that I speak for alot of the fans out here that are tired of seeing the same old things every week.(HEY COACH) we need a win bad or you are going to lose our support quick, it is your first year and maybe you can deal with a 0-4 but we can't!!!!!!!!!!!

I think thatr coach lewis is a very smart coach, but I think that cower showed more of hunger for a win than lewis on sunday. why not go for it on the 35 in the 1st half instead of punting ? what is 15 yards come on coach you better start taking some chance's ,at least it give us the feeling that you want to win,Or is it that you just want to keep your job???. I HOPE IT IS WIN'S.**

Why should Lewis lose your support so quickly? He has a bigger challenge than Shula, Coslet, and LeBeau combined because he is coming from the outside and trying to change it all. To us, he's the kind of guy that needs the most support for the longest time.

What is this hunger stuff? It's real easy for Cowher to jut the jaw, pump the fist, hug players, jump around on the field, and go for it on fourth-and-one when you've got a 7-3 lead and the other team doesn't have a running game. Fans have been moaning for years how this team never has any field position and now here is Lewis trying to give you some by passing up the field goal, and he's catching all kinds of grief because the punter sailed it.

Trying a field goal from the 35 would have been stupid, but we were all for the 50-yarder. Yet, here's the thing. Word is, kicker Shayne Graham had trouble from 50 yards into the wind during pregame. What would you do if you were Lewis?

Give the guy a break. It's his first year calling shots as a head coach. He'll miss some and hit some. And since he's a defensive guy like LeBeau before him, you can't be surprised he's going for field position as his first instinct. **

Why does the Cincy turf always become an issue? Is there any chance they could get some of that Astro-Play surface? They use it at IU, Michigan and many other big-time fields. I think something needs to be done and someone needs to have an answer in the Cincy front office.

thanks for your fair reporting on a team web-site.**

Thanks for the kind words. The front office has been looking for answers ever since the first field died in a drought the year the stadium opened and it has never seemed to rebound. They are also in this thing with Hamilton County, so they can't go off on their own, and you know whatever they try to do, people are going to jump down their throat because they're losing and it will cost some money.

But they are seriously considering the new kind of turf and watching with interest those first-year surfaces in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia.

**

Geoff With Dillon battling these injuries, and Bennett is more of special teams guy would it better option to add that Jackson kid they had in pre-season? ps This by no way a knock on Dillon or Bennett. Die Hard Bengals Fan.**

DIE: Of course it's not a knock, but players don't want to hear about how injuries can affect their game. Dillon is so mad at the whispers that seven years of hits have caught up to him that he could probably go out and play on pure rage against the Browns with one leg in a sack.

The answer is supposed to be Rudi Johnson. Bennett is a nice third-down back who is a big-time special teamer. But Johnson was drafted in the fourth round because if Dillon went down for a game or two, they needed a guy to carry it 25 times. Johnson being out with his strained quad really hurt Sunday, but he is supposed to be back for Cleveland. **

Dear Mr. Hobson, I deeply respect your Bengals football knowledge, and was wondering your thoughts on bringing Shane Matthews into the mix. I believe that Kitna is a decent QB and a tremendous team leader, but don't you believe that Matthews can stretch the field a whole lot better which not only gives us more of a downfield throwing threat (i.e.- Johnson, Warrick, Washington), but also opens up more running room for Dillon. In my mind, opposing defenses would have to give a little more respect to a guy that has a better arm and is a refugee from a trigger happy Spurrier offense. P.S.- Too early for Palmer! Go Black & Orange, A KY Bengals Fan**

KY: Thanks for the kind words. You raise an interesting point because by now, Mathews is settled into the offense after arriving here in the middle of June. We still think that is the next option and Palmer won't be seen until December, at the earliest. **

Hey Butch! How are the Bengals going to get pressure on the quarterback?
They can't get it done with a 4-man rush and can't seem to do it with an all-out blitz either. The d-line was supposed to be the strength of the defense but it certainly is not showing to this point. What do you think?

Kevin in Westwood**

KEVIN: You're right. Actually, the front seven was supposed to be the strength and here we are talking about how the secondary has carried them. The defensive line won't be able to sack people until it can control the run and that has probably been the hugest disappointment. To have the fifth worst run defense in the NFL after making their off-season moves is tough. The two killers in key situations have been Portis' nine-yard run on third-and-goal, and Amos Zereoue's 11-yard run on third-and-eight. **

Let me start by saying that I am and always be a supporter of this team. With that said I have only one question, why is Kitna considered the best option to win games.. No doubt he has knowledge of the offense but he seems to make poor decisions at the wrong times. Hes making rookie mistakes that are causing momentum shifting turnovers that just kill us. I for one could deal with it if it was a rookie qb but hes not. So at what point is the season gone and when do we see palmer? Or take a playoff run with possibly matthews? This has got to be considered only cause im sure us fans would rather win and see are qb with 150 yards then lose and see our qb with 300 yards.Im sure Palmer is going to make mistakes but at least they are building mistakes and not habitual mistakes.. Manuel**

MANUEL: It's too early for Palmer. David Klingler and Akili Smith made their debuts when the Bengals were deemed out of the playoffs, and look what happened to them. The fans want the instant gratification, but everything Lewis has done has been with a big-picture bent.

**We are sick of the preponderance of bad calls by referees, and more seem to hurt the Bengals than any other team in the NFL! We saw parts of at least 4 games on Sunday, and in ALL cases when a receiver, running back, or quarterback had his forward progress stopped, there were whistles coming from all sides of the field. Why was this not true when the Bengals stop the Steelers' receiver in the same manner? Also, why was the play not reviewed to see if he even crossed the plane?

Of course, then we have the fumbled punt given back to the Steelers, the hands to the face of the Bengals player by the Steelers' wide receiver not called, the off sides on the punt that was not called, the ... Well, you get the point.

This includes even the run by Bettis with a bad spot and no challenge that was basically the end of the Bengals' chances. Were the replay officials in the booth drunk or are they that incompetent to not look at any of these critical calls?

Every year the Bengals get ripped off by the referees and the NFL, not to mention are picked on by the morons at ESPN and ABC as two examples.

When is some one going to do something about this travesty?**

One thing that hasn't changed. The players feel like if there is any call in question, they never get the benefit of the doubt because the refs figure they're the Bengals and they're supposed to lose. Now, you would think that would be ludicrous, but if you watch enough of these gaffes, you begin to think they might be on to something. **

Geoff: I like many other diehard Bengal fans have been waiting to the the turn around for the Bengal team. I feel it is time for the coach to replace QB Kitna. Five interceptions in three games is not acceptable. Kitna is trying to hard to make everything happen. I don't feel that the TE is used enought. Also with Dillon left, Dillon right, pass, punt isn't doing anything for the team of the fans. The offensive coordinator needs to look at what his game plan is. The opposition seems to know exactly what is going to happen. If coach lewis means what he said about if you dont produce then your out, then Kitna must be out. I do not lay all the blame on Kitna, the Offensive line has a lot of the blame to wear also. They are not protecting the QB and giving him time to do the job. I hope this weeks against Clevelend will be a better week.

Don, McAllen, Texas**

DON: The first three games have been a tough gauge for the offense because one was a blowout, they didn't have Dillon for basically five of the last eight quarters, they don't have an experienced No. 3 receiver, and their pass-catching tight end missed time in both of the last two games. Still, you figure Kitna needs a break-out game to stave off a challenge by Matthews.

**Hey Jeff, what's wrong with most of the Bengals fans?

0-3 and they are suddenly off the Marvin bandwagon? We give Bill Parcells, Dick Vermeil and other big name coaches 3 years to win. How can Marvin fix 12 years in 8 months or 3 games? I see a major difference in the team this year and the major media's have also seen it. I did not hear one Bungle comment after the game on any of the highlights. We even have the other major media outlets saying how close they are and that they are definitely on the rise and how Marvin has them playing so much better.

Obviously, I am still a Bengals fan having spent the first 25 years of my life in Cincinnati. I am in Columbus and have a few disabilities, but I am still trying to get to a game this year. Win or lose, I am still a fan!

It's time for the real fans to stand up for their team and let the process happen. Marvin has tried to instill that in the fans as well. It's time for them to do their part and let go of the past. Marvin is 0-3 not 0 for the last 12 years. If we as fans expect the players to just play and forget about the past then why would we expect something different from ourselves?

If you can tell Marvin, let him know that there is at least one fan in Columbus that sees the big picture! Thanks for the time! Joe, Columbus.**

JOE: You make a lot of great points. You don't see the league's best beat guys (Pasquarelli, King, Clayton, Prisco, Mortensen) going after Lewis because they know what he can do, and the tenor of national Bengals' discussion has changed.

Even in Bengals' history, the Super Bowl coaches had rough starts. Sam Wyche lost his first five in 1984 and Forrest Gregg lost four of his first five in 1980. **

After watching the first 3 games of the year, I am in no way suprised with the play of our beloved Bengals. I actually think they have improved.
First of all, what are the people thinking who call the post-game show and express unhappiness with Marvin Lewis? Do they expect him to turn around worst franchise in the league in a matter of 6 months? The reason we can't get over the hump is the Offensive and Defensive lines. Corey Dillion, who we all know is a great back, can't even have a solid day on the ground. We have 1 rookie (Steinbach), 1 second year player (Jones), and the rest are older and just not strong enough. Kitna isn't the problem. He doesn't have time to throw, and when he does, it seems like every pass gets batted down at the line of scrimmage. Our Defensive Line is getting pushed around like rag dolls. That's the problem.

One more thing. Corey isn't playing with the fire he used to. If he doesn't want to be part of the family who gets this thing turned around......let him go. Regardless of what he says to the cameras and newspapers, it's pretty obvious he doesn't want to play here anymore. Let him go...we need people who want to be here. Derek West Virginia**

DEREK: We'll defend Dillon here until the cows come home. He's run too hard, gained too many yards, left too much of himself on the field to have somebody question his fire. That's all he is. He's a ball of fire and he's smoking because the losing has killed him. At times, he lets it overwhelm him and it's a negative, but how can you blame a guy who wants to win so badly? We think if more players had his fire down through the years, they wouldn't be where they are now.

Fire? You didn't see the flames in his eyes Monday as he chastised us for wondering in this space if the seven years of wear and tear had caught up to him. **

I keep hearing how even though the bengals are loosing thier not quitting and looking good, wel I've seen all the games and they dont look good to me. They looked better 2 years ago under Dick Lebuea (dont know how to spell his name), and they won 6 games. if Lewis is as good as advertised then why is it unreasonable to expect 9 or 10 wins, and please dont say it takes a few years to get his type of payers he brought in 22 new guys. **

Sorry, but it takes a few years to get his type of players in here. He brought in 24 guys, but what would happen if 24 new people showed up at your job and replaced people who were already there? Wouldn't the first three days be a bit rough? We're sure Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh were getting letters like this in their first season. But now they get their mail in Canton. **

Do you think Coach Lewis should turn to Shane Matthews if Kitna doesn't post a Win in Cleveland? In my opinion, Kitna plays 80% of the snaps very well, but the other 20% he kills us. I just think it is hard to win in NFL when you have a quarterback known for throwing interceptions at crucial stages of game. Example: vs Pitt - Kitna throws to Warrick in double coverage on a 1st and 10 from the 10. This leads to interception and obviously 0 pts. I just wonder if Mathews would've made that throw. I think not. I think Mathews would've made a different decision and made it a point to get two more downs and then at least 3 pts. Example: vs Oakland - Well you should remember the play. In my opinion, Lewis should hand it over to Mathews before we're 0 and 5. Do you agree?**

If they're 0-5, there better be more changes than the quarterback because then they have a bye week. **

Just wanted to comment on how Hobson hit the nail on the head with how the bengals fair when everything points towards an upcoming game when emotions are high and the Bengals look like they may break out and play a tremendous game. However, they lay an egg and leave the fans and franchise in dismay and disbelief. I was looking forward to a good showing against Pittsburgh at home. But the "I'll use tricks and gimmicks to win cause we cant win outright" Mr Cohwer snuck past us for the win. Although being a Bengals fan in this city puts me in the monority, I will again attire myself in my Peter Warrick jersey and black sweat pants and bunker myself down in my Jungle away from the Jungle computer room and hope this week is the week that I may partake in a victory drink, toast the now probably season ahead and enjoy the postgame celebrations that will leave Cleveland fans in dismay and disbelief. Bengals till the end! Rick, Northern, Kentucky**

RICK: Hope you're on bengals.com this Sunday in your computer room. We don't think this was one of those vintage egg games. They weren't out of it early, they had a shot to tie if they could have got the ball back, and the game didn't leave you wondering what the heck they had been doing the last five days.

That said, it was sobering because the Steelers dominated both lines of scrimmage late in the game like they always seem to do. But you also left wonderng what happens Nov. 30 in Pittsburgh if Dillon gets 30 carries.

**

Hi Geoff, I know how so many Bengal "fans" are thinking this is the same old team, different year.But, I am a Bengal fan for life..and this is not the same team.I could see it during training camp...the team has a spark that i havent seen for years.The players look to be in the best shape ever.This team will win and win BIG!!

Marvin Lewis is exactly what we needed in Cincy and this team is gonna fly.We have always stacked up well ( man for man )against other teams.But,this year,only players that will do the job are in the locker room.We have played three very good teams and the Bengals are playing like they want to win.Our free agent signings were brilliant and will pay-off BIG TIME!!Thank you Mike Brown.WE WILL OVERCOME THESE LOSSES AND SHOW ALL OF THE NFL THAT WE ARE THE NEW CINCINNATI BENGALS!!! Thanx for letting me vent Geoff!! StarryKnight Somerville, Ohio**

STARRY: Marvin thanks you for the birthday gift.

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