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Hobson's Choice: '06 Microcosm

Q: Could you explain to me why the Bengals had to call a timeout on our very first possession Monday night as Marvin said? I admire Marvin Lewis for standing up and taking responsibility for the call but if in fact he did, it was a very bad decision that, in my mind, changed the whole complexion of the game.

If Willie was injured and needed to get off the field that is what an official's timeout is for and as for anything else, not sure what to do next, that is a joke.

The Bengals were out-coached plain and simple. I don't care who had done what against the Colts, you go with your strength and the Bengals didn't. They should have gone with what got them there, the Cots sure did.
**--John K., Louisville, KY

JOHN:** The flavor of the week is to bash the coaches for what happened in Indy. But, as they have done at times this season people have underestimated what the Bengals had to deal with Monday night.

Yeah, I wish Marvin had been more aggressive on fourth-and-1 in a touchdown game and that they went after the middle of the field more on offense.

But the Colts game became a microcosm of the entire season when the offensive line shifted again right before their very eyes.

You heard Marvin. He didn't want to elaborate on taking the timeout, but he knew it hurt and I don't think he wanted to put the blame on right tackle Willie Anderson trying to get off the field with his injured foot. The guy has been the heart and soul of this team for how long?

Does it matter if it was a Bengals timeout or official's timeout? All the Colts needed was anybody's time.

And it was complicated by right tackle Stacy Andrews, Anderson's backup, in the game as a tight end. It sounds like Lewis didn't have a choice but to call timeout as Anderson struggled to get off the field.

Take out their Pro Bowl right tackle so early in the game and add in a rookie left tackle playing against the NFL's fastest defensive end tandem without the lead on the road, and I'm not sure we ever truly saw offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's final game plan. More balls down the middle of a depleted secondary?

With Whitworth already getting help against Dwight Freeney, Andrews was left to fend off Robert Mathis and at that point it appeared Bratkowski made the conscious decision to protect Palmer by running the ball. We all know the Bengals are at their best balanced and Brat likes to air it out, so you have to feel if he didn't think he could throw, then he must have had good reason.

I would have liked to have seen the game plan if Anderson didn't get hurt, but we'll never know. Yet we do know the Bengals have their quarterback (barely) to fight another day.

But it's chic to bang Marvin and his coaches this week, so I'll play devil's advocate, club apologist, team house man, or whatever insult they'll use in the New Age Rude.

All I know is Lewis had a quarterback coming back from major knee surgery, has played with a patchwork offensive line since Week 2, never had his third down back, put four wide receivers on injured reserve, lost his No. 1 pick from 2005 in Week 2, has played with three different middle linebackers, and has a team controlling its destiny with two games left against the NFL's toughest schedule.

Like the elements Monday night, a challenging set of circumstances that sometimes get taken for granted. Yes, you're also right if you say it's the NFL and everyone has to overcome something.

As for Peyton, saying you need to get pressure on Manning is a little like saying you need to spend less on Christmas. Great idea, but nobody can do it.

Nobody, nobody gets to Manning. The Pats and Jags got him twice each, the Bengals got him once. Even if you blitz him. So why?

The problem seemed to be they were so passive in the secondary. If you know you can't hit Manning, you better hit his receivers to foul up their timing, but they did a Free Bird through the zone all night.

Q: With the blizzard in Colorado what will happen to the game on Sunday? Will they try to get the teams there and get the stadium cleaned in time or would they move the game here and only have to try and get the Broncos out of Denver?
**--Batesville, IN

BATES:** The Bengals are already scheduled to leave a day early on Friday night and that has yet to change. If the game was moved, it would most likely be moved to a West Coast venue but there has been absolutely no discussion of that.

By the way, the guys are going to get an Arctic blast Friday night, when there is a 20 percent chance of snow in Denver with temperatures falling to 12 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio.

On Sunday around game time temperatures are going to be between 30 and 40 degrees with no signs of snow under partly cloudy skies.

The airport is going to open at noon Friday, but the Broncos have already been shoveling out the stadium.

Q: What is the status of Ahmad Brooks? Is there something we don't know about? He was playing so well and getting praise from Marvin and the coaches, then non-existent.

I would at least think he would be a special teams demon. Is he hurt or just in the doghouse for something?
**--Sam K. Columbus, OH

SAM:** Brooks, who started five straight games at middle linebacker earlier in the season, has been inactive two straight games and Indy probably wasn't a match for him anyway since the Bengals played mainly with their nickel defense.

When the Bengals went nickel, that also took linebackers like Caleb Miller, Brooks' replacement, and strong-side backer Rashad Jeanty out of most of the game with the Bengals feeling it was their best pass defense that was also controlling the run.

The Bengals still seem to be pretty high on Brooks, their third-round pick in the supplemental draft. It doesn't seem to be a doghouse issue, but more like a full house issue in special teams. That may change Sunday with linebacker Andre Frazier (groin) questionable and missing the last two practices.

Here is what defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said last week when asked about Brooks after going out of his way to say the deactivation wasn't a reflection of his talent:

"He's a young guy that has to learn to mature as a total player. The first thing we tell these guys when they come in here is you've got to earn the job in special teams and when they start contributing on special teams it's easy for us to get them in. We'll find a role for him, but if he's not helping on special teams that kind of cuts our neck off right there."

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