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Hobson's Choice: Living with calls

Q: It took awhile to get over the roughing call on Justin. Do refs get fined for calls like that?

My main concern is the offense. They don't seem to go downfield a lot and the play calling is predictable. What happened to spreading the field so Rudi can run and why did they just run three times up the middle with five minutes left?

In the past, they would have went deep on first down just to keep them honest. Is this due to Carson not being ready mentally, the O-line or both because to me Palmer looks scared when he drops back.
**--Avery P., Richmond, Va.

AVERY P.:** The only recourse a team can get on a blown call is a written admission from the NFL office. That and a full punch card can get you a free coffee at Panera, which doesn't exactly help you in playoff tiebreakers.

As for the offense, you can't judge it by the first five games last year because they simply don't have the same players.

After each game each team submits a series of plays they want reviewed by the league's officiating department so they can bring them back and clarify them for the coaches and players. And that's it. If the ref was wrong, they'll tell you why, but that's all you get out of it.

The reason you don't hear about 98.5 percent of the blown calls is because the NFL, for obvious reasons, wants it confidential. But now that Mike Perrara, head of NFL officiating, has his own show on the NFL Network, some of the bad calls are discussed and I would imagine this will be one of them.

As for refs being disciplined, I'm sure it happens but I doubt on a judgment call like that. If a guy misinterpreted a rule, yeah, that is probably another story.

Offensively, you can't use the same ruler you used in 2005 to judge the Bengals. Not when center Rich Braham, left tackle Levi Jones, wide receivers Chris Henry and Tab Perry, and running back Chris Perry haven't been in the lineup. They are a totally different offense, particularly on third down.

Braham's absence obviously affects communication on third down, the big pass-pressure down. Throw in the loss of their third-down (Chris Perry), their third receiver (Henry) and pass-blocking tight end on third down (Tab Perry plays that role), and you get what you get, and that's not a lot of bombs.

In the last two games, they've been brutal on third down (failing on 20 of 25 of them) because of a combination of poor communication among the pass protectors and the lack of a deep threat like Henry to draw defenders off Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

With all due respect, the questions about Palmer are ludicrous. When he has time, he steps up and delivers. When he's harassed, he's got no room in the pocket to plant and throw.

The last thing he has looked is scared. Harried, yeah, because the protection isn't as good for the reasons stated above.

But that's a long way from scared.

Q: Why do the Bengals always come off a bye flat? You would think they'd come in refreshed. Certain teams seem to use the bye time correctly, like Pittsburgh. We probably have one of the worst after the bye records ever. Do you happen to know our record on games after a bye?
**--Tracy, Hamilton, OH

TRACY:** It's a good question and one Chad Johnson has been asking.

Since Marvin Lewis took over, the Bengals are 1-3 after their bye and have lost the last three. But it's important to look at the composite record after a bye and not just the first week, which is 18-13.

That is why Lewis has a pretty good reputation for the work he does with his team during the bye, which in my mind is the mark of a good coach. In '03, they won six of their next seven, in '04 five out of the next eight, and '05 four out of the next five.

So I think, to be fair, that's pretty good bye work. But how he did this year won't be known for a couple of more weeks and it will have to be good to wash out the taste of last Sunday.

Q: Why won't Marvin move Simmons back to the outside and let Ahmad Brooks give the middle a try?
**--Kyle G., Fort Campbell, Ky.

KYLE:** Brooks just doesn't have the experience in there right now. The guy in the middle is charged with calling the signals and you can't have any hesitation in the center of your defense.

Yes, the Bengals survived with a rookie middle linebacker in Odell Thurman last year, but he had the benefit of the spring camps after the draft. Since Brooks was drafted in the July supplemental draft, he had no on-field experience with the club until training camp and he had no football during the spring.

And Lewis didn't have a lot of fun with all the mistakes Thurman made last year. They exasperated Lewis as much as Thurman's off-field problems and I think he came out of it more convinced than ever that giving up some big plays for stability isn't a bad thing.

Of course, Lewis could do exactly what you suggest and put Brooks in there and let Simmons call the signals from the weak side like Caleb Miller did in Tampa.

But he indicated not on Monday and, plus, that puts Landon Johnson on the bench and that can't happen.

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