10-30-03, 8:40 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Marvin Lewis has more movie clips than the Academy and in a week like this that is more mental than physical, he's not afraid to call on them.
The Bengals follow him into the Arizona desert favored for the first time with him as coach in a time zone that is two hours different in a stadium that won't have 30,000 people. And, at 3-4, that buzzing isn't vultures, but national media outlets.
Last week, Lewis showed his team a scene from "Patton," and his players saw George C. Scott amble out of his tank/jeep as America's most controversial general of Word War II. It seems there were two jackasses blocking Patton's army from advancing across a bridge and his men couldn't figure out what to do. Until Patton pulled out a revolver and shot the jackasses before they got tossed off the bridge. Barely had the animals made a splash and the soldiers were moving again.
"Point taken," said defensive tackle Oliver Gibson. "We're going to close ranks and move on in every philosophy and you don't want to be the one outside the ranks."
Apparently, the movie came up again Wednesday because Lewis said, "the jackasses can be anything. It could be injuries. It could be not paying attention to detail. Anything that gets in the way of the goal."
Well, Lewis sees the jackasses are on the bridge in the form of national attention. Chad Johnson has already been on "The Best Damn Sports Show." ESPN's husband-wife gambling team paid homage to the Bengals' win over Seattle with the lovely Robin sniffling, 'I told you the Bengals wouldn't miss Dillon.' The newsy ESPN is coming to Thursday's media session for a SportsCenter segment on these up-and-coming Bengals. "Pardon The Interruption," the popular ESPN talk show with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon of "The Washington Post," also has Lewis lined up.
"Hey, I have to be careful, too," Lewis said. "Who does it start with?"
Many of these Bengals have been here before. Two years ago, the national media descended on Paul Brown Stadium to preview the 2-0 Bengals vs. the 2-0 Chargers in the different time zone. They got waxed in the second half of a 28-14 loss to start a stretch of
10 losses in the next 12 games.
"The funny thing is that when we were 4-3 two years ago, it was like guys were waiting around for something bad to happen," said quarterback Jon Kitna. "I remember guys coming up to me and saying 'I've never been 4-3, I've never been 2-0.' I was new, and I was like, 'What are you talking about, not only are we 4-3, but we should be 6-1 if it wasn't for ourselves.'
"The good thing that Marvin does is that he talks about it," Kitna said. "He doesn't let things be hush, hush in the locker room. He talks about it. He puts it out there every week, and he shows us where we are, and where we want to try to go."
What Lewis is talking about is not letting players get ahead of themselves. The goal has been very clearly stated in meetings and on the practice field. Take it game by game and look up at some point in December and win the AFC North title. Some thought there was too much discussion two years ago about playoffs at 2-0 and 4-3, and not enough about the next game.
"I don't remember that. I just remember we weren't able to win," Gibson said. "Let's face it. We've struggled here. We've got so many guys out there that are so concentrated on what they're doing and trying not to make mistakes. We can't look past anybody. We don't have the personnel to do that. We don't have a bunch of superstars. We've got Corey (Dillon) and Chad (Johnson) is coming on. But we've got a lot of blue-collar workers that are good players and play hard."
Right tackle Willie Anderson sniffs about the playoff talk and blames it on the "non-athletes," in the media. But he does admit that a lot depends on how the younger players handle it.
"We've only won three games. Y' all want to make us say that, but it's only three games," Anderson said. "Yeah, we're happy that we won those three games. But hopefully guys don't think we've arrived, because we haven't arrived yet. We haven't done anything yet. Our goal is to go .500 this week (and) not having ESPN talk good about us. Forget about that. You don't play this game to get a pat on the back."
But it's not like the Bengals have heard it just this week. Gibson says Lewis doesn't have to pound themes this week because he's done such a good job talking about it from the beginning.
"We've heard it all since March 20," Gibson said. "We've heard every speech and every philosophy. Right now it's so ingrained everybody is just fighting to be counted on account of the next guy."