The Bengals saw how well simplifying the defense worked Sunday.
Head coach Marvin Lewis indicted the offense might be next after he watched the Bengals get flagged for six of their eight pre-snap penalties on that side of the ball. In fact, it was the first thing he said in the heat of the moment following the 15-10 win over the Ravens.
"We've got to do a better job of scoring in the red zone. We had a lot of opportunities, and we're moving in a lot of pieces (in terms of personnel)," Lewis said. "We've got to take a look at how we might be killing our own rhythm with a lot of the moving parts we've got going on now. I think guys will get better with it as we go, but it can be a little bit unnerving, to me at least, and I'm sure everyone else."
On Monday, Lewis said he wasn't talking just about the red zone, but all over the field.
"We've got too many things going on, and we've just got to get better at it," Lewis said.
Center Kyle Cook, who had some timing issues with the snap, thinks time will take care of it.
"I don't think it's that so much," said Cook of the moving parts. "It's just fine-tuning it."
The Bengals aren't ignorant of their problems. They spent the offseason looking at the NFL stats that had them one of the top five teams in false starts and the top team in delay of games. And Lewis recruited college officials to work the practices once the season started.
"You can talk to them, but once you get in the heat of the battle things are a little different," said Cook, who was nabbed for holding defensive tackle Kelly Gregg on a five-yard Bernard Scott run in the second quarter.
Throw in the fact that the umpire is now lining up opposite the referee on the offensive side of the ball instead of on defense and Cook thinks they're getting a longer, closer look at the offensive line.
"Sometimes the hands slip. You think you've got a guy really good, but you don't," Cook said. "I thought I had him really good. I stopped my feet. He went to the outside. I pushed him. But the way they put the ref in the backfield now, they're able to see a little bit more than they're used to seeing. The false starts, the delay of games, we just have to work better at communication and make sure we're on top of it."
The holding calls on Cook and rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham don't have left tackle Andrew Whitworth overly worried "because those are part of the game" he said, and he thinks the pre-snap penalties are going to get ironed out. He understands the concern that the bevy of motion and shifts that have been added to the offense is putting them at risk of penalties, but he also thinks the changes are going to make them a better offense.
"It's an option," Whitworth said of possibly cutting back. "I think they're just little hiccups here and there. We're doing some different things and we're going to get better at them."
For instance, Whitworth said he was called for an illegal formation in the red zone when he was left uncovered at the end of the offensive line: "The formation set was wrong. That's a new look that's going to help us. We're looking at things that are going to make us more effective."
Cook said one of his mistimed snaps came in the red zone "with our crowd getting pumped up" when he had trouble hearing Palmer calling the signals from the shotgun behind him instead of right over him on a direct snap, and it resulted in a pitch to Scott getting waved off.
"It was one of those things. We just have to lock it in. We have to take advantage that we're at home," Cook said. "We don't need to use the silent count. It's a lot of those little things. As long as we don't make the same mistake twice, we'll keep getting better.
"Sometimes, especially when you have a defense like Baltimore across from you and they're barking their calls out and Ray (Lewis) is trying to get everybody lined up and they're yelling, it's kind of hard just to hear. But it's one of those things on me that I take full responsibility. I just have to key in to (Palmer). It's just something you have to learn from."
Lewis isn't going to let it go this week. He indicated it is going to remain a point of emphasis. The head coach doesn't like to be unnerved.
"We have to clean those things up," he said Monday of the flags. "They took us out of position to score touchdowns – we would have walked in on one play, and that's unfortunate. You can't do those things. You put yourself out of sequence when you're starting first-and-15, or second-and-10 after you were second-and-five, or second-and-12.
"It changes the dynamics of the game, the dynamics of the playcalling, how quickly the ball has to get out of the quarterback's hands and all those things. The timing gets all thrown off."