Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and Brian Callahan, his offensive coordinator, don't mind the Monday-Saturday morning quarterbacks. They expect it. Callahan even had to pause and think when asked if there is any person in the world second-guessed more than NFL play-caller.
"No, probably not. It's easy to do. It's just part of it. We all sign up for it," Callahan said.
So they weren't surprised when the second guesses out of Sunday's 27-19 loss in Cleveland came fast and furious Monday and they were ready:
Third quarter. 5:34 left. Browns 21, Bengals 13. First down from the Cleveland 2. Bengals running back Joe Mixon had just converted a fourth-and-one for his 40th yard in a drive that began at their own 14. Taylor got his guys to the line quickly, called a quick pass but it wasn't quick enough. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked and they ended up taking a field goal.
"It's an unbalanced play for us. We're trying to get to the ball quickly," Taylor said. "They did a good job of getting into a coverage check and covering our guys. That's just one we need to get rid of and be in second-and-goal on the two there. When you get sacked, you second-guess it. We had the plan in place for a reason, they just did a nice job defending it. We just need to move on and get to the next play. "
Fourth quarter: 7:20 left. Browns 24, Bengals 16. Fourth and goal at the Browns. Earlier in the game Dalton had run a quarterback draw up the middle on third down and got it with ease. But that wasn't in the red zone. This was basically on the goal line. Dalton ended up two yards shy.
"If you told me we were going to get a two-safety look and that they would drop eight with a three-man front, where they're only going to have two other guys in the box, we should be able to execute that and get into the end zone," Taylor said. "Of course, when you don't execute it, it looks bad. But when you do execute it, it looks really good. Obviously it was a tough situation on fourth-and-goal. We don't get it and you feel bad about it, but we have the plan in place for a reason and we just need to execute it."
The one missing block appeared to come from a lineman that expected a stunt that never came.
"Those were plays yesterday that we've carried all year, since training camp," Taylor said. "That was the first time we've gotten the chance to call them in games, but it wasn't because we haven't repped them dozens and dozens of times. We felt good about them."
Some would say that wasn't the play, anyway. A field goal would have cut the lead to five. If Cleveland got a field goal, which they did when they kept the ball a killing six minutes, there was still time for a tying touchdown and two-point conversion.
But that's not how the Bengals saw it.
"A lot of the times when you look at win probability and scoring percentages, you go for it on fourth-and-4 with a chance to really pull yourself into the game," Callahan said. "And then if you don't get it, they've got to drive 96 yards and the probability of them scoring a touchdown at that point and you getting the ball back with positive field position generally, that's the most basic way to explain how that formula gets into play. So you take a chance and it's kind of a calculated risk."
Callahan pointed to the week before when the Bengals didn't go for it on fourth-and-two from the Jets, took a delay, punted and pinned the Jets on the 2 to set up a game-changing safety. This time they had the Browns on the 2 and would have had it on the 16 if an interception didn't get overturned. The Browns turned that new life into a field goal.
"There's a lot of factors that go into those decisions but the biggest one when you're in fourth-and-4, almost unanimously across most people's numbers and data is going to say that's the spot to go for it," Callahan said. "Because even if you kick the field goal, you've still got to score a touchdown to either win or tie the game. So that's just kind of part of the thinking. There's a lot that goes into it."
TATE LOOKS OUT: Taylor said the knee injury to wide receiver Auden Tate doesn't look good and word is it's an MCL sprain that's going to end his season. And what a season. A break-through second season with 40 catches for 574 yards and a healthy 14.4 yards per. He would be the second wide receiver to go on injured reserve this season (John Ross returned in Cleveland) and the third to miss multiple games, joining A.J. Green.
No word on Green Monday despite his brisk workout before the game in Cleveland. Ross, who played half the snaps (38) in his return from a broken bone, can understand why things are going slow with the franchise player. Ross has missed 24 of his possible 45 games and he only played that many snaps Sunday because Tate got hurt in the middle of the third quarter. Ross took just a handful of plays in the first half after starting.
"I respect that. I appreciate that," said Ross, whose speed was targeted on the game's first snap but Andy Dalton went underneath when the safety came over. "If you look at what's going on, guys are coming off IR and it's another soft tissue injury or something minor that will keep them out the rest of the season. So I think it was good to give me a couple of reps.
"I was told during the week to be ready if something happened."
Ross says he's used to seeing Green look great in workouts. But he knows that's not everything.
"As a guy that's dealt with injuries before, I don't know how he feels no matter how good or bad he looks," Ross said. "I learned that the hard way. I would forbid him to come out if he's not feeling good and hurts something else. We all know he has nothing to prove. He's A.J. Green. I ask him all the time how he's feeling and he says, 'Great.' That's A.J. It could be broken and he would still say he feels great."
CHAMPS ON THE WAY: Bengals-Patriots week got off to a rollicking start on Monday when Bengals head coach Zac Taylor confirmed the NFL is investigating the presence of a videographer in the Cleveland press box on Sunday with ties to the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots ahead of next Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) at Paul Brown Stadium.
According to several reports, Bengals scouts saw a crew from Kraft Sports Production shooting in the press box and they alerted team executives. NFL security was informed and the league has the tape and is reviewing it, reports said. Reports also said the crew was filming a segment for patriots.com about the team's advance scout. The Patriots were fined a first-round pick in 2008 for videotaping the Jets defensive coaches' signals in a 2007 game at The Meadowlands, but head coach Bill Belichick told a Boston radio station Monday night he and his staff had nothing to do with the crew or the story.
"A scout can't film the opponents,'' Belichick said as quoted in a Boston Globe story. "Our video people are not even allowed to point the camera at our opponents during pregame warm-up or their side of the field or anything else to test out there equipment. They 100 percent know, all of our scouts, all of our video people and everything, absolutely know what that is. Again, I have nothing to do with the TV production shows. I have no idea what they do, what their projects are, or anything else … This is something that we 100 percent have zero involvement with."