Posted: 10 a.m.
The one constant criticism of the Bengals during Marvin Lewis' tenure before this season had been their failure to indentify an identity.
Now they've got it (physical, ball-control, stingy defense) and they sound like they're extremely comfortable with it as they wing toward their biggest game of the season in Minnesota.
"It's going to be fun. It's going to be a good game," Lewis said after Friday's practice. "We'll play football our way. Which has been pretty good."
Or, as left tackle Andrew Whitworth said this week, I think guys are being themselves and playing their style. If we go play our blue-collar style, we'll play well."
Whitworth was talking about his offensive line but he could have been talking about his entire team that is in the top 10 in NFL rushing and defense.
Everyone on Whitworth's unit pretty much agrees that the Vikings offer the best defensive front the Bengals have faced. Line coach Paul Alexander says it is the best offensive line he's seen in years.
Although Whitworth is pitted against the NFL's most prolific sacker of the last six seasons in right end Jared Allen, he's as impressed with the brute Vikings defensive tackle tandem of Pat and Kevin Williams. He knows all about the 37-year-old Pat, a guy that hails from Whitworth's home area of Monroe, La.
"Pat's a strong, physical, consistent player every snap, and is just as athletic as any big old guy you'll see. He really gives guards some havoc."
The one thing the Bengals can't do on offense is commit the terrifying glut of holding calls and pre-snap penalties of the past three games. They had 19 penalties (two were declined) with seven false starts, six holds, two delay of games, two illegal formations, a trip, and one intentional grounding. Whitworth had two of the holds.
"I'm not too worried about it. Sometimes to get off the ball against these good rushers at the left tackle position you're going to have a lot of penalties," Whitworth said. "I know Flozell (Adams) probably is one of the most penalized people in the NFL, but he's a really good left tackle.
"They changed the holding rules a little bit this year. You can tell that the NFL penalty calls and holding calls are really up this year with the emphasis on things. Some things are a little different now that they call. Where your hands are, if you're feet are stopped. Now if a guy turns his back into you, you have to let him go. If the defense continues to throw their bodies at the offense in awkward ways and you can't grab them, it doesn't make a lot of sense. It's really more of an issue when a guy calls something from an angle where there is no way you can say that's holding or not because he didn't even see it. You can't call something off what some guy's body goes through."
DEJA FIVE?: Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had his only five-interception game of his 273 outings against the Bengals back on Oct. 30, 2005. Middle linebacker Odell Thurman had two, cornerback Deltha O'Neal had two, and cornerback Tory James had one. Favre has outlasted them all and the only guys around from that Bengals secondary are coach Kevin Coyle and assistant Louie Cioffi.
Some of the principles, though, are the same. Coyle says Favre throws it with so much velocity that the ball tends to get tipped a little more by receiver and defender. Thurman got his two off tips, Coyle remembers. Favre will take his shots downfield, and O'Neal was in good position deep. So was James, who made a great catch deep after Favre scrambled out of the pocket.
Coyle knows that Favre is having a lot better year this season. He's thrown only five picks all year. And Coyle says the Vikings offense has been aided by quick throws on early downs.
"He doesn't go by the book. When you think the progression would take him to a shallow cross, he throws it deep," Coyle said. "This year they've been generating a lot of offense on early downs. Throwing a lot of hitches and the quick game getting seven, eight yards, even a first down. We're very aware of the fact he likes to push it up the field and throw it into tight spots. If we're tight enough and close enough on their receivers, we'll have a chance."
ONE-HIT WONDER?: The Bengals linebackers have a one-hit wonder on their hands with their rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." The hilarious falsetto part sung by Abdul Hodge was inspired by the backers listening to the Jackson Five version of the song with Michael Jackson in the lead.
And, you're right, Hodge had never sung in his life.
"What's a soprano?" he asked. High voice or low voice?"