The stats say Carson Palmer has been sacked three times this season. That's not a horrific number of times through two games for an NFL quarterback and would seem to indicate that the Bengals have been protecting Palmer well so far.
The old adage about stats saying whatever you want them to say would apply here, because Palmer has been anything but comfortable in the pocket this season in games against Baltimore and Tennessee. Things won't get any easier Sunday in Giants Stadium when the Bengals travel to play the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
New York gave the rest of the league a reminder about defense winning championships last February when it hurried, harassed and frustrated Tom Brady and the previously-unstoppable Patriots offense in its 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII. The Giants have picked right up where they left off this season.
In wins against Washington and St. Louis, the Giants are allowing 205 yards per game and given up just 20 points. They're wearing out opposing punters' legs, having already forced 13 kicks thanks to a 23.1 percent third-down conversion rate. Defensive end Justin Tuck has three of the seven sacks the Giants have produced thus far, and even scored on a 41-yard interception return last week at St. Louis.
Just think if these guys had the now-retired Michael Strahan and injured Osi Umenyiora.
"They do what they do well," said right tackle Stacy Andrews, who will spend most of his day matched up against Tuck. "They play low. As opposed to Baltimore, who comes with different things to try to confuse you, their thing is staying low and coming hard. We're going to have to get even lower and play right along with them."
Consistency, or specifically the lack of consistency, has been the preaching point this week for the Bengals. The Bengals have scored just one touchdown on offense this season; Chris Perry ran it in from 13 yards out last week against Tennessee on a fourth-and-1 play that briefly allowed the Bengals to tie the score, 7-7.
"That was a great example of how all of us should do things when we come together," said fullback/tight end Daniel Coats. "The one problem we've been having is that it's one guy here or one guy there messing up. That was one time where all 11 guys were doing what all 11 guys were supposed to be doing. It's good to see those moments.
"That's what it is supposed to look like. That tells us it is possible for us to do that so let's go do that more."
Perry's touchdown run is the longest rushing play of the season so far this season.
"You've got to consistently stay at it in order for it to work," said running back Kenny Watson. "Eventually those two- and three-yard gains turn into 12- and 13-yard gains. It's up to backs to stay disciplined and up the o-line to control the line of scrimmage."
ROAD WOE-IERS – The Bengals were 2-6 on the road last season after going 10-6 away from Paul Brown Stadium in 2005 and 2006. They've already lost at Baltimore and are in danger of dropping to 0-3 overall this season.
"There obviously is a sense of urgency but at the same time if you get outside of yourself you're creating more problems," said center Eric Ghiaciuc. "If you're so concerned about doing something different you're going to focus too much on that. You need to find that happy median between improvement and maintaining what you're good at."
UGLY NUMBERS – Palmer is off to the worst start of a season of his career, including his rookie season.
He is last in the league in passer rating at 37.1. He is completing less than 50 percent of his passes (25 of 51). His yards-per-attempt average is a paltry 4.47 (compared to his career mark of 7.32) and he has yet to throw a touchdown pass, while having thrown three interceptions.
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS – Bengals cornerback Geoffrey Pope spent all of last season on the Giants' practice squad before injuries gave him an opportunity to play in the postseason. Pope was signed to the Bengals 53-man roster this week, a response to the injuries that have cost the secondary two starters in Johnathan Joseph (ankle) and Dexter Jackson (thumb) as well as a key backup and special teams player in Herana-Daze Jones (hamstring).
"I'm comfortable going against those guys," said Pope.
So what are his scouting reports on Burress, who began his career in Pittsburgh, and 13-year vet Toomer?
"(Burress) is a bigger physical guy that I think a lot of corners, because he is so big, believe he's slower than what he is," said Pope. "But when he gets it going he can run past any guy in this league. The main thing with him is to disrupt the route. If you can get your hands on him at the line of scrimmage you'll do a better job. Eli (Manning) is going to throw it to him regardless.
"Toomer is an older guy who knows every trick in the book. Going against Toomer last year, especially it being my rookie year and then being activated and going against a guy like Terry Glenn in the playoff game at Dallas, going against Toomer taught me a lot. He's not the fastest guy but he knows very trick in the book and he's still one of the best receivers."
INJURY REPORT – Safeties Dexter Jackson (thumb) and Herana-Daze Jones (hamstring) are both listed as out for Sunday's game. Tight end Ben Utecht (chest) is doubtful, as is cornerback Johnathan Joseph (ankle). Neither Utecht nor Joseph practiced this week.
Safety Kyries Hebert (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis Friday and is listed as probable to play against the Giants. Four others are also probable: tight end Reggie Kelly (head), safety Chinedum Ndukwe (knee), quarterback Carson Palmer (ankle) and defensive tackle John Thornton (knee). All four players participated fully in Friday's practice.