These are the thoughts of a sportswriter who's a little confused by the headlines this morning:
Yes, I'm sure of it. Sunday afternoon the Steelers systematically took apart the Bengals in a game that was much more boring than the previous three Steelers games. And the game was in Cincinnati. And the Bengals didn't come close enough to complain about any bad calls or unlucky breaks. But there's Carson Palmer saying the Bengals are the better team. The comment will go a long way in making sure the same team wins the rematch in December.
If that game was Plain Jane, she's never looked prettier.
Let me get this straight: Rudi Johnson carried the ball 6 times for 44 yards on the Bengals' first series. The rest of the game, Johnson carried 6 times for 21 yards.
Aside from giving up on Johnson, Marvin Lewis gave up on his team. With the Bengals down 21 with 6:21 left, Lewis punted on fourth-and-3 from his own 35. He quit.
Philadelphia trailed San Diego by 4 with 3:30 left on fourth-and-1 from the Philadelphia 30. Andy Reid went for it and didn't make it. Four snaps later, the Eagles returned a blocked field goal for the game-winning touchdown.
It's what you deserve when you go for it on fourth down.
Bill Parcells kicked a field goal on fourth-and-1 Sunday to give the Cowboys a late 10-3 lead in Seattle. The Seahawks came back to tie, and then won. Remember when the old Parcells, with Ottis Anderson, Joe Morris and Rodney Hampton, used to squash teams like bugs under his heel by converting every fourth-and-one that came up?
The Steelers' coaching staff did a great job rotating the running backs against the Bengals. Just when it became reasonable to expect that Jerome Bettis become the primary ball carrier, Willie Parker rips off a 37-yard touchdown run around right end. It was the play that broke the game open.
The peripheral blockers did the job they didn't – or couldn't – do the previous week against Jacksonville. Dan Kreider and Heath Miller sealed the edge and Hines Ward threw a downfield block. Throw in the bad angle taken by the Bengals' middle linebacker, a missed tackle by the safety and Parker's speed, game over.
Bettis didn't have a game-turning play, but he had a game-turning series. Bettis entered at the start of the second quarter and the energy spread throughout the offense as it did in San Diego. With the Bengals focused on Bettis, Heath Miller came wide open for the play-action touchdown pass.
Yes, the O-line was high on positive ions, but Bettis also provoked dread in the defense. The Bengals lost their aggressiveness at that point.
Don't the Bengals know Bettis is old and tired? After all these years, he still strikes fear in their hearts.
There had to be residue left over from the bitter Jacksonville game. Bettis, as we find out after all of his comebacks, is sensitive to any lack of respect from fans and media. But he was disrespected by the coaching staff against the Jaguars. His strong game against the Bengals will go a long way in repairing that breach.
Parker looked like a better fit as the second back after Bettis had softened up the Bengals. He was the Erric Pegram to the Bam Morris out there. But, however the coaching staff wants to shuffle the deck is fine by me, because I don't have a strong feeling either way on which player should start. Besides, it's always easier to duck out now and criticize later.
The touchdown run wasn't Parker's best of the day. His 13-yard run on third-and-4 was. He made two people miss in the backfield before breaking free. By the way, that was the counter flip the Steelers wanted Parker to run on the bobbled overtime snap against Jacksonville.
Running the ball against the soft Bengals was one half of a winning game plan. The other half was shutting down the Bengals' passing game with three injured cornerbacks. The Steelers announced before the game that Ike Taylor would shadow Chad Johnson and that's exactly what he did in the first half.
Taylor is turning into a brilliant player. He saved a touchdown against Jimmy Smith the previous week and shut down the best deep threat in the game on Sunday. Chad Johnson's two best catches were both ruled incomplete with Taylor in his back pocket both times.
Taylor is also sensational against the run, and rookie Bryant McFadden showed the same capabilities when he entered Sunday's game. These are two cornerbacks who could be here a long time.
Ricardo Colclough has proven to be the better cover corner of the young guys. The overhaul in the secondary is now complete.
The Steelers' secondary needed to come up big in Cincinnati and it did. Along with the young corners, safeties Chris Hope and Mike Logan made big plays. Hope looks like he just might have the savvy, the ball-hawking skills, to go along with his speed and strength at free safety.
Don't forget about the coverage skills of one Aaron Smith. Playing with a sore back, Smith's interception at the line of scrimmage was the defensive turning point. It set up Parker's touchdown run.
James Harrison made Smith's interception of Kimo von Oelhoffen's pass deflection possible. Harrison hammered his receiver in the slot and Carson Palmer had to redirect, and, boom, there was Kimo.
The Steelers were called for three personal fouls in the first half and just one was wrong. Taylor "picked a player up and unnecessarily put him to the ground" was the ruling from one official who's obviously been in the CFL too long. Replays showed Chad Johnson had stepped out of bounds, but Taylor flipped him in bounds and the whistle did not blow until a fraction before Johnson hit the ground.
On Hope's personal foul, once the cheerleader went down the flag had to come out. I think it's a point of emphasis.
Reporters and fans, even coaches, don't seem to understand why a fumble, after a player's been ruled down, can't be reviewed, even if it's proven the fumble occurred before the knee hit the ground. When a player is ruled down, the whistle, in theory, has blown. You can't assume, then, that all players continued to chase the ball. Therefore, possession by anyone can never be assumed.
Someone once invented a whistle that showed up on replay screens when blown, but the technology wasn't accepted by the league.
College ball allows such fumbles to be reviewed, but they're asking for trouble. You can't assume anything once a whistle blows.
Now, I'm sure that cleared everything up.
Anyone see the Steelers' third-and-2 call in second quarter? Bettis entered the field, lined up in the I-formation and was given the ball for a big gain. Nothing special, but to purists it was everything.