A rainy day gave way to some sunshine, both on and off the field at Paul Brown Stadium on New Year's Eve. And here's what I saw:
Just before kickoff, Aaron Smith cruised by and said, "A real fighter doesn't care about the situation, just the fight in front of him." Hard words from a hard man, and I don't disagree.
Carson Palmer came out firing at Ike Taylor. On the first play from scrimmage, he launched on a go route to Chris Henry that Ike was in position for. Second play from scrimmage was a repeat of the first. Same result, with Chad Johnson as his target. Ike was ready for both.
Those two plays reminded me of last Thursday's Pittsburgh Steelers practice. On that very play the Bengals ran, during defensive team with Steelers WRs running it and Ike defending, Bill Cowher shouted at Ike, "TURN YOUR HEAD AROUND." I think Ike got the message.
James Harrison needs to get a shot at starting next year. He's a tough guy, played with a bad shoulder that actually caused him to have to leave the field and put on a shoulder brace in the locker room. The fact that he went into the locker room makes me think that he had a little visit with one of the doctors, too. We had a saying back in the day, "The needle is your friend."
What a difference a week makes for a young guy. Willie Colon looked like a different man. Run blocking, he tore up Doctor Longhair (Domata Peko). DE Robert Geathers and his 10.5 sacks didn't even sniff Big Ben. Double teams with Willie and Kendall looked like a lesson in human road paving. The difference in the double-team blocks had to do with two things. Willie kept his feet moving, and he got hip to hip with Kendall Simmons. That's an area Max has problems with. It's hard to get hip to hip when you're 6-8, and the other guy is 6-3.
More signs of feminization in the NFL. James Harrison's belly-to-back suplex is penalized. That's atrocious. This wasn't the UFC and Matt Hughes picking up an opponent and then doing the Haystack Calhoun "Big Splash" on top of him.
I love watching a veteran demonstrate the subtleties of the game. With Palmer running the no-huddle and calling plays from the line of scrimmage, DeShea Townsend put on a clinic. He's in coverage over the slot receiver, then shows blitz. Palmer checks to a quick out. DeShea drops back, and Palmer hesitates. Townsend walks back up to the line and sells the blitz. Palmer stays with the check, Townsend drops back just before the snap and drills the receiver who drops the ball. Skullduggery at it's finest.
How Big Ben evaded Dexter Jackson swiping at the ball and a sack/safety in the end-zone blew me away. And to keep your cool enough to radar in on Tuman, throw him the ball and keep alive the drive? You should have heard the collective groan from the Cincy fans in the front row. Fantabulous stuff.
James Farrior should sue for false prosecution. Considering the number of times the defense whacked Carson Palmer, to be penalized for driving Palmer into the turf was just another sign of you know what. By the way, the Steelers got home a number of times with the Fire X, a crossing stunt with Farrior and Foote blitzing from the inside. They run that better than any team in the NFL.
Willie got a boost from Bill Cowher after the fumble. He grabbed Willie's face mask, pulled it up and made his point. He did the same thing to Willie Colon after he got that silly penalty. The difference is that Colon was seconds from being pulled in favor of Trai Essex, who Bill called over to his side on the sideline before the next play. That's coaching folks. Whatever he said did the trick.
Coming of age is what I would describe the play of Santonio Holmes. What a great sight adjustment on that slant. Break a tackle, get some zip-do-da in your giddy-up and start the offseason on a high note.
I'll bet'cha the "Esca-loser" at Paul Brown Stadium was running on high speed after that ending.