Stillers 48, Bungals 28 ��. Nov 26, 2000�.Game #12
Stillers-Bengals Post Game Analysis & Grades:
The Stillers crept back to the .500 mark with a solid win over the hapless Bengals in a game that was precariously close in the first half, but then turned into a rout when Cinci bungled several key plays and the Black 'n Gold took advantage. The offense looked better than it has all season, while the defense rebounded from a shaky first half to put the clamps on Dillon and the Cinci offense.
1. On the first possession, Ward runs 23 yards on a reverse. The next play, Stewart hits Ward for a 34-yard TD pass.
2. Bennett ties the game on a 37-yard TD run.
3. Dillon ties the game at 14 on a 20-yard TD run.
4. Cinci fumbles away a punt, and the Stillers recover at the Bengal 30. 5 plays later, the Stillers score a TD and never look back.
5. Stewart hits Shaw on 45-yard TD strike in the 3rd quarter.
6. Gildon recovers a bad shotgun snap and runs it into the end zone for a TD on the last play of the 3rd quarter.
QB: The Western Union Man had an unusually efficient day, completing 11 of 20 passes for 182 yards. He looked a lot more confident and sure of himself than he has in ages, probably since the MNF win over Green Bay in '98. The TD pass to Ward was dead-on the money. The TD pass to Shaw was a bit weak but was thrown to a spot where Shaw could make a play. Stew even chipped in a nice block on Ward's reverse. To be sure, Stewart also committed a few of the boners he's prone to make every week. He telegraphed a good many throws. He tried to hit Ward on a simple 0-step hitch, and somehow threw the ball incomplete at Ward's feet. He nearly had 2 balls picked off. And he took a couple sacks where he clearly had time to do something was too tentative and indecisive. In all, a rare but steady, acceptable effort by the Western Union Man. Graham played in 3 late series in mop-up relief. B.
RB: Bettis rumbled for 93 yards on a day where the Stillers didn't have to rely on him as much as usual, what with the rare, long scoring strikes to Ward and Shaw. Huntley was actually allowed to tote the ball twice in non-3rd-and-long plays, and responded with 20 yards on 2 carries. Even Amos Zeroue, a man deported to the bench for nearly 2 years, was unbelievably allowed to play in mop-up and had a few carries. A.
FB: Dan Kreider continued his string of sound blocking with yet another solid effort today. He led the way for several Bettis runs. B+.
WR: After last week's embarrassing effort vs. Jax, this crew for the most part responded with a quality effort. Ward set the tone early on with a couple clutch grabs, including the TD catch. Bobby Shaw, who seems destined to rot on the bench as a 3rd and 4th receiver the rest of the year, had another strong effort with 2 grabs for 66 yards, including the 45-yard TD catch on a nice adjustment and a nice sliding grab on a key 3rd down play. Hawkins, The Savior at WR, started again and dropped the first pass thrown to him. Hawk grabbed one curl pass for 17 yards. Troy caught a 0-step hitch, and after eluding 3 tacklers, raced all the way to the other side of the field and gained 27 yards on a nice piece of running. Burress played sparingly and had no passes thrown his way. Hawk had a great 'de-cleater' block on Foley on the Ward reverse, and Ward had a key block on Breuner's TD. The only downer was the two holding calls on Ward. A-.
TE: Bruener actually had more than one ball thrown his way, and made the most of it by rumbling into the end zone for a key 2nd quarter 11-yard TD. Cushing grabbed a short out for 5 yards. They blocked pretty well in support of the ground game. A-.
OL: This may have been among the O-line's top 3 efforts this year. Sure, they faced a softee front 7, but nevertheless the run and pass blocking were top notch. They gave Stewart plenty of time and vision on nearly every pass play. Remarkably enough, there were no false starts or totally blown blocking assignments. A.
DL: The line was bit soft in the early going but came on with an ok effort. Smith, who has really impressed throughout the past 5-6 weeks, had another strong effort with 6 solos. He also had a great sniff-and-snuff of a Warrick reverse. The one boner he had was the missed flail at Dillon on Dillon's 20-yard TD, though Smith had a difficult angle and position to get at Dillon. Kimo contributed some good disruption. Sullie started in place of the injured Henry and had a fairly quiet day. B-.
LB: Cinci saw the game film from last week's loss to Jax, and apparently figured they'd attack the Stillers like Jax did -- at the flank of the front 7, rather than at the gut. Both Bennet's and Dillon's first-half TDs were plays designed directly to go up the tackle and then wide. On Bennett's TD, Gildon simply dashed way too wide and too far upfield toward the QB, and Bennett ran up a cavernous hole for the easy 37-yard TD. It seemed that Kirkland was blatantly held on Dillon's 20-yarder, on a play in which he would have been in the position for the stop had there not been a hold. Both Kirk and Holmes were a bit quiet today, as the Bungals both tried to avoid them as well as tried to use designed cutbacks to take advantage of overpursuit. Porter chipped in with 5 solos and a coverage sack. Gildon had the kind of Jekyl and Hyde game that has often been his hallmark. For nearly three quarters, Gildon stood around, doing little. Not only was he at fault on the Dillon TD, but also on 15 and 16 yard gainers by Dillon right up Gildon's area of off-tackle run containment. Gildon came alive in one series near the end of the third quarter, with a batted pass, a run-stop, and a sack and forced fumble. Gildon also got a sack and FF in garbage time with about 20 seconds left in the game. Porter did a nice job of dragging a fetal Gildon up after a loose-ball recovery and shoved him toward the end zone. B-.
DB: The secondary was rarely ever tested in this game, as Smith either scattered his passes off-kilter or settled on a lot of short dumpoffs and curls. Lee Flowers had a very strong effort, making a team-high 11 solos and delivering several hard hits. Chad Scott once again seems to be the man opponents love to pick on. He was beaten on an oop-lob to Warrick for a late TD, and was also flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Alex gave decent run support and had 5 solos. Battles saw a fair amount of PT in the pass defense. Had they shut down a passing offense better then the NFL's worst (ie, Cinci's), the grade would be higher. B+.
Spec Teams: For once, the spec teams helped -- not hindered -- the team. Amoz forced a fumble on a punt return & Vrabel recovered, which gave us golden field position for the critical third TD that put us ahead for good. The coverage teams played solidly. Kris booted 2 FGs, and even had a KO that went deep into the EZ. And, amazingly enough, we failed to fumble on any of our returns. A.
Off Coord: Who was that imposter in the coaches' box today?? It's almost unfathomable that it was Kevin Gilbride. Three plays we've never seen all year --- nor last year --- and they all worked. The toss-sweep/reverse that gained 23 yards was set up by two Bettis runs and worked perfectly against an over-eager Bengal defense. The very next play, we ran a play-action pass -- imagine that -- and then sent Ward on a post for an unbelievable 34-yard TD strike. Sure, this is commonplace all over the NFL, but I dare anyone to name a time in which this playcall has been made at any point the past 28 games. Then there was the fake SG-draw-and-dump to Bruner, all alone in the right flat, for a key 11-yard TD play. What I cannot comprehend, of course, is why it took Gaypride nearly two full seasons to throw some spice and salsa into this drab, moribund, vanilla offense that he's been slogging along with the past 28 games. Of course, let's not get too enamoured with Gilbride over this one game. After all, it was against one of the worst pass defenses in pro football. Moreover, here we were, deadlocked in a 14-14 game in the 2d quarter, and on a 3rd & 13 play, Gaypride has one of his starting receivers --- the man who leads the team in receptions, no less --- staying in to pass block. Ward was actually flagged for holding on this play, but the question that begs to be answered, is WHY on earth would any team, in a critical passing down of a tie ballgame, keep supposedly its best receiver in to PASSBLOCK ?? Let's also bear in mind that one TD drive was all of 30 yards, another was 8 yards, and one TD was scored by the Defense. B.
Def Coord: Lewis appeared -- unlike last week when he fell asleep at the wheel -- to make adjustments at halftime to counteract the success Cinci was having on the ground. The adjustments worked, as the Cinci running game produced meager yardage in the 2nd half. Other than this, Lewis had the easiest job in America in facing the dreadful Cinci passing offense. B.
Head Coach: Marty Jr. can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief with this win. Losing this game to a woeful Cinci team, and a few others in December, could have ultimately cost Cowhead his job. Beating Cinci all but assures Cowhead of retaining his job, as he'll now be able to point to the winning records of upcoming foes Oak, NY, and Wash, and use that as an excuse if he loses any/all of those games. After last week's shameful lay-down against Jax, it was good to see this club bounce back with some vim and vigor and avoid another lay-down. B.
This was a nice win, per se, but let's keep things in perspective. The Bungals are a 2-10 team for a reason -- they're a miserable franchise that is mired in a terrible slump that has lasted quite a few years and might very well last a few more. Beating up on the Bungals is no more a test than if Pitt beat up on CMU or Duquesne. Sure, we lost this kind of game last year to both Cinci and Cleve, but I'm not going to do any cartwheels over this win. A more realistic litmus test takes place next week, at home versus the hated Raidas. Jokeland has a gaudy 10-2 record, and with Tennessee's loss today, they are in the driver's seat for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I can't think of a team I'd more like to play spoiler to than Oakland Al & the Raidas. Let's hope this Stillers team comes out with a bit more fire and endurance than it did in its previous home game, because let's face it -- if they don't, it'll be a blowout.
The Still Mill