Stillers-Bungals Post Game Analysis & Grades:
This was a must win, said Bill Cowhead, and for once this season, he was correct. A loss to the lowly Bungals would have been a disaster. Luckily enough, the Bungals ineptly stumbled around the entire game, which gave us enough oomph for a squeaky 17-3 win.
QB: The Western Union Man finished with a modest 17-29, 134 yards. It was nice to see a rare no-INT game, of course. Stewart was helped considerably by a Cinci pass defense that was not only porous, but far too soft and far too respectful of our WR corps. The slants and hitches that during the past month were jumped on and hounded, were now wide open with a 5-yard cushion. Twice Stewart missed a wide open Ward for what should have been 6 points on each play. Stew also underthrew an open Troy on a bomb. All in all, it�s good to have no INTs, but 134 yards of passing doesn't often get it done against playoff-caliber teams, which Cinci obviously ain't. B-.
RB: The Bus finally had a breakout game, garnering 111 yards on 26 carries. Bettis ran hard on nearly every run, and consistently showed great 2d effort. Hunt chipped in with 18 yards on 4 rushes. Hunt had two catches and Bus 1. A+.
FB: You'd have thought that after last week's dismal effort at Buffalo, Witman would have been tongue lashed and come out on fire versus Cinci. Nothing doing. Witman had a couple solid blocks, but on the whole he sucked bad enough that he could have jump started a Harley simply by wrapping his lips around the tailpipe. Wit was credited by CBS with a "great block" on the Bus 5-yard TD, but it wasn't much more than an average seal on Spikes, who was run blitzing up a certain hole --- a hole that Bettis wasn't running to. I saw numerous poor plays, in which Witman either clogged Bettis' running lane with no push, or made no block at all. 3 poor plays in particular stand out:
1. On our 1st drive of the 2d half, Witt lead-blocked up the gut, though Bettis (as is his custom this season) thoroughly ignored Witman and ran left. Witman met Spikes about 1/2 yard past the LOS, and Spikes blasted Witman and literally knocked him on his can. CBS even showed a replay of this from the angle of the defensive backfield.
2. Two plays later, Witman was assigned to pickup blitzers on a pass. Witman did an "ole" and allowed Steve Foley to blast right by him --- Witman barely gave him a love tap. Foley then smacked Stewart's arm as he released the throw, obviously resulting in an incomplete pass.
3. On the next drive, Bus rumbled for the long 23-yard run on a counter right. Some might assume that Witman helped pave the way. In reality, Witman ran 7 yards downfield without hitting a soul, and then was literally shoved to the turf by Myron Bell. Bettis scampered by the prone Witman en route to the 23-yard gainer.
All in all, just another day at the office for Jon Witman, which for most people, would result in being fired. D.
WR: Troy, although not good enough to start, led the way with 4 grabs, averaging nearly 15 YPC. The sour note is that he dropped 2 balls. Ward and Hawk each had 3 grabs, though better thrown passes would have given Ward a couple TDs. Will Jackwell had 3 grabs, but also dropped a pass. The blocking was pretty solid. B.
TE: Bruner, the 19-catch per year wonderboy that we simply could not do without when he was a free agent this past spring, had exactly ZERO passes thrown his way. The blocking was solid. B.
OL: The entire line played pretty good, though, just as in the case of the Cleve game, the softness of the Cinci defense made their jobs as easy as pie. Brown struggled a bit versus his old team, so much so that they were probably glad he's no longer wearing the black & orange. Faneca run-blocked well, but gave up a poor sack. Gandy held his own well. Duffy replaced an injured Dawson, and got bullied about quite a bit. B.
DL: Roye led the way today, with a couple batted passes, 6 solos, 1 sack, and as a bonus, an INT. Steed was literally buried by just 1 blocker on a 3d & 1 plunge in the 2d drive of the 3d quarter. The line did give up some decent yardage to Dillon on occasion. B+.
LB: Holmes had a sterling game, making plays all over the field. Emmons had the quietest 5 tackle-game in modern NFL history. Of course, 1 tackle was a weak, lucky shoe-string stop on a swing pass in which Carlos got juked badly on, and 1 was a Dong Sack in which Carlos came in totally untouched. Kirkland, the Master of the Diving Whiff, displayed those skills again today for the THIRD game in a row, flailing badly on Smith on the TD that was called back due to a Cinci penalty. Very, very poor. Kirk also dropped an easy INT. Gildon had a quiet game, getting pushed around a good bit of the day. Gildon never got within the same zip code as Akili Smith, except for 1 Dong Sack, in which RB Corey Dillon totally forgot his blitz-pickup responsibilities, and Gildon came in totally untouched for the Dong Sack. B.
DB: DeWayne had a big INT on Cinci's 2d play, and had decent coverage. However, he was caught twice for blatant PI, plus he foolishly roughed the kicker on a missed FG. Chad had a brutal hit on McGee, and played better than last week's misery. Flowers also had a wicked hit on McGee. Davis did little, though he was robbed of an INT on a replay challenge. Davis was also steamrolled by Battaglia on the TD that was called back. Davis met Battaglia with a good angle at the 6, but Battaglia casually just plowed into the EZ with the hapless Davis just hanging on for the ride. Very pitiful. Oldham also had a Dong Sack. B.
Spec Teams: Cowhead foolishly claimed during the week that "our spec teams will give us the edge in the game�.we can beat their spec teams", etc. What poppycock. Doesn't Cowhead watch films of his clumsy, inept special teamers?? The only thing special is that this crew is eligible to ride the short bus to school each day. Coverage was soft and spotty, and the blocking was mediocre. Josh had a few poor punts. Browns' KOs were mostly short, but he did boot a nice 43-yard FG. C.
Off Coord: There were a few nice things today, but I'm still not overly enamored with this offense. Kevin Gilbride did make good use of the PAP today, as well as the deep ball. Still, the passing game did not click well -- only 60% of the passes were completed, and this against a woeful defense. Another legitimate gripe is the footwork and drops of Stewart. The drops Stewart is taking are simply too DEEP and too time consuming. A QB in the shotgun need not take another 4 steps back before planting, especially in today's fast-paced NFL passing game. Gaypride's QBs in Houston and Jax never did this shenanigans. Gaypride was also fortunate to face a soft, passive, lax defense today, very similar to the one Cleveland showed us on opening day. And, lest we forget, both our TDs drives were all of 49 yards. Two delay of game penalties are two too many. B-.
Def Coord: Jim Haslet, for basically the 2d time this year, had the outrageous luxury of facing a rookie QB making his 1st NFL start (he also faced Couch on opening day, though Coach didn't start). Smith played ok but made continual rookie blunders, which made Aslet's job as enviable as being the taste tester at the Jack Daniels Distillery. The defensive posture during Cinci's long 4th qtr. march was far too soft and flaccid. B.
Head Coach: Field Goal Bill got his "must win". I'm curious to see how pleased and proud Bill is in beating the 3rd terrible team that we've been given the luxury to play this season. The tackling problems remain, and Bill should have had it corrected by now. B.
Synopsis:Let's not make this win out to be any more than it was: a win over a totally inept, sorry football team in the Bungals. This marks the 3rd time this season that we've gnawed our way to cheezy wins over the NFL's junior-varsity; Cleve, Balt, and now Cinci. It'll be amusing to hear if we hear player, coach, and fan commentary that alludes to any poppycock of "we've turned the corner" and "we've turned it around". The truth is that we ain't done nothing. Until we beat something of an above-average team, we're just a mediocre team trying to gain some respect around the league. And, next week's home game against injury-ravaged Atlanta will do nothing to serve as a test for us, either.
The Still Mill