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Three Bad Things From The Bengals Game

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When I saw this game on the schedule last spring, I figured it would be a tough game and probably a loss. It was HOW the team lost that was disappointing though.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Had the San Diego Chargers been blown off the field, I probably would have felt less frustrated on Sunday afternoon and definitely less concerned about the rest of the season.  What I saw, though, was an ill-prepared and poorly coached team that squandered a legitimate opportunity for a road win against a quality opponent.

1.  Mike McCoy (Again)

I am hoping that one of these weeks, there will be a player or even an officiating crew that I can point to and say "Inexcusable brain fart! Bad!" Because I have to confess, putting the ONE man at the top of this list on this team that:

A.  sets the tone from the top;

B.  determines game strategy; and

C.  has the largest ‘outside the lines' influence on a win or a loss

for yet another week is a huge concern.  It is a problem that will require a drastic off season solution unless there is rapid and dramatic change soon.

If the decisions in Week 1 were not bad enough, this week we can add another laundry list of poor decisions. Unfortunately, McCoy's decisions on Sunday fit in perfectly with the rest of his 2+ season body of work as a Head Coach.

This body of work is exemplified with one inexplicably boneheaded decision. That decision was initially defended with an illogical statement that was an insult to the intelligence of even a casual fan. After that, the refusal to acknowledge the mistake with a simple ‘yeah, bad choice and I need to do better' was just par for the course. Coach McCoy, a response of "I made the decision I made" is an incubator for a cliché answer from a GM at a January press conference: "The organization decided to go a different direction".

Here's the deal...

A coach can talk all he wants to about "smart, tough, aggressive football".  The players can commit to that. So far, so good.

And then, you as a coach do not use your time outs after the other team tells you (with a running play) that they are not interested in scoring on their last possession of the half. You are down by 8, have 2 time outs, 57 seconds left on the clock and the opponent with a 3rd and 4 on their own 41. And you keep the time outs in your pocket, even though they are worthless in another minute and you have one of the best QB's in the game...

Decisions like this turn any exhortation or statement of philosophy you make into empty words.

That is not smart football.

That is not aggressive football.

That is not winning football.

McCoy needs to understand that actions do indeed, speak louder than words.  He also needs to realize that the TEAM sees exactly what the knowledgeable fans see.

They see that their coach, even after having a time out to think about it, does not believe that they can get one stinking yard with a 4th and 1 on the opponent's 14 yard line.

They see that their coach does not believe that they can get 3 yards for a two point conversion to tie the game early in the 3rd quarter.

They see that their coach that does not believe that a running back that has averaged 5.5 yards per carry can get 3 yards and a crucial 2-point conversion late in the game.

They see a coach that does not believe in THEM.

And when that is reciprocated, "the organization decided to go a different direction" becomes inevitable.

This may be just a crazy opinion, but I believe the players on this team deserve better. I hated watching one more week of Mike McCoy delivering the message to his team that he does not think they are good enough to justify taking calculated risks.

2.  The Prize FA Signing Having Another Bad Game

Yes, I was delighted that the team "upgraded" at left guard this offseason by signing Orlando Franklin. I figured this was a two-fer; he was a top rated interior lineman for Denver and the team had gotten horrible performance from both guards in 2014. Franklin gave up just one sack and 11 QB pressures in ALL of the 2014 season for the best team in the division. The Broncos loss would be the Bolts' gain, right?

On Sunday, Franklin gave up two sacks and three hurries which earned him a PFF grade of -4.1.  This was coming off a week 1 performance of -0.6 in which he and Watt combined to allow more than 10 pressures on PR. Metrics aside; the eyeball test has also been pretty bad in the first two games. I can forgive Watt's performances; he is young and still learning what being an NFL center is all about.

Franklin on the other hand, was paid a lot of money to make sure that even top notch interior defensive linemen would not have game changing performances. I hated watching him getting owned by Atkins and Dunlap on Sunday.

3.  Mental Mistakes

I have been watching football intently for more than 40 years.  Seeing professional football players, coached by smart, experienced men, make fundamental mistakes or show a lack of preparation will disgust me every single time.  There was plenty of that on Sunday and I hated watching all of it...

  • Keenan Allen taking his eyes off a punt to see if he had a possible return;

  • A penalty on Barksdale for lining up too far from the line of scrimmage;

  • A false start penalty on Hairston (you are right next to the center...how?);

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct on Dzubner;

  • Unnecessary roughness on Verrett;

  • The offense burning a time out at 11:50 in the 4th quarter on a 2nd down; and

  • The defense burning a time out on a 2nd and goal with 8:54 left to go in the game.

Which brings us to the final mental mistake of the game... The one we have all seen before and one that we hate to see. I am struggling to recall when the last time the team ran a two-minute drill that looked precise, well-executed, and crisp.  The Bolts have had some rare 2 minute drill success over the last few years, but those successes look chaotic, panicked, and on the knife edge of disaster.  More often, like what happened last Sunday, the knife moves and cuts off any chance for a win.

For all of his ability, Rivers may never be considered an unquestioned top tier QB outside of San Diego. A big reason for that is his inability to channel the competitive spirit he has into the ice-water cold, ruthless precision of a gunfighter. PR had no business throwing the final pass of the game to where he threw it.  A rookie QB would get roundly criticized for making that throw and rightly so.

Contrast the throw into triple coverage against the Week 1 game ending drive by the Cowboys to close out a win against the Giants.  Not once did Romo force a throw; he only took what the defense was offering him, and it worked.

The worst part of this for me is that Rivers has voluminous tape of the consequences of forcing throws into coverage and trying to do too much as a QB.  PR has played  9 full seasons as a starting QB in the NFL. He has not yet been able to modify this behavior which means he probably never will at this point. I hated seeing hero ball continue into 2015 as it seems to be some kind of personal blind spot to a QB with an amazing heart and skill set.