1. Zimmer. Glad to see he didn't pull a Breshnahan again this week. He clearly won the chess match yesterday, and the players executed his plan perfectly.
2. Geno Atkins (#97) & Pat Sims (#90). Any time Flacco dropped back to pass, at least one of these two guys were collapsing the pocket and forcing Flacco to hurry his throws. Everyone in the media is always fascinated by the glamorous sack stat. Don't fall for it.
For example, Hob clings to the sack stats when defending the actually terrible 2007 Bengal's OL which caused Palmer to learn some bad habits that he is still trying to work through. It is pressure that really effects the opponents QB efficiency rating by forcing the QB to hurry and make poor decisions. No pressure the first week = Brady 120.9 with a 71.4% completion percentage (seemed like 95% while watching the game). Constant pressure from the front four this Sunday = Flacco 23.8 with a 43.6% completion rate and four INT's. According to the NFL stats, no Bengal defensive player recorded a single sack against the Ravens. I would be perfectly happy if this team doesn't get another sack the rest of the season, as long as they produce like they did Sunday.
3. Bengals OL. It wasn't pretty, but they managed to give Palmer the time and space he needs. Even with the rotating timeshare at RT, they picked up almost every blitz package and stunt the Ravens threw at them. Roland held his own against Suggs for the most part, which is a very difficult thing to accomplish. Personally, I think the RT timeshare is as cheesy in football as it is in real estate, and Smith has to take over the position to solidify the OL at some point.
1. Palmer. He had the time and space and he couldn't take advantage of it. His poor performance yesterday made this game a nail biter when it shouldn't have been even close. The mistakes made Sunday are the remaining scars of the years of abuse he took behind a sub-par OL from 2006 to 2008. Unfortunately, his recovery is a work in progress and it will take time to work these things out since they are mostly mental. The throwing errors we are seeing are most likely from Palmer still feeling like he needs to force his throws to avoid being hit. His passes are either too early, too late, or off target because of this.
The good news is that his mechanics and footwork have improved dramatically compared to the previous two seasons, but his read and reaction skills are still a few steps behind. Does this mean Palmer is done? In this case, we have to ask WWLD? I think Lando would recommend the same treatment that he recommended while his men are getting blown to hell: "we have to give him more time." He just needs to learn to relax and play football again, and I expect that we will see Palmer work out these mistakes as the season goes on if the OL can continue to give him the security he needs in the pocket. If the OL continues to provide space for him and he doesn't improve, then yes he is done. So the jury is still out.
2. Batman and Robin's hands. Johnson has never been good at catching a ball while running toward the interior of the field, and this weakness was showcased Sunday with several dropped balls. TO had one or two catchable TD passes and he couldn't bring them in. From the past two weeks only, it seems like if you can cover TO tight, he can't concentrate on catching the ball. TO's decrease in speed doesn't help out in this department either. I still believe he would be better in the slot than as the #2 since he would have more favorable personnel match ups and routes that get him open by taking advantage of the seams in the zones and exploit his ability to get some YAC's like we witnessed against the Ravens.
3. Gresham's blocking. I wrote at the end of the preseason that we would see Benson get blown up a couple of times while running the stretch play because of his inexperience. However, Bratkowski continues to test Gresham's improvement at the most inconvenient times. There were a couple of 3rd and short plays where they ran toward Gresham's side; almost every time he whiffed and Benson was blown up. They either need to: a) stop calling this play on third and short; b) teach the kid to block aggressively really quick; or c) fire Bratkowski.
You know what? This deserves it's own post.