First of all, this post is only partly about the Broncos v. Bengals game. This is my first post here, so I hope it will serve as some nice food for thought. The reason I'm making this post? I'm sick of hearing every pundit say that the Bengals would be 4-0 if not for a fluke play. As I'm sure McD is aware, you don't deserve wins in football. You either take it or you lose. That said, I think that last Sunday's game against the Cowboys affords a nice opportunity to parse this statement about the Bengals' rightful record. More after the jump (whatever that is -- I don't really know, but there it is)...
Okay, so to begin with, let's compare the Stokley catch with the big catch made by Hurd in the Cowboys game. For the Stokley catch, we can start at the point when the ball is tipped. Where are the Bengals players? The one is still finishing the leap he made when he tipped the ball. Two others are committed to tackling Brandon Marshall. Obviously, to begin with, the coach must have felt he had a matchup issue with Marshall or the players must have lost discipline. So there's no one to catch the ball but Brandon Stokley, who shows good discipline by staying with the play (we won't even discuss how he ran out the clock, or this will get grotesque). After Stokley catches the ball, there's no one between him and the end zone. The only people who would have had a chance to catch him lost the chance when they all jumped on Marhsall. That's poor discipline and also partly the result of Marshall's reputation.
On to the Sam Hurd catch. It caught us by surprise, I think, just like the Stokley catch caught the Bengals by surprise. But I think most people know that you have to deal well with adversity to succeed in pro football. So immediately, 21 is on top of Hurd, trying to make the tackle. At least there is someone there to try. Then there was some miscommunication. But I believe the defensive scheme we employed was designed to more effectively protect against a home run, which is something the Bengals should have thought of. And, thank god, Brian Dawkins got there to tackle Hurd a good 20 yards or so before he could reach the end zone. That's an extremely different result from a breakaway play.
From a team perspective, the Broncos were more prepared to stop a breakaway play. And the sad part is that we didn't need to stop it as badly as the Bengals did. Maybe they didn't take it seriously because there was under 40 seconds left? I don't know. The other thing is, the Broncos had put themselves in a position where a touchdown would not win the game by itself. We would have had a chance to stop them twice (the second time being on the 2 point conversion). So we prepared better, called a better defensive play, stuck with the play better, didn't give up on it, and we put ourselves in a better position not to be mortally wounded by a breakout 'fluke' play.
The Bengals don't deserve to be 4-0 any more than the Broncos would have deserved to be 4-0 if it had been a less than 6 point game and we'd have let Hurd score a touchdown. The results are what they are, and you have to accept the results of the game that is played. That said, I'm happy for the Bengals for how well they are doing. I'm sure it must feel good for longtime fans to finally have their team show something. And the Broncos are surely not the best 4-0 team ever. As McD would say, we have a lot to improve on, from our short yardage game in the redzone to our third down conversions, and on and on. But we took our 4 wins, and they are ours. No pundit is going to take them away, no matter how much they talk, because that's not the way the NFL works.