Sure win? Not over improved Bengals
RENTON – Admit it, Seahawks fans: When the schedule arrived, you went down the list of opponents and made little Ws and Ls beside each one as a projection for how the season would play out.
And when you got to Cincinnati on Oct. 30, it was one of those you didn’t have to give a second thought before putting down a bold “W” – probably in ink.
But the Bengals will be favored when they come to Seattle with a 4-2 record, trailing Pittsburgh in the AFC North by only half a game, and featuring the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL.
All of which makes it look as if that “W” is going to be a lot harder to come by Sunday for the Seahawks (2-4) than anybody could have imagined.
Credit coach Marvin Lewis for changing the stripes on these Bengals. Lewis is a rare coach who has stayed employed by the same club for nine years despite having only two seasons above .500.
At the end of last year’s 4-12 campaign, Lewis’ return was in doubt, with uncertainty reported on both sides. But Lewis came out of his meetings with president Mike Brown, and after his own assessment of all the things that went wrong, announced: “I will fix us.”
Apparently he has, but the fix required widespread change.
“I told the football team before I ended the season last year that if I were standing before them to start the new year, there would be a new look to this football team,” Lewis said via conference call Wednesday. “We’ve made those changes and we’ve moved forward and we feel good about it.”
At one point during his call, Lewis referenced “additions by subtraction,” which could apply to a number of changes, including the departure of flamboyant receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, and contract-refugee quarterback Carson Palmer.
Lewis also replaced longtime offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski (a former Seahawks assistant) with Jay Gruden, the younger brother of former Buccaneers and Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
But most notably, the Bengals used their first two draft picks on receiver A.J. Green (No. 4 overall pick) and quarterback Andy Dalton (third pick in second round, No. 35 overall). Green leads all rookie receivers with 29 catches and four touchdowns.
It was a bigger trick, though, to find a rookie quarterback who could be so effective without so much as an offseason workout. Dalton has put together a passer rating of 84.2 – higher than Palmer’s was last season, as well as higher than current ratings for the likes of Mark Sanchez, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Kevin Kolb.
“We liked his maturity, his experience playing, the way he’s handled every situation he’s ever been in,” Lewis said of the appeal of Dalton. “The game has not been too big for him.”
Dalton, from TCU, was one of the rookie prospects the Seahawks considered in the draft. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said that he and GM John Schneider “liked everything about him” when they scouted Dalton. But they took tackle James Carpenter in the first round thinking they needed to build the offensive line before bringing in a young quarterback.
It’s working to the Bengals’ benefit at this point.
“We added guys that were very, very talented with our first two picks who have made huge contributions and upgraded us in both areas,” Lewis said.
The Bengals still have to play tough divisional foes Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice, so the path gets tougher the rest of the way.
Still, they matched last season’s win total in only six games, and their retooling of the staff and additions of key young players give them the look of a team on the rise.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com