Morning Stripes: Bengals second-guessing

Usually when a key play at a crucial part of a game goes the wrong way, the coach who called it has a sleepless night as he wonders what he should have called instead.

That was head coach Marvin Lewis on Sunday night as he kicked himself for not taking a timeout ahead of a slow-developing fourth-and-1 on the very first drive of the Cincinnati Bengals' game at Baltimore. Maybe if he had taken a timeout, his team could have gotten to the line of scrimmage quicker and run their quarterback sneak with a little more of an element of surprise than conditions permitted them without the timeout call.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was having the same revisionist wishes when he beat himself up inside over calling a screen in overtime on fourth-and-2 that didn't work. The design of the play was off and didn't fully counter the Ravens' defense, he felt. In turn, that caused running back Giovani Bernard to get into desperation mode and reverse field when he couldn't advance the necessary 2 yards after he made the catch. The field reversal ended up pushing him backwards for an 11-yard loss, and led to a turnover that gave the Ravens the ball back and the time to drive through their 46-yard game-winning field goal.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. It's called second-guessing, and more of it goes on with coaches than they often care to admit. The good thing for them, though, is that those moments of wishing to relive a different version of the past are teachable ones. They can learn from their mistakes and call something better when a similar situation presents itself in the future.

Still, one day after their 20-17 overtime loss to the Ravens, the Bengals were doing their fair share of second-guessing. Although much of it has ended now that all attention is being placed on this weekend's important AFC North tilt with Cleveland, we're still kicking of Wednesday's Morning Stripes with a look at what all had the Bengals rethinking certain plays from the loss.

  • Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson starts us off with this extended look at the second-guessing that took place primarily for Gruden and Lewis. As Hobson notes, football is a game of inches -- and timing -- and had one minor detail been different on any of the aforementioned plays, perhaps they would have gone differently. If they go differently, then perhaps the Bengals end up winning. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

  • In the Tuesday edition of his "Morning Line" blog of mostly serious and occasional random thoughts, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty made a strong observation that I thought briefly about myself at one point Sunday. Since the Bengals' loss at Baltimore -- a hard-earned one the Bengals still almost miraculously pulled out -- Lewis has been harping on his "don't flinch" message and what he believes is his team's never-quit, never-give-up personality. While he's actually right about how well the team has performed through adverse situations, the statements made in his news conferences the two days following the loss did border on the line of psychological warfare, as Daugherty points out. That's not really a bad thing, though. This is a point in the year when you can't fault Lewis, or any coach, of pumping up his team to the media and fans, and boosting its confidence in the process.

  • In Tuesday's "Wake Up Caw," ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley's version of the "Morning Stripes," Hensley brought up a comment made by Baltimore coach John Harbaugh the day after his team's win over the Bengals. Harbaugh said he was aware of certain comments made by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict during Sunday's postgame, but was dismissing them. At the time, Burfict alleged that Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees pushed him on the sideline at the end of the play. As Hensley points out, Pees sits in the press box during games. From my vantage point, I thought the coach Burfict actually believed pushed him was Harbaugh, who could be spotted trying to keep the peace when the Bengals player was forced into the Ravens sideline. Burfict said he was going to request the league look into the push.

  • Cincinnati Enquirer crime reporter Kimball Perry reports that former Bengal Nate Webster was in court in Cincinnati on Tuesday getting his 12-year prison sentence for unlawful sex with a minor reduced to 10 years. Last April, the 35-year-old was convicted of having sex four years prior with a 15-year-old who lived in his suburban Cincinnati neighborhood.