This past Sunday was a study in contrasts. While the Cincinnati Bengals were making plays to win yet another game in come-from-behind fashion, some reminders of days gone by (thankfully) were going on around the NFL.
In New York, Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills was making a fool of himself, earning a costly penalty (and eventually a fine) by feigning a self-inflicted gun shot and jet crash after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets. The subsequent penalty on the kick off gave the Jets great field position as they drove down for a touchdown before the half. Instead of heading into the locker room with the lead, the Bills and Jets were tied in a game the Jets would ultimately win by four. Johnson dropped two key passes that halted Buffalo scoring opportunities. Somewhere, Marvin Lewis had to be smiling knowing he was rid of all those hysterics.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Tom Brady was throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns with nary a pass thrown toward Chad Ochocinco. For the season, the self-proclaimed future Hall of Famer has just 11 catches for 201 yards. He's yet to reach the end zone, so we have no idea if Bill Belichick would tolerate one of Chad's famous end zone "celebrations." Something tells me he wouldn't.
In Cincinnati Sunday, Marvin Lewis got to see Ochocinco's replacement, rookie AJ Green simply make plays. Green was blanketed most of the day by Cleveland Browns' cornerback Joe Haden, so much so that he only had three balls thrown his way. If this were Chad, we would have seen him jaw-jacking with Haden, complaining to his quarterback that he wasn't getting the ball, and sulking on the sidelines. Afterward we would have been treated to a meltdown on Twitter over how the coaches messed things up.
Instead, we saw Green make plays on the three balls thrown to him, each a crucial part of the Bengals' three point win. He didn't pout, he didn't talk trash, he just caught the ball and piled up 110 yards in the process. Instead of taking himself out of the game mentally, Green went up and made the play of the game when he outleaped two Browns defenders and raced down inside the five yard line to set up the game-winning field goal.
Green's attitude on the field is shared by his teammates, none of whom have turned the end zone into Radio City Music Hall this season. That little change is the mark of a winner. As stated above, the Patriots don't tolerate that nonsense, and neither do the Steelers or Packers, or any other team associated with winning. That's because it's about the team, not the individual.
Of the NFL's top 10 pass catchers all-time, only Terrell Owens and Randy Moss are known for their end zone antics. Not coincidentally, neither of them have Super Bowl rings. Meanwhile, Jerry Rice, Hines Ward, Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce do.
The Cincinnati Bengals took the first step toward greatness before they ever hit the field this year. By cutting loose those who were more interested in being entertainers than football players, they helped develop a team attitude that is the major reason they are contending for the playoffs 11 games into the season.
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