by Kevin Burton
When our TV is on these days it’s usually on football, and we are no mere observers.
We’re not perfect with predictions, but my wife and I both have keen insight as to what might happen in a given game.
A typical pre-game assessment goes something like this:
“Well Jeannette, Cincinnati and Dallas both enter the game with records well under .500, but Dallas has at least a slim hope for the playoffs. Who do you think has the advantage today?”
“You know, after careful consideration of the statistics, the strengths and weaknesses of the teams, injury reports and other factors, I have concluded that turnovers will be the key.”
“Right you are J, so let’s settle in for today’s titanic struggle!”
We have a conversation like this once or twice every weekend. OK we’re nerds, but we’re not wrong.
The well-paid, well-dressed pregame bloviaters have their say at great length and volume on TV. But turnovers are the key in every game. You can never go wrong saying that.
So buy us some network blazers and sign us up for the pregame crew!
I purposely used last Sunday’s Cowboys vs. Bengals game as the example. I have jumped with both feet onto the listing Bengals bandwagon. Longtime Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton returned to Cincinnati in a Cowboys uniform with revenge on his mind.
Hard to miss the symbolism of this game. Dan Hoard, the radio voice of the Bengals in describing the teams’ uniforms said Dallas had “the iconic silver helmet with the star on the side.”
Cincinnati’s helmet is somewhat less than iconic. The Cowboys’ star still symbolizes championships, although it has been a long, long time. The Bengals tiger-stripe orange and black helmet symbolizes futility.
But Dallas has not exactly torn it up this year either. They entered the game 3-9 and have found some creative ways to lose games.
This had the makings of the worst game ever. So of course I’m there!
On the second play of the game Bengals running back Giovani Bernard fumbles and Dallas recovers. Their drive stalled and Dallas settled for a field goal.
Drive two. Hoard mentions that fumbler Bernard has been replaced at running back by Treyveon Williams.
Second series, second back, second fumble. Williams drops the ball but this time there would be no anemic Dallas drive leading to a field goal. Linebacker Aldon Smith recovered the fumble and ran 78 yards for a touchdown. The extra point made it 10-0.
Somebody mention turnovers?
Dallas prepares to kick off and I’m thinking, Cincy, got any more backs? They did. Semaje Perine got the assignment. He did not fumble but wide receiver Alex Erickson did. Again Dallas recovers, drives for a touchdown. Now it’s 17-0
Three Bengals fumbles, three Dallas scores. Did Jeannette and I call this or what? Turnovers! Networks, take note.
Dave Lapham is quick with a stat on Bengals radio. He said a team losing the turnover battle by 3 has a 98 percent chance of losing.
It’s almost as if Cincinnati saw the Cowboys’ stumbling season and said, “OK, who’s supposed to be the bumblers here? We’re the Bengals! No, we’re the Bungals! Ever hear that one?”
They just would not allow Dallas to march into town and out-bungal them.
Having secured sweet revenge on the team that gave up on him, Dalton twisted the knife, throwing a touchdown pass with 1:55 to go when they could have run out the clock. Final score 30-7.
“This one was special,” Dalton told reporters afterward. “Good to have the emotion at the end, of being very happy that we won this game.”
Hooray for Dalton, but Cincinnati will probably get more out of its loss than Dallas will from its win.
Cincinnati is in desperate need of help on the offensive line. Its current draft position is third, behind the Jets and Jaguars.
Scouts are talking about Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewel as a once-a-decade talent. He’s the obvious Bengals pick after the Jets and Jags take the top two quarterbacks.
But Cincinnati must continue to lose to secure that third pick. With three games to go, my Bengals need two more losses to get the pick.
I think we can do it, but turnovers will be the key.