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Bengal Morning Takes: A beneficial early penalty

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Bengal Morning Takes: A beneficial early penalty
November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
By Coley Harvey | ESPN.com


CINCINNATI -- There was a point early in Sunday's game when I started to tweet about how those watching the Cincinnati Bengals-New Orleans Saints game might want to keep a close eye on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham after a hard, late shot he took from Bengals safety George Iloka.


At the exact same time I was about to hit the "tweet," Graham navigated a soft spot in the middle of the Bengals' defense and went up high for a 13-yard first-down reception that only he could make. He was stopped immediately by Reggie Nelson before getting up quickly from the tackle. When he did, Graham bopped his head, flexed his arms and screamed to the raucous Superdome crowd.

He looked just fine.

So, I took my right thumb to the "Backspace" bar, and the world never saw that tweet.

But it's possible that as well as Graham may have responded at that moment that he really wasn't feeling all that well following the hard blow in the back from Iloka, who threw a hard shoulder into Graham at the end of an incomplete pass. The hit, which in retrospect looked like a completely clean one, cost Iloka a penalty. He was flagged for unnecessary roughness, hitting a defenseless receiver.

At the time, Graham was running a quick slant from the right when his quarterback, Drew Brees, threw behind him. Graham reached back but had no chance to catch the ball. He started to slow down when Iloka came from the top level and delivered the hard shot to the back of his right shoulder. The tight end never saw the hit coming.

Graham went to the turf instantly, and rolled around a couple seconds before getting up, gingerly holding his right shoulder. He jogged off for three plays before returning for the first down.

Iloka was shocked by the 15-yard penalty. Live, the infraction looked worse than it was. Replays showed that although borderline, it was a clean and timely blow.

In the Bengals' eyes, it also was a beneficial one.

"Unfortunately it cost us a penalty, but I think that as George was coming through to the football, it took a little bit out of [Graham] for the rest of the football game," coach Marvin Lewis said.

And that's precisely why Iloka probably wasn't yelled at during film review Monday. Coaches typically give passes to fouls like that if they come early enough in a game and affect the right opposing player. Remember, it's a violent game and while there needs to be a level of sportsmanship, teams and players also have to demonstrate a level of gamesmanship. That's what Iloka's hit was about.

By the end of the game, it appeared clear the opening-drive shot had an effect. Graham caught just three passes for 29 yards on three targets. The performance ranked among his worst this season, only outpaced by his two-catch, 36-yard performance against Tampa Bay earlier this year, and his zero-catch, two-target outing against the Lions.

"We have to be around him and close, and he's obviously someone we wanted to get hands on every chance we get," Lewis said. "He's such an effective receiver."

Graham entered the game ranked seventh in the league among all pass-catchers with 56 receptions. His seven touchdowns was tied for ninth.

Without Graham as a factor, the Bengals rolled to a 27-10 road win.




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The hit on Graham I think was late, however I watched the Steelers game last night saw both teams make  same play several times not called. I also think the Peko call was not really a flag. I watched that happen in many other games and it was not called. I know it is all subjective and depends on the crew.


I am just glad to see the defense trying to be more physical.

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The defense played a far more physical game than the previous couple weeks.  Iloka's hit was just one, I saw several other tackles and hits that were just physically harder than I've seen them play.  I assume this was emphasized by the coaches in practice last week.  

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I think if a receiver gets hit and stays down for a couple seconds, they will usually draw a flag.

The same guy that was accusing a guy of flopping a week ago, basically flopped.

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