- Coley Harvey, ESPN Staff Writer
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As was indicated in Wednesday's Morning Stripes, there has been a shift in the coverage of Cincinnati Bengals storylines this week.
It's not that those of us on the Bengals beat have run out of ways to describe the positives from the defense's performance in Sunday's 13-6 win over the Patriots. It's more that we're still trying to find that right balance between sharing stories that pertain to offense, defense and special teams. (For the record, we'll have a special-teams story later Thursday on the Bengals blog. Get excited -- we're giving the ball to all of our playmakers this week.)
All of that is to say that the tides of coverage have finally turned toward the aforementioned Bengals offense.
While pleased that Cincinnati notched a win against a defense that's difficult to prepare for, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wasn't too happy after the game about points he felt the unit left on the field. His players weren't pleased, either, knowing that with the talent they have, the production has to be greater.
The lack of a true offensive identity caused one of the guys covering the Bengals to stop and think about what Cincinnati ought to do in order to create one. His thought? Ditch the wide-open pass and run the ball more. You do that, and you might just follow the recipe for Super Bowl success ...
Here are the Morning Stripes to better explain:
In the Cincinnati Enquirer's daily "Walkthrough" blog, Paul Dehner Jr. explains how the Baltimore Ravens were in a similar situation as the Bengals halfway through last season when they fired their pass-happy offensive coordinator in favor of one who preferred the ground-and-pound game. By running the ball, more passes opened up, allowing them to create the more balanced offense they had hoped to have in the first place. Following the formula of a good defense, a quarterback who needed a little help from the rest of the offense and a strong ground game, the Ravens ended up winning the Super Bowl. Could that plan work in Cincinnati -- minus the firing of the offensive coordinator? Perhaps.
The road hasn't been kind to the Bengals this year. They are 0-2 in games not played at Paul Brown Stadium so far. The Bengals had an 11-5 mark in the last 16 regular-season road games entering this season. With four of their next five games on the road, the Bengals will have to tap into whatever they did before to solve their road woes. The Enquirer's Dehner Jr. takes a look at how the Bengals can do that here.
The Bengals may not have much of a hostile road crowd to contend with Sunday in Buffalo, as it appears the Bills are having trouble getting rid of tickets to the game. With rookie quarterback EJ Manuel injured for several weeks and former practice squad player Thad Lewis getting the start instead, Bills fans seem hesitant about purchasing seats. In an effort to entice them to show up, the team is offering up to $15 off tickets, according to the Buffalo News. As of Wednesday afternoon, the team was 7,000 short of a sellout. If it doesn't sell all 7,000 by 1 p.m. Thursday, the game will be blacked out.
Buffalo's loss of Manuel, the first-round draft pick out of Florida State, has hurt the Bills in a different way, writes ESPN.com's Mike Rodak. The NFL Nation Bills reporter believes the young signal-caller's development has taken the biggest hit of all with the knee injury that will keep him out several weeks.
Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson closes out this edition of the Morning Stripes with a nice story on Cincinnati running back Rex Burkhead and his connection to Jack Hoffman, the 8-year-old who ran for a touchdown (and into Americans' hearts) in the Nebraska Cornhuskers' spring game earlier this year. It was announced over the weekend that Hoffman's brain cancer is in remission. Still, Burkhead, who started a foundation for Hoffman, won't be taking off his Team Jack bracelet anytime soon.