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Senior NFL Columnist

Monday Musings: Bengals blew it

The story of Sunday's Bengals-Cowboys game was the Cowboys overcoming the death of a teammate. But the Bengals' story, which didn't get much play because of the Cowboys' situation, is how they blew a game that could have easily set them up for a good chance to be a playoff team. If they held on, they would have been within a game of the top of the AFC North because the Steelers and Ravens both lost. Cincinnati blew a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter. It was a day that screamed for the Bengals to put the Cowboys away. With a chance to go up 17-3 early, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was picked by Brandon Carr. A Cincinnati score there, and the Cowboys might have folded. Bengals receiver A.J. Green also dropped a sure touchdown pass, and the Bengals settled for field goals three times inside the 20. The Bengals still control their own destiny. The play at Philadelphia on Thursday and then play the Steelers on the road and close out with the Ravens. If they don't get into the playoffs, they will look back at Sunday's loss to the Cowboys and know why. They blew one.

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I have to tell you how classy the Cowboys were after their victory over the Bengals on Sunday. After losing a teammate, they handled themselves well in the locker room. Yes, it was easier because they won. But this was about life and death, not football. And Jason Garrett was sensational when he met the media. It was a tough time for the entire organization with the death of Jerry Brown, but I want to say how impressed I was with how they handled it.

The hammer came down on Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Monday. What took so long? The Ravens have seemed to be a team without an identity on offense. I've said that for a long time. But let's not sugarcoat things here. Coach John Harbaugh deserves his share of the blame, too. This is on his head. He hired Cameron. He let him run the show. And you have to wonder what kind of offense Harbaugh wants: A lot of Ray Rice, or a little? Make a decision.

Have to give it to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. He has turned his season around. Newton has really played well in the past four games. He threw for 287 yards and two scores and rushed for 116 yards and one touchdown in the Panthers' victory over the Falcons. He is the first player in NFL history to throw for over 250, rush for over 100, throw a touchdown pass and run for one in the same game.

I say it every week, but here I go again: Adrian Peterson is amazing. He ran for 154 yards and two scores in Minnesota's 21-14 victory over the Bears. ACL injury? What ACL injury?

Memo to Robert Griffin III: Stay in the damn pocket. I've been saying for weeks that you can't make a living running around in the NFL. It's not safe. And RG3 took wicked shot on his knee during a scramble late in Sunday's game against the Ravens. The Redskins are saying it's a knee sprain, but it sure looked worse. People hate to hear it, but RG3 has to cut down his running.

Love what Kirk Cousins did when he came in relief of RGIII. He showed some real moxie. The throw on second-and-20, which most didn't see, was really impressive. The Redskins have to be happy the way that he handled himself when he came into the game.

The Giants need to get David Wilson more carries from scrimmage. He is too explosive to just use on special teams. Speed kills.

Is Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt in trouble? After seeing that devastating blowout loss in Seattle, you'd have to think he might be. Whisenhunt is owed $5.5 million, and the Cardinals aren't exactly known for throwing around money. But after four victories to open the season, Arizona has lost nine consecutive games. Ouch.

One can only imagine what it would have been like if the Cardinals had landed Peyton Manning? They thought they had a real shot.

What's wrong with Matt Ryan? He just doesn't seem to be clicking. He better get it going soon. The playoffs are around the corner. The Falcons play the Giants this week in Atlanta. People are questioning how good the Falcons really are. If they beat the Giants, that will stop. That's the NFL.

So much for Ben Roethlisberger stepping onto the field and the Steelers' offense being fixed. It takes time to get back into a groove. The Steelers need him to do it this week at Dallas. They also have to run it better to help the passing game.

Greg Hardy was right. The Carolina Panthers were better than the Falcons -- for a day. And give Hardy credit. He had a sack in the game, too.

Rob Ryan's antics against the Bengals nearly cost his team a touchdown. Ryan started yelling at Bengals tackle Andre Smith near the Cowboys' sideline and carried it too far by going out on the field. He got a 15-yard penalty, but the Bengals still settled for a field goal. He has to be smarter than that.

Chad Henne had a passer rating of 41.3 and had two picks against the Jets. He isn't the long-term answer in Jacksonville.

The personal-foul penalty on Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson for a hit on Dez Bryant was a horrible call. That's going too far.

The Vikings have a real playmaker in rookie safety Harrison Smith. Safeties who can run and cover are gold in this era of the pass. His pick-six against the Bears was huge.

 
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