No answers to Blake's prayers here

Monday, December 14, 1998

INDIANAPOLIS - His fate is in God's hands now, Jeff Blake said, so here's hoping the almighty has better hands than Brian Milne. Blake vowed to play "his game" Sunday against the Colts, though he hadn't played it in so long, I'd forgotten what it was.

"It felt good," Blake decided during the traditional post-game wake. "I had it in rhythm."

The Bengals did, too, of a fashion. They took their ninth straight beating with the same sort of magnanimity that marked the previous eight. Proving their 2-11 was a whole lot better than our 2-11, the Indianapolis Colts turned the Bengals into a smudge, 39-26.

"Was I pleased with the effort?" Bruce Coslet asked. "Yeah. We just couldn't block and tackle anybody."

True. But look at it this way: You punted the hell out of the ball.

If the Bengals season has become a shrug, at least it's a revealing shrug. Thanks to Lee Johnson's syllables and emperor Mike Brown's reaction, we know a little more about the way things work in the Spinney Field bunker.

Now, owing to the way Brown and company have handled the QB situation, we know a little more.

Eric Kresser played the last four minutes Sunday. That would mean the Bengals have used four quarterbacks in three weeks. The only guy left is Ken Anderson. Kenny can still bring it, but he lacks a little mobility in the pocket.

Let's see. Organization considers QB the "marquee" position. Organization feels most problems are solved with a good QB. Organization invests close to $10 million on three QBs this year. Organization has zero QBs it can count on.

Looking for logic

The Bengals overpaid Neil O'Donnell with the idea of getting rid of Blake. Failing that, they tried to cut Blake's pay. Then this week, the emperor decided a few good shows at the end of this season could put Blake right back in the hunt for No. 1 next fall.

Who's calling the front-office shots for this team? Dionne Warwick?

Blake was OK Sunday. When his line pried open the middle of the Colts defense, Blake was his old, swashbuckling self. On the Bengals 62-yard TD drive to start the second half, he ran for 24 yards and passed for 25. "I can play this game, man," Blake decided afterward. "No doubt about that."

Can Blake play somewhere? Have you seen who's playing other places? Don Hollas, Steve Stenstrom and Jamie Martin are playing. So are Steve DeBerg and Wade Wilson, aka the Methuselah Brothers, who together are older than North America.

Sure, Blake can play somewhere. Given the right system, he could play pretty well. But here?

Why would he want to play here?

Images worse than words

After his first start in 13 months, Blake didn't want to say anything offensive, apparently not realizing that nothing he could say would offend as much as his team's performance the past nine weeks.

"He did reasonably well," was Coslet's appraisal, "given the circumstances."

The circumstances? The circumstances are, this organization is a comedy, top to bottom. Peyton Manning now has thrown more TD passes than any rookie in NFL history. In his 14th pro start, Manning threw three TD passes and no interceptions. The Colts led 39-12 in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Bengals were holding auditions at every position. Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott spent the last 10 minutes on the bench. Corey Dillon (who will be in a rocking chair in a few years if he keeps mistaking his body for a blocking sled) was hurt again, adding a bruised back to his injury collection.

It's July in December. Ha-ha.

"I just want to win," Blake said, and maybe he will. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.