After the Cincinnati Bengals started the season o’fer, one could only expect that in order for them to win a game, it was going to have to be a near perfect game. No turnovers, minimal penalties, running game working, defense making expected stops, etc… You get the idea. Even though the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars started near perfect, its ending was anything but. Despite this late game imperfection, they somehow still were able to get their first win of the year.
The Bengals came into the game with an imperfect defense that was looking to figure out how to stop someone, especially late in a game as they have consistently kept the game close, but then falling apart going into the forth quarter. The imperfect offense was just trying to figure out how to get a first down on the opening drive of the game, which in recent games did not occur until late in the second quarter. After losing their last game, the imperfect team and coaches were making excuses for the losses saying it was not from lack of effort, but something else.
The Jaguars were a team in need of a win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive. But their defense was not the usual aggressive man-eaters of the past few years and the offense was looking to get their running game going again. Going up against the Bengals, it looked to be a sure thing to right the ship.
But the Bengals started doing things that was not the usual Bengals, such as getting a first down on their opening drive, and then scoring, also on the opening drive. It felt so good that Chad Johnson refused to not only not get up after scoring, but refused to give up the ball. Then the Bengals did it again with Chad scoring his second touchdown game, his first two touchdown game of the season. Each of those scoring drives was over 80 yards, something the offense was not accustom to.
As the game progressed, things started falling into place. Converting third downs, keeping the defense off the field and moving the ball with ease. The Bengals eventually built up a 21-3 lead while playing nearly a perfect game. But then the near perfection suddenly went imperfect.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a third quarter interception that fortunately did not result in points. Shortly after the Jaguars kicked a field goal early in the fourth quarter, Glen Holt fumbled the kickoff with the Jags returning it for a touchdown bring a comfortable 21-6 lead to a suddenly concerned score of 21-13.
With six minutes to go, the Bengals defense, which had been able to stop the Jaguars with regularity, again became the team that could not keep a close game close, allowing the Jags to drive 73 yards for a touchdown that brought the score to a nerve racking 21-19 with just under 2 minutes to go. Jacksonville only had one choice and that was to attempt a two point conversion and try to send it into overtime. The only concern was whether the much maligned Bengals defense was up to the task of stopping the play. In unlike Bengals defensive fashion, they stopped the Jaguars two point attempt by forcing a bad pass to Jerry Porter that was deflected to the turf, sending Bengaldom into a frenzy not seen all season.
The win against the Jaguars was not perfect. Inopportune turnovers and a defensive lapse led to the game getting closer than it should have. However, the Bengals did perform above expectation with a running game that produced the season’s first 100 yard rusher with Cedric Benson and a defense that made a rare game saving stop when it needed to.
Now the Bengals have two weeks to prepare for the Philadelphia Eagles, another team that likes to prey on imperfection. But in order for the Bengals to not only beat the Eagles with the added goal of salvaging the season, they will have to continue performing above current expectations and playing near perfect games. Or this may be the only win the team enjoys for the rest of the season which will then set a new franchise record for futility.