The Bengals had a rough drive to win 4 of the first 5 games this season, each time falling behind the opposition because of an interception being returned for a touchdown or numerous penalties that helped kill a drive or keep the oppositions alive, or see players that are expected to catch the ball suddenly forget how to catch it as it sails through their hands (Coles earlier this season, Coats to the present). After these problems, the Bengals somehow overcame these mistakes and found a way to win the game. Each win, not pretty or even remotely perfect, they were wins.
But something happened after the loss to the Texans. After the self acknowledged letdown, the Bengals found something that had been non-existent since 2005. They found a defense that was able to create turnovers and an offense that not only took advantage of them, but showed they have that big play ability while driving down field. The Bengals first offensive play of the game after receiving the opening kickoff went 19 yards and they never let up after that. Carson Palmer could not miss as he finished 20-24 for 233 yards and 5 touchdowns; Cedric Benson could not be stopped finishing with 189 yards and one touchdown; and the defense making self-proclaimed "I can throw farther than John Elway" Jay Cutler look like he should go back to camp and relearn the position.
Coming into the season, the offensive line was considered a question mark if the Bengals were to succeed. Against a Bears defense that was 6th against the run, they opened holes so big that freight trains could steam through. Benson was that train making his former team look silly running through, around and over the much heralded defense. Late in the game, there was some speculation as to why he was still in the game when it was decided after the 3rd quarter. I speculate they wanted to get Benson to hang a 200 yards rushing spot on the Bears despite the reported injuries to Bernard Scott and Jeremy Johnson. I might believe Johnson being dinged up, but I am not buying the Scott story yet.
That wasn't the only thing the offensive line did. They were not only able to prevent Carson from being sacked, they gave him the necessary time to allow Palmer to pick apart a pass defense ranked 14th in the league coming into the game. All Carson had to do is drop back, look over the field, take out the picnic basket, open the bottle of wine, spread the table cloth, and throw to his favorite receiver, Chad Ochocinco who finished with 10 catches for 118 yards and 2 TD's. Not only did he hit Chad for two TD's, he spread the ball around to Laveranues Coles, Chris Henry, and J.P. Foschi for a touchdown each, ensuring every eligible receiver was involved.
One of the biggest problems the Bengals have had a hard time overcoming this season was inopportune penalties. Invariably, they would commit a penalty of some sort after getting a successful play only to have it called back. Or there would a defensive penalty that would occur after making an important stop allowing the opposition to continue their drive. In other words, if the situation was dire, a penalty would be committed only to make things more difficult. But not against the Bears as they only committed 3 penalties the entire game with little or no impact on either side of the ball.
One of my concerns when the Bengals had built the large 31-3 halftime lead would be whether or not they could keep it. I don't know how many times over the years they had a large insurmountable lead, or so we thought, only to see it whittled away and eventually lose the game. The game that quickly comes to mind is in 2006 against the San Diego Chargers when the Bengals had built up a 28-7 halftime lead only to see the Chargers score 42 second half points enroute to winning 49-41. That was my fear Sunday, but I was relieved to see that this season's defense is not the same as the 2006 defense.
The Bengals finally showed that they can dominate a game, which a number of critics felt was the reason why no one should believe the Bengals and their record. Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post and Pardon the Interruption publishes his picks each week in the Washington Post with a few comments supporting his picks. In those comments, he has called the Bengals the Bungels (original) and even stated for those who "were starting to like the Bengals; don't". He has never had a kind word about the Bengals and showed how much of a homer he is picking the Chicago Bears to beat the Bengals by 3. My wife and I read his column and watch PTI and have yet to hear him eat some crow after his team laid a lead balloon. Even Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times and Around the Horn even called the Bengals "frauds" just a couple of weeks ago. We wonder what he thinks now after his beloved Bears were embarrassed looking more like a Koala bear then a grizzly. I highly doubt they will own up to their statements now.
This season is looking like it could be memorable. An unexpected 5-2 record heading into the bye week has us fans feeling great and actually walking around with a bounce in our step with other fans finally giving deserved respect. But coming out of the break, the Bengals will face the Ravens and Steelers that will have something to prove after losing to the Bengals earlier this season. It is going to get tough and how the Bengals respond will tell everyone just how far this team will go the rest of the season. A couple more perfect games against Ravens and Steelers would be just what the doctor ordered and build the confidence needed to make a run through the playoffs.