Bengals beat Steelers for season sweep, and something feels very different.

Rewind to December 4th, 2005.  Your Cincinnati Bengals had just beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at Pittsburgh to take ownership of the division.  I really don't recall what my specific reaction was, but I'm sure it was nothing short of epic.  I was bouncing off of walls.  I was talking smack to every Steeler fan within earshot.  I was thrilled to death when Chad Johnson said that the Bengals were the new reality, that the Steelers were black and white television and the Bengals were color. 

When the 2005 Bengals clinched the division two weeks later at Detroit's Ford Field, I was doubly ecstatic.  I was absolutely convinced that our long run of pain and suffering in Bengal Nation had come to an end. 

That is very different compared to the emotions I feel today as your Cincinnati Bengals have completed their first season sweep of the Pittsburgh Steelers in eleven years.

This was the scene today for me during the game.  I had to leave my apartment roughly halfway through the second quarter to make a two o'clock call and a three o'clock curtain for the show in which my wife and I are currently cast.  I promptly loaded NFL SuperCast up on my iPhone and took off to the theatre.  On and off through the hour leading up to curtain and the first act while I was not on stage I was re-loading and trying to keep the picture going on my iPhone. 

The game ended while I was on stage in the second scene.  Our assistant director had been watching on my phone while I was on stage.  I entered the dressing room and asked "Did they do it?"  He said that yes, my Bengals had won.  My reaction was this:  "Awesome."  I then grabbed my next costume and started to change clothes. 

I then wrote on seven or eight friends' facebook walls during intermission, but still.  I didn't flip out.  I didn't scream and yell.  I didn't streak around the outer perimeter of Trumbull New Theatre.  Why is that? 

Because I came into today, Sunday November 15th, fully expecting my Cincinnati Bengals to win today's football game.  Do you know why that is?  I felt that way because I knew my team fully expected it as well. 

~

This is a different Bengals team than any Bengals team I remember in recent years.  To not only out-Raven the Ravens, but to out-Steeler the Steelers in the same season?  Who does that?  Our Cincinnati Bengals, that's who.  Everyone knows the "defense wins championships" mantra.  It's repeated ad nauseum through every sports channel and publication.  Perhaps it bore no greater weight than in 2001 when the Baltimore Ravens rode Ray Lewis and Marvin Lewis' scheme to Super Bowl XXXVI and brought home a Lombardi.  The Cincinnati Bengals showed today that they have a defense that can trade punches with anyone else in the league.  They have a defense that can stop a dynamic offense in critical situations.  They have a defense that can command the outcome of a game by bending their will against anything that stands in their way.  There's one major difference between the 2001 Ravens and the 2009 Cincinnati Bengals though, readers. 

They had Trent Dilfer.  We have Carson Palmer.  We have Chad Ochocinco.  We have Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles.  We have Cedric Benson, and we have Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard to hold down the fort when Benson isn't able to be on the field.  We also have a big, strong, mean offensive line that has yet to add the SEC offensive lineman of the year in 2008. 

I said earlier in the week that I was already going to be upset if this incarnation of the Cincinnati Bengals failed to make the playoffs, but if they won today that I would be looking at bigger and better things. 

That day is today. 

~

The Bengals, though stifled on their first drive, continued their league-best streak to eighteen games without allowing an opening drive touchdown to their opponent.  The Steelers settled for a red-zone field goal on that opening drive, about which Bernard Scott quickly made everyone forget with an electrifying 96-yard kickoff return touchdown. I think it's safe to say that Andre Caldwell won't have to worry about returning kicks anymore.

The extra point attempt failed however when Clark Harris snapped the ball perfectly to Kevin Huber, who let the ball slip from his hands as he went to set it up for Graham's extra point attempt. 

Not many points were scored after that.  Specifically, a missed 51-yarder by Graham which would have likely been good from 56 or better had he not high the right upright led to four more field goals from Cincinnati and three more from Pittsburgh throughout the course of the game.  More or less, it was a backyard brawl or a streetfight or a Mixed Martial Arts smackdown.  Apply whichever cliché you would like to the game we watched our team win today. 

It was a classic AFC North football game, and the Cincinnati Bengals proved for the fourth time this season that they are the team to beat in that AFC North. 

Cedric Benson is reported to have a hip flexor strain and thinks he'll be ready for next week at Oakland.  For me it would be great if he is ready next week, but I personally would let Scott and Leonard (and maybe Fui Vakapuna) carry the load.  Scott made the most of his opportunity this afternoon and ran like the player that we heard he would be from those scouts who saw him at Abilene Christian.  He has a very, very high ceiling and if he continues to develop as he appears to be developing right now he will be the Bengals' running back of the future. 

Cedric Benson is the Bengals' running back of the present, and by all reports he should be ready to go sometime within the next three weeks of games that the Bengals should absolutely, positively, definitely win. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, if the Bengals do not let their foot off the gas pedal, if that defense continues to play at the level at which they played today, they will be 10-2 three weeks from now. 

Read it again and say it with me.  The Bengals will be ten and two three weeks from now. 

Once more.  The Bengals, your Cincinnati Bengals, will be ten and two three weeks from now. 

Yes, my friends and colleagues.  Things are very, very different.  And you know what? 

I could get used to this. 

Sincerely,

A Pragmatic Bengals Fan

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