No, no. Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings didn't have major playoff implications. It wasn't as if beating the Minnesota Vikings opened the only road into the 2009 playoffs. And even though the San Diego Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys to take a one-game lead over the Bengals for the second seed in the AFC, Cincinnati could win next Sunday and take over that second seed.
So in the grande scheme of things, Sunday's loss to the Vikings really is meaningless. Right?
OK, that's out of the way.
Let me ask you this. After watching the Vikings win all three phases of the game the way they did Sunday, how confident are you right now that the Bengals will beat the Chargers, or any playoff team? Can the Bengals compete against the Indianapolis Colts? The Denver Broncos? The New England Patriots? Are they one and done in the playoffs?
So say I'm not confident right now would be an understatement. The Bengals played the best team they've faced this year and they choked. They wrecked their brand new car on a clean dry road. You can not claim to be a playoff football team and commit twice as many penalty yards (35) than total yards on offense (16) in the first quarter against another playoff-bound team. You can not claim to be a good football team when you allow the opposing team to start at their own 38-yard line. You can not claim to be a good football team when you allow the other team five straight scores. You can not claim to be a good football team when you fumble the football right before half time, giving the opposing team a free shot at three more points.
But it's the Minnesota Vikings. They're pretty good. That's exactly my point. How good are we when we have to lay an excuse out there because the Bengals were smoked by a team that had only recorded one more win this season when the two teams faced? Where did we stack up against them? We were kicked to the curb. Told like dogs to sit and stay.
Normally, I'd write this off as just having a bad game. I'd say, "oh, don't worry about it, we'll rebound." And perhaps we will. However, I don't have the confidence that we're anywhere near being a competitive playoff-bound football team. Can the Bengals offense go a complete half without committing penalties that often stall drives? Can the Bengals actually pass the football for over 100 yards when the running game is ineffective? Can the Bengals actually score in the red zone?
You can quote how this is a passing league, and toss gaudy passing numbers to everyone as an indication of what it takes to be successful in this league, this year. To me, that's not the point. To me, a passing offense has to be effective and efficient. And since beating the Chicago Bears 45-10, this passing offense isn't effective. It's embarrassing. It's depressing. Let's face facts. The way Cincinnati is playing right now, if the Bengals fall behind by two scores, they're in trouble.
You can ignore Sunday's loss because in reality, it means little in the playoff picture. But you can't ignore that gut in your feeling that this team isn't built for a run in the playoffs. You can't ignore that feeling in your gut that you have no confidence, the pessimistic view of what was Cincinnati football during the 90s is reaching another boiling point. OK, a bit over-dramatic. But you feel it too, don't you?
So go ahead, call me spoiled. I'm not happy about a 9-4 football team that's still bound for the playoffs. I really don't mind. I think I am spoiled. Then again, would we be fans if we weren't spoiled, expecting this team to at least come out and play their asses off with the perception that they believe they can win and translate that into good football?
To me, Wyche presents the best description of the Cincinnati Bengals. He accurately writes, "There is an incredible aura around the Bengals that the trap door is just one step ahead and this franchise isn't aware or nimble enough to avoid it."
Cincinnati's offense, though, is like watching a lumberjack trying to saw down a Redwood with a butter knife. The Vikings' defense is good, really good, but the Bengals -- other than Benson running like a man on a mission -- made things relatively easy for them by taking no downfield shots in the passing game and showing minimal creativity.
It's throwback football for sure, which is fine. But when you fall behind by 16 points against a really good team, throwforward football might come in handy.
Paul Daugherty believes that by the second round in the playoffs, the Bengals will be watching on TV.
Chick Ludwig writes, "I was looking for poise. I was looking for consistency. I was expecting a victory. The Bengals delivered none of the above."
The realist in me says that Joe Reedy's post-game grades were spot on. The fan in me thinks that his grades were a bit generous.
Clark Judge wrote:
As our correspondent, Darren Wolfson, pointed out, Joseph "put on a clinic" against his former teammate. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis once told me he thought Joseph was one of the top cornerbacks in the league, and he just might be right.