The One In Which I Start Growing A Playoff Beard: Bengals Clinch AFC North and Playoff Berth With 17-10 Victory

Well Bengal Nation, today was an eventful day.  First and foremost, our Cincinnati Bengals are a playoff team in 2009.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  Our Cincinnati Bengals are a playoff team in this 2009 football season.  For the second time in 19 years, we'll be watching football that is relevant to our interests in the second week in January, folks! 

In other news, next Sunday's Bengals-Jets game at the Meadowlands has been flexed to the Sunday night game, it will air at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.  Awesome. 

Oh, another thing.  This 2009 Bengals team is now the only Hard Knocks team to win their division the year they were featured on the show.  They're the only Hard Knocks team to make the playoffs since the Baltimore Ravens in 2001. 

Oh yeah, something else.  Today Cedric Benson set a franchise record by being the first Bengals running back to rush for 100 or more yards in six games in a single season.  So that's pretty cool too. 

Hit the jump, wouldja?

Once again today, the Bengals didn't win pretty.  You have to ask yourself though, who honestly expects a pretty Saints-esque (oh wait, they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today!) or Colts-esque (wait, you're kidding me.  They didn't lose to the Jets, did they?) win from this ball club.  The 45-10 thing of beauty we saw in the dismantling of the Chicago Bears was the exception to the 2009 edition of our favorite football team, clearly it was not the rule.  It is highly unlikely that we will see that kind of offensive output again until at least next season.  The philosophy just isn't there.  Maybe it was a reward for the turnaround the club has seen from Cedric Benson, but the Chicago game is the only time "unnecessary" points (if there were ever such an animal) have been put on the board. 

Every Sunday is the same formula.  Score points and keep the other team from doing the same.  If they do score, score again and stop them some more.  Easy peazy lemon squeezy.  It's a formula that just works.  And in case you didn't notice, it's worked to the tune of a 10-5 record through sixteen weeks of football and a division title that was earned by a win rather than the Ravens' loss today.  When those well-traveled cardboard boxes were opened in the locker room shortly after four p.m. today the boys had earned every last little bit of the enjoyment they surely got from donning their caps and tee shirts. 

The blue collar, workman-type atmosphere prevails even in the face of Mike Brown's third division title.  I was able to get a decent enough signal on my car radio after the game while making a pharmacy run for my wife that I could hear a decent bit of the post game show on WLW.  It was a happy atmosphere I heard behind the talking heads, but I didn't hear champagne corks popping or raucous revelry.  This is a team that knows they still have a ton of work to do before their goal is realized.  They are now in the playoffs.  As the youngest team in the NFL, they are a playoff team. 

If they have anything to say about it, that won't be the end of their story. 

Did I see things that I didn't care for today?  You bet your sweet patootie I did.  The penalties remain.  I think we're going to have to just expect them at this point.  The only thing that really surprises me today is knowing that there is a team in the NFL that has committed more false starts than our Bengals. 

Watching Kansas City waltz down the field to tie the ballgame at 3 before halftime (in an eerily similar fashion to the way San Diego put the nail in the coffin last week) was troublesome to say the least.  I bear full ownership of the loss of Rey Maualuga, as today was the gameday christening of my alternate-orange 58 Maualuga jersey.  Not having him in there will definitely hurt, but hopefully he'll be back in fighting shape well prior to next season and he'll be ready to either retake his post at SAM or take over the middle. 

Let's look at something though, shall we?  The Bengals have lost Roy Williams and Antwan Odom for the year like, forever ago.  They've played the last several weeks without Domata Peko.  They've played the last couple of weeks without Chris Crocker

Without those four starters from the beginning of the year and dealing with the loss of Rey Maualuga during the game today, they held a team that hung 34 on Cleveland last week to ten points. The best part is Domata Peko is expected back next week and Chris Crocker isn't far off either. 

~

This is the point in which we as fans need to really get serious; we as fans need to really take stock of the big picture. 

Last year, our Bengals went 4-11-1. 

This year, the worst they'll be able to do is 10-6 and a playoff appearance. 

That's what I call a good time in my book.  Not only that, but this is now a football team that is built to improve over the years rather than fizzle out like we saw after 2005-2006.  This is a team that should be better next year than they are this year.  Of course that's a good thing because their schedule will be much harder next year than it has been in 2009. 

Look, we're going to have all week to complain about the penalties and the offensive's stagnant proclivities.  I get that, I really do.  Bear with me here for a few minutes though, wouldja? 

Let's congratulate our boys on a well-deserved AFC North Division Title! 

Now all I have to do is figure out whether I want to stick with my current gameday ensemble.  Orange Maualuga jersey with longsleeved "bUCkeye State" UC Bearcats undershirt with 2009 Second Season Bengals sideline cap is undefeated at 1-0. 

WHO-DEY !

A Pragmatic Bengals Fan

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