This Sunday's 4:15 game against Baltimore is crucial. The playoffs have already begun in the Nati, and for the first time that I can remember the cats' claws are coming out when it matters.
- Maualuga has turned into a consistent force both against the run, and in coverage.
- Geno Atkins is becoming arguably the best undersized tackle in the league.
- A decimated secondary is staying competitive and scrappy.
- and of course... A.J. and Andy
In our '09 playoff appearance under Palmer and The Brat, and also to a lesser extent their first playoff appearance, I could feel a sense impending doom coming from the fan community. This was most likely due to the way we backed into the playoffs on a bad streak after securing the division early.
The Houston loss could have been leading us down that same path, but instead of blowing their last opportunity to keep the season alive like Palmer had done against Buffalo so many times, Dalton & Co. came ready to play the next week and reclaimed their right to the playoffs.
Regardless of whether or not we win at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, this season has undoubtedly been one of positive change. You hate to hear your team call their season a "transition year" or go into "rebuilding mode", and those words weren't really used by those within the organization. But thats just what we've done this year. No more quick fixes like Antwan Odom, Terrell Owens, or Ben Utecht. The Bengals are now being retooled with draft picks and college free agents who are developed in the system from the ground up (or young, high-potential, second-chancers the likes of Reggie Nelson, Ced Benson, and perhaps eventually Taylor Mays).
Thanks to a small holiday bonus I'll be at my first game of the year on Sunday to witness this team's first do-or-die moment, and by the plays we've seen so far this year, (including both The Flip and The Flop (Thank you AirMail Simpson for the most entertaining Bengals moments since long before the arrival of OchoDance-o)), these players have a lot more to do-for than to die-for. The carrot still dangles from a string in their faces, unlike the prepaid monster contracts which used to lead this team.