One would imagine that a major inspiration for the Cincinnati Bengals to beat the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday was to ensure their No. 3 seed and a possible first-round bye, had the football gods smiled a little brighter. Instead a heavy rain storm drenched Cincinnati's chances for the second seed. Instead, Cincinnati will host the San Diego Chargers next week.
But it wasn't a motivation. Nor was it about going undefeated at home. Not at all.
"This game wasn't about being 8-0 home, it was about respect," Andrew Whitworth said via Bengals.com.
"We've won the division but I don't think anybody thought we'd win. They thought Baltimore would come in here and beat us again. I think people don't look at us in the same light as they do Pittsburgh and Baltimore. When we lose, they say, 'We told you so.' When they lose they say, 'They'll get it fixed and they'll be back.' We don't have respect as good as we are.
"Not only is this team really talented, if it starts to play the way that commands respect we'll be hard for a lot of people to handle. Until we hold that trophy, we won't have enough (respect)," Whitworth admits.
Bengals safety Chris Crocker recorded a quarterback sack for a defense that generated three interceptions and only allowed a desperate Ravens team 222 yards on offense Sunday. "We were the bullies today," said Crocker.
The demand for respect and their domination over the Ravens is translating into a significant amount of confidence heading into the playoffs -- something they've lacked in each of their last four appearances during the Marvin Lewis era. In each of those seasons, the Bengals lost, save for '12 when the Bengals and Ravens finished the regular season finale primarily played by backup players. And in '05 and '09, they sat most of their starters but were blown out against teams vying for a postseason berth.
Cincinnati has lost in the first round every season that they've made it, looking for their first playoff win since beating the Houston Oilers on January 6, 1991. They lost the next game in Oakland in a game that Bo Jackson suffered a career-ending hip injury. Many older Bengals fans call the current drought without any playoff wins, the Bo Jackson curse.
"I feel better about this team going to the playoffs then I ever have," said Crocker via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "When we show up and when we want to play we are hard to beat. Years past, we squeaked in last year. We squeaked in the year before that. We ran into the playoffs this year. To come out 11-5, that’s hard. You don’t just win 11 games by getting lucky."
"We’re a step better (than last year)," said Whitworth. "The last two years if we cut the tape back I've told y’all this team is better every time we step on the field. I feel like every time we come out we do something better. Today we finally cleared the hurdle of starting bad on offense but bouncing back and running away from the game. We've gone 9-7, 10-6 and now we’we've gone 11-5. Every time this team has hit the field its gotten better."
They're feeling it.