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Breaking down the Bengals season -- game by game

We know the negatives. They are promoted, and will be promoted, on this site. But there were some positives that came from a disastrous season that took high expectations and converted that energy into a powerful explosion of Bengals fan rage. Well, I honestly can only think of two. The Bengals knocked the Browns chances of a playoff berth. The off-season finished with a two-game winning streak. While the season itself was awful, the Bengals did do some good at the end of the season building momentum for 2008.

But let's go through each game quickly monitoring the points that made the season what it was.

THE GAME THE BENGALS FORCED SIX TURNOVERS, PART I. The Bengals hosted the Baltimore Ravens on the first Monday Night Football game of the year. The vaunted Bengals defense forced four fumbles and two picks. I was dumb enough to believe that this game would forecast a season of similar games. And it did. Only with the Ravens. The Bengals won 27-20 and the season was off to a perfect 1-0 start. This season was going to be awesome!!!

THE GAME THAT SET DESTINYS. In a sense, this was the game that showcased a sum of both team's season. The Bengals offense scored 45 points with 531 total net yards. And they lost coming up six points and 23 yards short. Not even a shower of tasty Budweiser would accelerate forgetful minds. It propelled the Browns to a 10-6 season while the Bengals came one win short of finishing 8-8 for the fourth time in five seasons. The silver lining was that the rematch had implications that simply made Bengals fans smile.

THE GAME THAT WAS LOST ON KICKOFF RETURN. At this point in the season, I was big on the offense. We just scored 45 points the week before and 27 points over a perceived "tough" Ravens defense. Give us one possession to end the game and we could either win or tie the game. Either way, we'd score. It wouldn't end at 24-21. Glenn Holt says, "Oh, yea?" Holt fumbled a kickoff with over a minute left in the game after the Seahawks offense went 60 yards on seven plays in 1:42 scoring the game's eventual winning score. Cincinnati started cursing that made Hell's Angels blush.

THE GAME AGAINST A TEAM NO ONE BEAT. We really didn't know what the Patriots were about yet. It was only the fourth week and 16-0 is rarely on anyone's radar this early in the season. In reflection, holding the Patriots to just 34 points and 404 total net yards was a victory in itself considering our defense isn't, well, great. While Tom Brady suffered his second-season interception in this game at the hands of Leon Hall, it was a career backup running back that's touring with his third AFC East team that assured a loss. Sammy Morris' 7-yard touchdown run on the Patriots first second-half possession gave them a 24-7 lead that all but sealed New England's win. This was also the game that Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer bickered back and forth heading into the lockerroom at half-time. We're not sure if that argument was ever settled.

THE GAME THAT JARAD ALLEN MADE LEVI JONES CRY. Levi Jones, our super-stud high-salary left tackle, was quickly pulled from the Bengals 27-20 loss to the Chiefs after allowing defensive end Jarad Allen to record three first half sacks -- one on third down, one forced a fumble. Though before the sacks, the Bengals offense started well. On the Bengals first possession of the game, Palmer completed a 42-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Before that play, Kenny Watson picked up 19 yards. It took the Bengals four plays to record 73 in two minutes taking a 7-3 lead. It would be the last time the Bengals would score a touchdown until there was five minutes left in the fourth quarter reducing a 17-point deficit. This was also the game that Tony Gonzalez set the touchdown record for tight ends. The team decided to cover the hall-of-fame tight end with never-played-linebacker Robert Geathers.

THE GAME THAT ACTUALLY INSPIRED. Let's face facts. It wouldn't be proper to describe the Bengals as comeback kids. But at one point, the Bengals were down 23-10 after Mike Nugent kicked a 43-yard field goal with four minutes expired in the third quarter. Then T.J. Houshmandzadeh caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Palmer. Kenny Watson scored two touchdowns and Johnathan Joseph returned a 42-yard interception to the house. Of the 28 second-half points, the Bengals scored 21 in the fourth quarter in the 38-31 win over the Jets. Watson's day: 31 carries, 130 yards, three touchdowns.

THE GAME I PREDICTED. This was the game I sat and predicted each possession at the audible sigh of my visiting cousin. Willie Parker ran for 126 yards, Hines Ward scored two touchdowns and Carson Palmer had a 6.6 yards-per-attempt average. What's that spell? L-O-S-S, loss, loss, loss.

THE GAME THAT RUNNING BACKS DICTATED. Marshawn Lynch recorded 153 rushing yards on 29 attempts. He rushed for a touchdown and completed an eight-yard touchdown pass. Lynch single-handedly beat the Bengals. J.P. Losman's efficient day was a secondary note. It also didn't help that the Watson and Rudi Johnson combined for 13 rushes for 22 yards in the 33-21 display the Bills put on. It wasn't that way early. Glenn Holt scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and the Bengals took a 14-13 lead into half-time. Then the Bengals lost 20-7 in the second-half.

THE GAME THE BENGALS FORCED SIX TURNOVERS, PART II. Question: What do you get when Kyle Boller replaces Steve McNair? Victory, brother. This was also the game that Chris Henry returned from his eight-game suspension and the game that we shifted our attention towards a seventh-round rookie named Nedu Ndukwe. This was the game that the Bengals improved their record to 3-6 after beating the Ravens 21-7 providing a small hope at a playoff run -- yea, in fantasy land. Still, if the Bengals won out, with a win over the Titans, they'd be in. But hindsight is an evil, evil frame of mind.

THE GAME THAT REMINDS US THAT WE'RE SO NOT GOING POST-SEASON. I mean no ill-will towards any Arizona Cardinals fan. But there's no way the Bengals should have lost to the Cardinals. Even with a disappointing 3-6 record. Carson Palmer proved me wrong throwing four interceptions -- two returned for scores. The Bengals dominated the time of possession recording 396 total net yards. The defense allowed only 247 yards. The Bengals committed 11 fouls -- so did the Cardinals. The Bengals turned the ball over five times. The Cardinals didn't turn it over once. In a game the Bengals dominated every aspect except turnovers, the Bengals lost 35-27.

THE GAME THAT THE BENGALS SHOWED THEY CAN BE GREAT. When they want to be, of course. The Bengals took it to the Titans in a 35-6 smoking of a wild card team. When a team's offense is primarily rushing the ball against a defense known for suspect (nice word, huh?) rush defense, then we expect the worst. Hey, we're Cincinnati fans. It is what it is. Instead, the Bengals held Chris Brown, LenDale White and Vince Young to 18 carries for 62 yards. It's a formula to winning by 29 points -- especially against a quarterback that you feel comfortable putting 11 guys in the box. Palmer went 32/38 for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Rudi Johnson recorded his second game of the season over 80 yards rushing. This was also Rudi Johnson's first touchdown of the season. Everything came together. And it made us realize that the Bengals can win any game they want to, when they want to. This was the game that Boomer Esiason made it a point to find faults with the team after dominating offensively and defensively.

THE GAME THAT THE BENGALS FELL HARD BACK TO EARTH. What happens when the Bengals play the most complete game of their season? They remind us that they really stink as a football team. It didn't help that the assist came from eventual AFC North Champions -- the Pittsburgh Steelers -- in a 24-10 beat down. Carson Palmer had one of his most ineffective games of his career. It's not that he lost the game. But passing 44 times and completing only 17 never helps. This was the game that Hines Ward became Pittsburgh's all-time touchdown reception leader after catching 11 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns.

THE GAME THAT WE ACTUALLY BEAT A TEAM WORSE THAN US. There's no doubt that the Bengals play down to their competition. About this time of the year, I was freaking, literally freaking, that the Dolphins would head into week 17 without a win. Eventually, it didn't matter. The Bengals faced a first-time starting, number three quarterback. Brock Berlin had a day that's very atypical of St. Louis quarterbacks. This was also the game that Rudi Johnson reminded us that he still has it. Of course, that would be challenged, again, later. This was the fifth straight game that the Bengals didn't allow a 100-yard rusher after beating the Rams 19-10.

THE GAME THAT WE LOST TO A TEAM WORSE THAN US. What do you get when you're the unfortunate soul that has to deal with Shawn Hill? An embarrassing, and I mean embarrassing, 20-13 loss to the awful San Francisco 49ers on Saturday Night Football. Thankfully the game was called by Bryant Gumbel -- who takes embarrassing to a whole new level. Freshman Al Gore will be a sophomore next season.

THE GAME SIMILAR TO BEATING THE MICHIGAN WOLVERINES. What's a successful Ohio State season that doesn't end with a National Championship bid? A win over Michigan. Even with a losing record, beating Michigan is still better than finishing with a great record, but losing to Michigan.We don't think, even though we finish with a great record, that the season was successful. No. We think about beating them next season. That game truly does make or break the spirit of an Ohio State fan.

So, home state rivals play after a 51-45 shootout that defined each team's season. Derek Anderson throws four picks. Kenny Watson rushes 30 times for 130 yards and a score. Palmer only attempted 21 passes. The Bengals beat the Browns and Cleveland doesn't go to the playoffs with a 10-6 season. A season that ends 7-9 doesn't suddenly hurt so much.

THE GAME THAT BUILDS MOMENTUM FOR 2008. When the Dolphins won their first game of the season only weeks before, the entire Bengals nation breathed so hard with relief, that Miami felt Hurricane Bengals came ashore unannounced -- hidden on Doppler 9,000. The Bengals go into the offseason with a billion questions riding high on the team's first two-game winning streak of the season.

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