The Cincinnati Bengals suck during primetime games. And they don't have any shortages of excuses for those primetime time woes.
This is the narrative.
You've heard about them, cried about it and suffered (not nearly as much) but in your own right. Since the introduction of the Andy Dalton and A.J. Green era, the Bengals are 2-9 in games played during the lights and in the postseason. Yes - you should combine primetime games into postseason performances, largely because the same systemic issues always surface. The comical display of big-game Bengals has reached a point that irrational fandom no longer apply, "They'll do it this time" and sticks to the pessimistic theme.
Earlier this year, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth called it the mechanism of a bored media.
"That's one of those things that I think honestly is more of a national media, outside media thing to hold over us," said Whitworth prior to New England's 43-17 loss on Sunday Night Football. "It's like somebody wants to find some way to doubt you when the truth is, we've won our division, we've gotten better every single year, our record has gotten better every single year."
Over their last 11 Sunday Night games, the Bengals have won once.
While the team faces the media on Thursday for Monday Night's game against the Denver Broncos, the narrative took a far more direct approach.
The Bengals suck in primetime. It's time to answer the question... why?
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis points to the opposing quarterback and how great they usually play with little impact from Cincinnati's defense.
"The other team’s quarterback has played better. We haven’t had any effect on the other team’s quarterback," Lewis said via Bengals.com. "Their rating has been about 100, and that’s huge. We've turned the football over; we've given up plays in other parts of the game that have hurt us in those games. That makes a huge difference. So we haven't done a very good job of defending the other team’s quarterback, we haven’t made enough plays effectively on offense, we haven’t been very good on third down in some of those games, and they make a big difference."
Bengals safety George Iloka puts his money into the pile that says defense:
Iloka chose to look at the run defense as he reviewed the 43-17 loss to the Patriots on Oct. 5 on Sunday night and the 24-3 loss to the Browns on Nov. 6. They gave up 220 yards on the ground in New England and 170 more at home against Cleveland with Iloka disputing they came out flat.
"I would never say we came out flat. I would say that we just didn’t stop the run. One thing that can demoralize a team real quick is not stopping the run, because that’s like you’re getting physically punished and beat up," Iloka said. "That can make you turn flat or lose your spirit. I don’t think any of us came out flat. The common denominator was that we didn’t stop the run, and that can take our spirit away as a defense.
To Iloka, this season, it's been about stopping the run.
"Only thing I would say is common in both (New England and first Cleveland) games is we didn’t stop the run. You stop the run, prime time, non-prime time, Super Bowl or not the Super Bowl you have a better chance to succeed and win so that’s going to be our main objective come Monday: try to stop the run first and do our best job against the pass."
ESPN's Coley Harvey tries to shy the narrative away from Dalton, writing that "the issues the Bengals have had extend far beyond the quarterback. Sure, he's had his hand in some of the troubles, but the entire team hasn't been good on the national stage the last four seasons. "
Saying that Dalton has "had his hand in some of the troubles" is a massive understatement but Harvey is correct in assigning blame with Cincinnati's rush defense, the limited impact they've had against opposing quarterbacks and Cincinnati's own running backs... everything that players speculated on while being grilled about it on Thursday afternoon.
"Until we do it, you guys are going to keep writing about it. So it doesn't matter what I say or what I think, at the end of the day, we just have to go out and do it," offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says.
Yep. And fans are going to bitch about it.
That's the narrative now and it's up to the team to fix it or deal with this again, and again, and again.