When the Bengals fell to the Colts in the Wild Card round of last season's playoffs, it dropped Marvin Lewis to 0-6 in the playoffs as a head coach.
Lewis had finally had enough, and he vowed to change things up for this season in the hopes of the end result being different than his first 12 years as the Bengals' coach.
"We kinda restarted things,"Lewis told NFL.com's Albert Breer over the summer. "And I told the coaches after last season, 'We gotta find a different way.'"
A big reason why Lewis has never been able to win a playoff game is he's often been missing some of his best players. Last year, it was A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones, and Andre Smith missing against the Colts in the Wild Card game. The year prior, Leon Hall, Geno Atkins and Terence Newman were out against the Chargers. While injuries are no excuse in the NFL, it certainly makes life easier to win when your best players are healthy.
That's been evident this season as the Bengals are tied for the best start in franchise history at 6-0. Eifert, Jones, Atkins, Green, and Smith have all played in every game and helped power Cincinnati to their fast start, which has many pundits pegging them as a Super Bowl contender.
Speaking of fast starts, a big reason why the Bengals are undefeated is they've come out clicking on all cylinders in nearly every game thus far. They are outscoring opponents 76-39 in the first half this season to go with seven (out of a possible 12) first-half quarters in which they've not given up a touchdown. On offense, Cincinnati has scored at least a touchdown in all but two of the first two quarters this year.
Once the regular season began, it was revealed the Bengals would no longer go through a full practice on Friday as has been the case in year's past during Sunday game weeks. Teams playing on Sundays tend to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before getting a rest day on Saturday. This year, Cincinnati is limiting their Friday sessions to mostly just a weight room and strength period with the conditioning staff for what they're describing as "recovery and modality periods."
Then on Saturday, instead of what normally would be a walkthrough, they go through a quick and up-tempo practice session in hopes of better simulating a game-like atmosphere the day before games. It's safe to say that's helped somewhat with the Bengals' 6-0 start this season.
However, very little strain is put on the players in the Friday or Saturday session. As Lewis mentioned after a recent practice and as was reported on Bengals.com, the goal of each week is to have all the hardest part of the week completed by Thursday and have the next two days be more to keep the body warmed up for Sunday.
"We’re not getting as much push back from the coaches," Lewis said. "We’re finishing up our hardest part of the week 72 hours before we play a game, which we feel good about. The player really has an opportunity to work on his body. We go from the physical focus to the mental focus to the personal focus for him to get his body back to peak shape in order for him play his best on Sunday."
Lewis admits he's always looking for new ways to improve the way he coaches and manages his team, and this appears to be one of them.
All of this is little in the grand scheme of things. The players are what ultimately have made this year's team a great one. However, these modifications have made it easier for the team to keep playing great, something they've failed to do for a 17-week season and through a one-game of the playoffs.