Most teams sitting at 3-5-1 in the midst of an NFL season would be out of the playoff mix and working toward a rebuild.
For the Bengals, they’re stuck in the middle thanks to a poor showing by the AFC North overall this year. With the 5-4 Ravens leading the division, the Bengals are just two wins away from taking over the division, but with so little time remaining this season, Dre Kirkpatrick knows the time to start winning is now.
"We're running out of time," Kirkpatrick told ESPN following Monday’s 21-20 loss to the Giants. "At the end of the day, with some of the teams losing, that puts us in a decent situation. But we have to get out wins. We have to execute when the opportunity is there."
With Baltimore facing Dallas next week before hosting Cincinnati in Week 11, the Bengals could potentially win their next two games and take over the division lead in the blink of an eye. That’ if the Steelers lose one of their next two games.
But after Monday’s loss, we’re just about at the point where Cincinnati can afford one, maybe two more losses in their final seven games if they want to win the division. It’s hard to see both the Ravens and Steelers finishing with less than nine wins
And with seven games left, getting to nine wins means Cincinnati must start stringing wins together, something they’ve been unable to do this year. Kirkpatrick knows this, and he stressed the need for more urgency from his team after Monday’s loss.
"It's about to be too late to talk about going back to the drawing board," Kirkpatrick said. "We've got to get this s--- down now."
What made Monday’s loss even more frustrating is that Kirkpatrick was actually a big reason why the Bengals had a chance to beat the Giants. Kirkpatrick had one of his best games as a Bengal, which included a great diving interception in the first half that gave the Bengals a 1st-and-goal they should have converted into a touchdown.
"The frustration for me is very high right now, because I don't care about interceptions," Kirkpatrick said. "The only thing I care about winning, I've been winning ever since I started playing this game. For us not to win this game that we needed, it's heartbreaking."
This season has easily been one of the most frustrating of Andrew Whitworth’s tenure in stripes, which includes just two seasons in which the Bengals lost double-digit games and three losing seasons since 2006.
"Guys are definitely frustrated. ... Guys are working their tails off," Whitworth said. "It's not a Monday to Sunday problem. Guys are working their butts off at the facility all day and they're trying to find a way to win. For whatever reason we just can't get it to bounce our way."
But maybe we shouldn’t be surprised the ball finally isn’t bouncing the Bengals’ way like it has in the past. Cincinnati has seemingly lost every close game this season, which includes four contests in which the Bengals either led (Broncos, Washington, Giants) or were down by just one score in the fourth quarter (Steelers, Patriots).
Even Whit admits that the ball just hasn’t bounced the Bengals’ way this year as much as it did in year’s past, which is why the have just three wins and not five or six.
“I could go back over the past five or six years,” Whitworth told Bengals.com. “As good as people think we’ve been, there have been a lot of games that we eked out there at the end. Another team made a mistake and a lucky break went our way.”
You’d hate to see this season continue the way it’s going and end up being the final one in which we see Kirkpatrick and Whitworth in Bengals stripes. Both are free agents after this year, and Whit is at that age where retirement is a possibility every year.
And with other corners on the roster, including first-round pick William Jackson III, the Bengals may not value Kirkpatrick as much as other teams will, so it’s possible he leaves next offseason.