Or, are the Browns just that bad?
One way or another, a lot of questions will be answered this week when the 3-1 Buffalo Bills, the leaders of the AFC East Division, come to town.
Those topics, and other issues of concern among Bengals’ fans, were discussed in this week’s version of The Flying Pigskin podcast, which is hosted by Tanya O’Rourke and featured panellist Keenan Singleton, along with guest Mo Egger, the host of Sports Talk on 1530 AM.
I was once again privileged to join the podcast and will continue to be a weekly feature.
Hue Jackson was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator for two years before leaving to take the head job with Cleveland last year. Jackson left behind a strong following in Cincinnati, and many of us can understand the pain he is going through all too well.
After all, the Bengals were the laughingstock of the NFL during the decade of the 90s before Marvin Lewis arrived to help turn things around.
Fortunately for the Bengals, Cleveland’s time is not here yet, and we are all so grateful for those Browns, against whom Cincinnati was finally able to get back on the winning track Sunday. Cleveland proved to be the perfect cure for the Bengals’ losing hangover.
Cincinnati’s offense, which showed signs of life during the first half of the Green Bay game, finally hit full stride against the Browns as we saw the re-emergence of the good Andy. Dalton at one point completed 16 straight passes en route to a 25-of-30 performance for 286 yards and four touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 146.
And it was an offense based on quick passes that took offensive line problems out of the equation and played to people’s strengths. And when Cincinnati did make a mistake early (the strip-sack of Dalton that gave Cleveland the ball deep in Bengals’ territory), things did not snowball out of control. In fact, Cincinnati’s defense rose up and held the Browns to a missed field goal attempt.
Sunday’s game also marked the return of the Bengals’ star linebacker, Vontaze Burfict. But, in a tribute to the defense, Burfict’s return was barely noticeable. Burfict came out and fit right in with a defense led by Nick Vigil and Vincent Rey and featuring the young guns of Carl Lawson, William Jackson, III and Jordan Willis.
On the offensive side, Dalton’s new-found confidence was infectious. Tyler Kroft had his biggest day as a pro with six receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns, his first two-touchdown day since high school. And Giovani Bernard’s 61-yard touchdown scamper on a screen play reminded everyone just how exciting he can be.
While the Bengals have shown clear improvement under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in the past two weeks, they will be severely tested this week when Buffalo brings what may be the NFL’s best defense to town.
No one was willing to call Cincinnati a playoff team just yet, but the Bengals have certainly gotten better, and there is hope that the season can be salvaged. Cincinnati is a three-point favorite over the Bills, and it would be a lot nicer to go into the break at 2-3 rather than 1-4. Beat Buffalo and at least the Bengals are back in the conversation.
But that will not be such an easy task. Buffalo comes to town fresh off a victory over the Atlanta Falcons, and also has a win against Denver on their resume. All of a sudden, a team that at least one sports writer accused of tanking just three weeks ago seems ready to make a statement.
The Bengals have looked like a different team over the past two weeks, and Sunday’s game gives them an opportunity to show that the Cleveland game was no fluke, and that they are truly ready to make a run.
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Be sure to tune in to The Flying Pigskin podcast this week, and every week hereafter. The show airs live every Monday afternoon. Who Dey! Who Day All Day!