The Bengals’ Sunday win in Atlanta would have been fun to watch at home on the couch.
But it was so much more fun to watch in person with plenty of other Bengals fans invading Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
When I found out that Syracuse football (go Cuse!) was playing Clemson on the same weekend the Bengals were playing the Falcons, I checked out a map (my geography skills are really bad) and when it was confirmed that the two games were just a short drive apart, I knew the trip was meant to be. I flew from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday. Then drove to the Clemson area in South Carolina on Friday night and continued on from Clemson to Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday night.
Syracuse almost pulled off a major upset over Clemson, and honestly I’ll take the 27-23 loss. I wasn’t expecting a win when visiting the No. 3 team in the country in a place referred to as Death Valley. Honestly, I was kind of expecting to leave early in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss to start driving to Atlanta. Clemson was 25 point favorites going into the game.
Our seats were amazing, we had a great time, and Syracuse was winning for all but about one minute of the game. Does that make the loss tougher? When considering my expectations going in, not really. Syracuse football hasn’t been good in so long, that this is a really exciting time for the team. That remains true even now that the Orange is boasting a 4-1 record not a 5-0 record like you Ohio State, Cincinnati and Kentucky fans can say of your teams. (And congrats, to you all! But maybe less so for OSU, you guys have had enough success.)
So, Syracuse lost and then it was time to move onto Atlanta to watch the Bengals take on the Falcons. Upon arriving in Atlanta, we ran into a bunch of players. Dre Kirkpatrick and Joe Mixon were both happy to chat and Mixon said he hopes to be back next week. It certainly seems like he will be (more on that later).
When out to dinner, Clayton Fejedelem was sitting right next to us with his girlfriend. He didn’t look like he wanted to be bothered, though a young fan did adorably come up to him to ask for his autograph. He of course obliged, signing the fan’s jersey.
A lot of the players were with family members in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night including C.J. Uzomah who was proudly wearing a hockey jersey. Carlos Dunlap also was out to dinner with his family, who seem to attend just about every game.
On Sunday morning, we navigated our way to a Bengals fan tailgate, which was honestly not an easy task. There are a lot of parking lots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and not a lot of informed workers to guide you there, despite there being a huge number of workers in general. We were given incorrect directions about five times before finally finding a police officer to point us correctly to our destination. There, some of the people involved in Bengal Bomb Squad were hosting a tailgate alongside a few Falcons fans. On the way there, we encountered tons of Bengals fans and it was great to see so much Cincinnati support in the south. (It also always amazes me how many Bengals fans don’t know about Cincy Jungle; so, tell a friend about the site!!)
We joined in on some Bengals vs. Falcons themed shots (one called “Falcon piss” which was a lot better than it sounds) and then headed into the Falcons’ bright and shiny new stadium. This stadium is amazing and definitely the nicest NFL stadium I’ve ever visited. On top of that, everything inside is fairly priced, even bordering on ‘oh my god, this is so cheap.’ I live in New York, so I’m used to everything being really expensive, but $2 hot dogs and $2 refillable soft drinks at a football game are really unheard of. Even the beers were less than $10 each.
We met up with more Bengals fans inside the stadium to watch the team warm up. The players were all getting loose and having a good time. Dunlap really does not stop dancing; at all. That continued during the game, too. Between plays both Dunlap and Kirkpatrick were constantly on the move, busting out dance moves.
Mixon was ruled out well in advance of the game but he was on the field and having fun with his teammates. Eventually Chad Johnson came out to say hello to some Bengals players, coaches and trainers. Everyone wanted to get in their conversations with one of the greatest Bengals of all time. He chatted with Marvin Lewis for a while as well as A.J. Green, Mixon, Dunlap, John Ross and others. There were a lot of photos taken.
Once in our seats, we were happily seated next to two other Bengals fans and among at least 30 Cincinnati faithful in our section. Our seats were in the center of the end zone in which Tyler Eifert scored his first and only touchdown of the season and where Giovani Bernard scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns on Sunday. When Bernard scored, Mixon was the first to greet him in the end zone; happily celebrating the touchdown together. I mean it when I say Mixon was the Bengals’ No. 1 cheerleader on Sunday. He was constantly there celebrating with his teammates and cheering on the Bengals. It was awesome to see, though hopefully he’ll be back celebrating his own plays next weekend. It certainly looks like he will be. On Saturday night and during the pre-game warm ups Mixon wasn’t wearing a brace or anything on his knee, but during Sunday’s game, there was a brace on his injured knee.
The two aforementioned touchdown plays were great to see up close, but that meant the view of the end zone where Ross scored and where Green reeled in the game-winning grab was not all that great.
When Dalton threw Green the game-winning touchdown, the Falcons’ scoreboard operator failed to put the points on the board for the Bengals for what felt like an eternity. We saw the touchdown from afar, we screamed, we cheered, but then we kept looking around wondering if the play was being reviewed or if the Falcons employee in charge of the scoreboard just wanted to hold off on letting fans in Atlanta know the Bengals likely won the game. I was going
a little bit crazy and this is me in that moment; the woman next to me gave me one of her pom poms prior to the final offensive drive to cheer along with.
Who dey!!! Today is a good day. pic.twitter.com/zVqZRx8Tvr— Rebecca Toback (@Rebecca_Toback) September 30, 2018
Finally, the points were put on the board, and moments later the Bengals officially won the game. It capped off a great day and even better weekend of football.
The Bengals are 3-1 and have six of their next eight games at home. Things are looking good for Cincinnati and it was great to be in Atlanta for such an exciting win.