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The Bengals’ season is much ado about nothing

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The Bengals suffered their fourth-straight loss on Sunday, dropping their record to 5-7.

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

What else can be said about the Cincinnati Bengals that hasn’t already been said? How else can we explain this disproportionate nightmare, which began when Antonio Brown broke free for a game-winning 31-yard touchdown reception?

They’ve been destroyed by Kansas City and New Orleans (two possible Super Bowl teams), lost by double-digits to Cleveland and Denver, and nearly suffered a defeat against the Buccaneers despite managing a 27-9 half-time lead.

This is a bad team. It’s a weak roster, roughed up by injuries and a severe lack of “next man up” success stories. They are mistake-prone, serving-up careless turnovers and excessive penalties. Is there anything we can take from this team and spin it into a positive?

Alcohol inappropriately helps dull some of the pain.

What doesn’t help, during the three-hour window you dedicate watching Bengals games, are the Bengals. Sports typically offers a break from reality. Not the Bengals. Not anymore. Reality has become a break from the Bengals.

Maybe it’s time we stop watching. A reasonable person would. Many of us have stopped going. But we can’t stop watching, can we? It’s an addiction. A car wreck. A combination of both. We’ve dedicated our lives to this. So the alcohol, the excessive eating, and other life-altering vices help us cope, and we plug away with a fool’s hope that change is beyond the horizon.

Right now, nothing seems to work now; each week feels worse than the last.

The offense is disturbingly bland; excessive penalties create significant to-go scenarios; the average to-go distance on third down was 13.7 yards; the average to-go distance on third down that they failed to convert was 18.4 yards.

With an offense managed by an inexperienced Jeff Driskel and an absent A.J. Green, it led to risky throws, including an intentional grounding that minimized the chance for one touchdown, and a floater that led to a turnover and an eventual 21-3 Broncos lead.

“He put the ball at risk, and you can’t do that,” Lewis said after the game. “He’s trying to throw the ball away, and you just can’t throw it away in the field of play. He’s got to understand that. He took a grounding down there in the red zone, and all those things (hurt). Again, you’ve got to play on time, and that’s what we’ll look at when evaluating him.”

In fairness to Driskel, Sunday marked his first career start and it went as expected. And despite his best efforts, Driskel couldn’t manage a functional offense while under a constant pass rush, largely because Von Miller was toying with poor Bobby Hart.

There was a complete breakdown on defense (despite a strong first half), culminating with a Phillip Lindsay 65-yard touchdown. Sam Hubbard generated a quarterback sack early, dropping a scrambling Case Keenum a yard shy of the line of scrimmage, but the pass rush was pedestrian until Jordan Willis recorded his first sack of the season (second of his 27 game career), when the game was largely decided. Lindsay ran over the Bengals defense with 157 yards rushing and two scores — another familiar theme.

The Marvin Lewis-led defense hasn’t resolved anything since Teryl Austin’s firing. Maybe we should just expect this defensive incompetency to continue.

Issues with special teams mount, including a muffed punt that led to Denver’s 14-3 lead early in the third quarter. To be fair, I’m not sure why they don’t fair catch every punt when most result in a penalty anyway. Even Kevin Huber struggled with a 21-yard punt early in the fourth.

At one point, they built momentum with a 30-yard Cody Core touchdown, reducing their deficit to 21-10. A forced fumble on Denver’s ensuing possession allowed Cincinnati to reach the Broncos 39-yard line. However, a Matt Lengel false start, the fourth by the Bengals on Sunday, created a to-go scenario impossible to convert.

Whatever hope remained for a late-season surge and postseason destinations, it’s gone now. This team isn’t very good; their talent is depleted, their backups aren’t ready for bigger shoes, and several high-value draft picks haven’t worked out.

There’s always next year, sure.

More needs to happen first.

It starts with a question regarding Marvin Lewis.