If you’re a Bengals fan, you know the national media never gives Cincinnati credit.
34 points, primetime win, 2-0, beating a division rival. None of that is enough for the national media to be impressed by the Cincinnati Bengals.
As for me, I’m impressed. The offense slowed down in the second half, Andy Dalton didn’t throw a touchdown in the second half. The defense allowed some big plays that shouldn’t have happened. But a win is a win. And a 34-23 victory is nothing to turn your nose at. In fact, the last team to score 34 or more points in the first two weeks of the season went all the way to the (dare I say it) SUPER BOWL.
So while we enjoy a 2-0 record and a long weekend of watching stress-free football, let’s take a look at what the national media are saying about the Bengals after their take down of the Ravens on Thursday Night Football.
CBS Sports’ Kevin Skiver was happy to see A.J. Green join Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown in the three touchdown game club.
A.J. Green has had plenty of huge games for the Bengals, so Thursday night’s 34-23 win over the Ravens in which he caught five passes for 69 yards and three touchdowns isn’t shocking. Still, it was Green’s first three-touchdown game, a feat that Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. -- two receivers often mentioned in a tier above Green -- have already pulled off.
Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith is worried John Ross is going to be eliminated from the Bengals’ game plans after he failed to make an impact in Week 2.
Last year Ross didn’t catch a single pass, so you could argue that he’s making progress. But he still has a long way to go, and the Bengals, who are 2-0 without him, may decide that phasing him out of the offense is the way to go.
CBS Sports’ Sean Wagner-McGough makes a really strange argument about how the Bengals and Ravens could fight for a wild card spot down the line, despite the Steelers’ inability to beat the Browns. So it’s like he’s saying the Steelers are bad, but the Bengals still aren’t good enough to win the division, despite their 2-0 record. OK...
Week 2 is only just beginning, but in a 17-week season, divisional showdowns in the NFL can often feel like playoff type of games regardless of when they’re written into the calendar. The two teams don’t like each other. Both entered the game with 1-0 records. Don’t be surprised if they’re fighting each other for a wild-card spot come December. Again, it’s early, but considering both teams are situated in the same division as the Steelers, who somehow tied the lowly Browns in Week 1, this was as big as Week 2 games get.
ESPN’s Katherine Terrell says the Bengals are still searching for their identity, but if they’re going to win every week, I don’t really mind them having an identity problem.
The Bengals are two games into the season and remain somewhat of a mystery. They’ve shown flashes of brilliance, but they haven’t put it together in any sort of consistent fashion. Quarterback Andy Dalton looked as sharp as ever when throwing for four touchdowns in the first half against the Ravens, and then he led the offense to five straight punts starting at the 1:22 mark of the second quarter.
On the post-game show, the NFL Network crew interviewed Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, and Steve Smith Sr. gave the QB-WR duo a big apology.
“I have to apologize,” Smith Sr. said. “I didn’t pick you guys, and so I’d like to say congratulations. I doubted you guys and I don’t want to get up here and act like it. I didn’t pick you guys, but I just want to make sure I say it face-to-face so you guys know. I’m not ashamed to admit when I’m wrong. I’m not wrong a lot. But I was wrong BIG time.”
Sports Illustrated’s Ben Baskin wasn’t convinced by the Bengals in their win over the Ravens. He sees the AFC North being anyone’s division to win:
All this means, really, is that nobody is coming out of this game looking like the clear class of the division. With the Steelers looking vulnerable after tying Cleveland last week in an extremely ugly game, and conversely the Browns looking at least somewhat competent, this division may not give us the most visually pleasing football to watch this year, but with four competitive, inconsistent teams it will still be fascinating to see how the standings play out going forward.
Cincinnati native, former Bengals fan and NFL.com Around the NFL writer Chris Wesseling had some nice things to say about the team he abandoned being a fan of:
What a difference a year makes in the Queen City. The Bengals controlled the trenches on both sides, pushing the Ravens blockers around on defense and keeping Dalton sack-free for four quarters on offense. Their up-tempo pace also had Baltimore’s defensive line tapping out from exhaustion on several occasions.
SB Nation’s Adam Stites is actually buying into the Bengals quite a bit, though he admits it’s still early.
Cincinnati has been in the top half of the NFL in points allowed in each of the last seven seasons, but has struggled to force turnovers as of late. In 2017, the Bengals had 14 takeaways, making them second-to-last in the category ahead of only the Browns, who had 13. Just two games into the 2018 season, the Bengals have already forced five turnovers. Second-round rookie Jessie Bates came up with one of them Thursday when he intercepted Joe Flacco to set up the first Cincinnati touchdown of the night.
Check out what Peter Schrager had to say about the Bengals. I’m starting to really like this guy...
"If the Ravens were 2-0, we'd be doing flips right now. Let's give the @Bengals their due. They are a drastically different team than they were a year ago at this time, and they showed glimpses of it down the stretch in 2017. They're for real."@PSchrags on Cincy's start. pic.twitter.com/wJBRZ63Q16— GMFB (@gmfb) September 14, 2018
And some more Twitter reactions:
Andy Dalton’s strong play is the perfect example of why the play-caller/QB relationship is the most important one in football. Lazor has a spread background & he’s recreated some of the TCU-like plays that work well for his QB. Good OCs build the plan around their QB’s strengths— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) September 14, 2018
What is with America and the Bengals? Everyone is acting like it's a miracle they're good. It's same core of team that started out 8-0 in 2015. That was just 3 seasons ago. Main reason they've had 2 tough seasons is injuries, losses on O-line.— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) September 14, 2018
All shall bow to #KingWJIII .#Bengals CB William Jackson III (@fantastik_willo) allowed just two receptions on seven targets for merely 13 yards against the #Ravens on Thursday night. He also recorded two PBUs and allowed just a 39.6 passer rating when targeted.— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) September 14, 2018
#Bengals DI Geno Atkins put on a show against the #Ravens' interior offensive line on Thursday.— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) September 14, 2018
In addition to his team-high 89.9 overall grade, Atkins recorded nine (!!) total pressures and three defensive stops on the night. He now leads all DIs in total pressures (12). pic.twitter.com/sZVSdhTQO2
The Bengals defense featured some dominant performances last night, highlighted by Geno Atkins. pic.twitter.com/8VxacWa0EN— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 14, 2018
We’ll end here to poke some fun at the Browns.
Bengals have won more games in the last five days without Hue Jackson than the Browns have in the last 500 with him.— Mark Schwab (@MarkSchwab) September 14, 2018
2-0. Who Dey!