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Bengals out to prove ‘21 season wasn’t a fluke

The message is simple for the Bengals this season. No one should be content with one good season.

NFL: Super Bowl LVI-Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals made a trip to the Super Bowl last season, but they ultimately fell short. Bengals fans are very aware of that, but it seems like on a national level some people have forgotten.

People are talking about teams like the Buffalo Bills led by Josh Allen or one of the many AFC teams that made flashy moves this offseason like the Denver Broncos trading for Russell Wilson or the Chargers completely retooling their defense.

Cincinnati didn’t go out and make the flashiest moves this offseason, but they really didn’t need to. A majority of the same team that found itself in the Super Bowl is returning. The major difference is the Bengals went out and brought in three new starters along the offensive line that allowed 70 sacks on Joe Burrow last season.

One problem with that on paper is how do you motivate a team that almost went the entire distance but ultimately look roughly like the same team? It seems to be easy. You go out there looking for respect that still doesn’t seem to be there.

“Because it’s the Bengals, point-blank, period,” cornerback Mike Hilton told reporters Tuesday before the start of his second season with the Bengals. “When you think of the Bengals, you’re like, ‘Oh, the Bengals,’ you know?

“But now, with this group of guys that we have and the coaches that we have, we’re really turning this organization around. And we’re just trying to get the respect we deserve.”

If that isn’t the most honest representation of what it has been like when evaluating Cincinnati for roughly the last 20 seasons. Even when they looked like a good team, it seemed like there was always a hill the team couldn’t climb. Having another year where they can show they are a contender would do wonders in showing this team wasn’t just a flash in the pan.

The coaches also are preaching the idea that no one should be coasting off what they did last season.

“We are not a Super Bowl team, we played in the Super Bowl last year,” specials teams coordinator Darrin Simmons told reporters. “We’re starting over at ground zero. Everything is out in front of you.”

The reality is this team put in a ton of work to get to the Super Bowl. No one is going to care about that when they take the field this season. If anything, they will now have a bigger target on their back. They were able to almost sneak up on teams last season who were still accustomed to the same old Bengals. Now teams can make a statement by beating this team.

Getting this team refocused on the fact that they will have to put in all that work again will go a long way as this team looks to avoid the Super Bowl Hangover.