If trends dictate how the season will play out from here, then Cincinnati's three-game "struggle" (other acceptable terms include, suckage and suckage hard, Trebek) will come to an end, right? Win the first three games, one in Baltimore and two with relative ease against Atlanta and Tennessee, all while sporting a defense that held opposing teams to a league-best 11 points/game. We're going to do this now, said the inner-child of sports fandom. We won't mention Super Bowl, AFC Championship, or even a win in the glorious postseason. Nope. Just play the next game. We're done projecting long-term forecasts that end with glorious words... like, glory.
The Bengals went into a bye week, hoping to get Marvin Jones back on offense and allowing guys like A.J. Green (toe), Vontaze Burfict (head), Brandon Thompson (knee) and Kevin Zeitler (calf) time to rehabilitate.
Then the plane crashed and the pilot episode of Lost titularly articulated Cincinnati's script in the following three games. A 26-point loss in New England, a 37-37 tie to Carolina and a 27-0 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
What the hell just happened?
Injuries at linebacker and wide receiver have hurt their respective units. Opposing defenses appear to be catching onto Hue Jackson's obsession with screen passes and Cincinnati's defense has no aggression anymore... nor a pass rush. Some cite Vontaze Burfict. Fair enough.
And I'm not sure how they get out of this funk.
Belief. Faith. Ya, ya. Look at this from a relative perspective. A.J. Green may return next week, joining the same cast of receivers and tight ends that played Sunday's game. Tight end Tyler Eifert is due back on Nov. 6.. if he's healthy enough.
Then you think... would Green have been enough to propel Cincinnati's offense from god-awful to just awful?
At the very least, Cincinnati's defense isn't sucking oxygen for nearly 40 minutes on the field. We can only imagine that Green would have been good for several first downs. Not necessarily as a receiver, but also as a distraction. It would help Cincinnati's defense, whom played remarkable, considering the conditions with two continuing themes 1) Vontaze Burfict can't stay on the field and 2) no one is stepping up. Will Clarke is inactive again. Margus Hunt is nonexistent. Geno Atkins is still learning how to trust his knee. Carlos Dunlap played well, but we counted on that production. You could make a similar argument for Wallace Gilberry, George Iloka and Terence Newman.
But they are hurt. Well, f*ck the depth argument we've relied on for a couple of years then. We're basically saying that Cincinnati has no depth on their roster and we're milking the hurt argument until the Bengals struggle themselves out of first place. Now the hope is... let's get healthy and reclaim first place.
Again, I don't see it right now.
Belief. Faith. Poser. Homer. Bandwagon. Oh, give it up. If you don't like discussion or discourse about current events/affairs, build a shrine around Mike Brown's picture and chant your sh*t. Wait. Am I having a discussion with myself.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the de facto offensive captain, wouldn't say if it was time for one of those player-only meetings, but it is clearly time for a review.
"We’ll meet tomorrow and we’ll talk about it," he said of the team’s usual schedule with the coaches. "Today isn’t the time to do it. Guys are mad, hot. We’ll have to get back tomorrow, sit and watch the film and figure out where to go from there. See what we’re doing, see what we’re missing."
Back to the whole "depth" point.
Of course we overvalue these players. We're talking linebackers that were on the bubble during training camp (except for Vincent Rey) that played on Sunday. We're talking about a linebacker (Nico Johnson) that Cincinnati signed off the streets on Wednesday and a wide receiver (Greg Little), the day before that.
We're talking about Mohamed Sanu being the only role player that stepped up while Brandon Tate, Dane Sanzenbacher and James Wright (all bubble players during training camp) have assured that A.J. Green will play next week against the Ravens... and risk even more serious ligament damage in his foot. Cincinnati needs Green. Or so the impression I left Indianapolis with.
Newman spoke truth on Sunday, saying that "We got flat-out embarrassed today". Navigating through the comments that underscored Cincinnati's woes from Sunday's 27-0 loss, Newman was the first that said those words or anything close to such a statement of honesty.
Despite Cincinnati's offense generating 27 yards and two first downs in the first half, all on their final possession as the clock expired, the Bengals defense held on the best that they could. After forcing two punts to open the game, Carlos Dunlap put an end to a 54-yard possession (their third of the game) when he ripped the football away from running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Adam Jones recovered.
Honestly, if we're handing out awards, my MVP is Dunlap -- five tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one quarterback sack, one hit on the quarterback and a pass defensed. Kevin Huber is a fine choice for MVP; but if he's getting an MVP for a game in which he tied a franchise record with 11 punts, then Cincinnati lost. And when Cincinnati loses, we're in no mood to do "MVP". So forget about this paragraph.
Indianapolis strung together a ten-play drive late in the first quarter, but stalled after a Domata Peko sack (well, he tackled Andrew Luck at the line of scrimmage). Despite Indianapolis having the football for over ten minutes in the first quarter, thanks to three consecutive three and outs by the Bengals offense, Cincinnati's defense forced two punts and a turnover while only allowing three points.
Let's consider for a moment that Cincinnati sat two starting linebackers in Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder). Before leaving with a strained back, Leon Hall was torched more times than Johnny Storm. And Cincinnati is coming off a stretch of games where they've allowed 80 points to the Patriots and Panthers and nearly 1,000 yards of offense. The trend continued in the second quarter. Sure the defense allowed a touchdown early in the second quarter, the defense also forced another turnover and three straight three-and-out possessions.
Eventually, having been on the field for nearly 40 minutes, the defense gave up. Eventually the Indianapolis Colts generated 506 yards. Cincinnati's defense, over the last three games, has allowed 480.7 yards per game.
How do they recover?
Peyton Manning touchdown record
Quarterback Andy Dalton is 424 passing touchdowns from tying the all-time passing touchdowns record, which Peyton Manning achieved during Sunday Night Football. Everyone loves Peyton. It's an orgy of confetti and 70s music. Following No. 509, a video tribute went on the Broncos scoreboard, which included a congratulatory message from the former record holder, Brett Favre. Then this happened:
Hey Peyton, if that congratulatory text from "He who shall not be named" is an MMS... Prolly best to just delete that one.— Jenn Sterger (@jennifersterger) October 20, 2014