Hey... the sun broke the eastern horizon and, look at that... the world is still calmly rotating on its axis. The irony is that when the sun did rise, it was buried behind clouds so thick that a single pin-prick would saturate Cincinnati with an endless stream of rain. Yes. The attitude in Cincinnati is brilliantly reflected in Monday's weather. And before we navigate through this awful cliche, know that it did rain. And know that my car window, slightly open, gave way to this soaking rain, an uncomfortable squishy feeling and the whole "no, I'm not sick. It's just rain," explanation. It's Monday. It's Monday after a Bengals loss. Just... whatever.
Bengals offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth has been one of my favorite players since the team released Willie Anderson six years ago. He's a fighter. A leader. John Connor-like (not the fullback). Gouge his eyes out, he'll fight you. Hit the quarterback in an unreasonable way, he'll fight you. A Pro Bowl offensive tackle, who could earn Pro Bowl honors as an offensive guard, Whitworth is a clubhouse leader, a player representative... and a fighter.
My belief in him was further confirmed during the '11 offseason when he put a stop to any potential lockerroom divisions during Carson Palmer's brief retirement. Cincinnati was moving forward with Andy Dalton and some didn't like that idea. Whitworth wrapped his arm around Dalton and said, "lead us, kid". Everyone acknowledged and then accepted. It was Whitworth, alongside defensive tackle Domata Peko, that organized player-only workouts in Cincinnati during the NFL lockout.
Whitworth is as solid as they come and if this team ever decides to honor their legends, he should have his number retired.
That said, his perspective on the team's primetime woes are delusional. Perhaps it's the whole leadership thing; installing a buffer to prevent unnecessary fingerpointing. Focus on today and not yesterday is respectable, but avoiding the conversation won't end it.
Last week Whitworth was asked about Cincinnati's primetime issues, electing to blame the media:
"That's one of those things that I think honestly is more of a national media, outside media thing to hold over us," said Whitworth last week. "It's like somebody wants to find some way to doubt you when the truth is, we've won our division, we've gotten better every single year, our record has gotten better every single year. So what's something you can come up with that's going to say 'this team is not there?' That's the one thing they can look for and say is that we can't play in prime-time. To me, people are always going to find a way to try and put a team down. That's what people look for. We don't really listen to it. But we just need to go out and play and have fun and beat the New England Patriots and go about our business."
The Bengals were crushed by 26 points against New England on Sunday Night. Since '11, the Bengals are 0-3 during Sunday Night Football, 0-3 during the postseason, 1-1 during Monday Night Football and 1-1 on Thursday Night Football... which compiles to a mind-numbing record of 2-8 (or a .200 winning percentage).
After the game, Whitworth was asked about those comments and didn't back down (nor would we expect him to).
"I don't think we think about it that way," Whitworth said Sunday night. "We think about coming into New England against a team that just got their teeth kicked in and they were going to play their best game possible. They came out hot and ready to go with the crowd. You can tell this was a game they were prepared for and you knew you were going to get their best…they came out and wanted it more in the end."
Maybe the application for another lesson is learned here. Instead of driving the nail into an open wound, the storyline transitions into the Bengals becoming the Patriots -- crushed on national television and inspired to take out their frustrations on the next opponent.
"The truth is the Patriots have lost 40 some games since 2003, but they've responded and won the games the next week," said Whitworth. "If we want to be a championship team and a top team in this league, how we respond is more important than what happened tonight."
Yes. How will the Bengals respond?
That is the question now, right?
Who cares if the national spotlight ended with the country laughing and pointing fingers are the downtrodden Bengals? It's really irrelevant. Who cares what Frankenstein says from inside his shanty in Pittsburgh.
"It’s frustrating, but you can't let it get to you," Green said Sunday night. "We play up and down sports. You can't be perfect every night. Our night is just not prime time night but we have to correct it. If we want to be that great team, we have to play on big stages, but I don't think that’s the problem."
Maybe. However, two wins in ten games is a damning. Move on. Forget about it. A loss is a loss, no matter the point differential, right? That's what they're telling me. I'm listening. I'm trying to listen. No, I'm listening. It doesn't matter that New England scored 43 points, or ten more than what Cincinnati has allowed in the first three games combined.
As we reset, the Bengals maintain first place over Baltimore, who suffered their second defeat of the season. The Bengals have time to fix the woes that has plastered their faces on milk cartons in the Queen City.
"Anytime you get 43 points on you, that really hurts you. Believe me; we're going to fix it. That’s the thing we take pride in around here," Peko said. "If we have a problem, we'll find out what it is and fix it. It’s really frustrating. You really want to go and ball out on Sunday, Monday night in these prime-time games. We’re 3-I. It’ll be good to go back in "The Jungle," and try to get on the right track."
It was embarrassing. It was a loss.
However, suffering a humbling loss on national television is much better in week five than week 18. In the meantime, the Bengals have two more national games in the regular season -- a Nov. 6 Thursday Night game against Cleveland and a week 16 Monday Night affair against the Broncos... both at Paul Brown Stadium. Maybe more, based on flex scheduling.
Things will get better.
After all, the sun finally came out with a sky blue backdrop.