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Bengals v Colts: Bengals have to answer playoff questions and respond

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The Cincinnati Bengals are tired of questions that highlight a postseason narrative of the team being unable to win in the playoffs. Yet, it's a question they can't hide from and must answer to change the narrative.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is a business-like approach this week for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are preparing for the first round of the 2014 NFL playoffs this weekend. They know what's on the line and they know about the story-lines being dragged into dead-horse territory outside of Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since Jan. 6, 1991 (41-14 over the Houston Oilers) and, as with previous years where the same story-line headlined the playoffs, there are two endgame scenarios here.

1) Continue the trend of being a one-and-done team (and withstand calls that Marvin Lewis must be fired and Andy Dalton be replaced) OR;
2) Redirect the narrative into uncharted territories with a win, while fans mindlessly walk around Cincinnati unsure of what to do next.

Head coach Marvin Lewis had a serious, near-testy, approach during Wednesday's press conference where he was asked about previous postseason failures. Instead of owning up to the failures, Lewis predictably hid behind impatience against a narrative that's existed in Cincinnati since 2005.

One reporter asked, "Knowing that all these guys are going to get asked about past playoff..." Lewis cut him off saying:

"I told them not to answer your questions, and just tell you it’s not me," said Lewis. "It’s got nothing to do with them. You know what I mean? There you go. That team was last year’s team. It’s a different team, different people, different circumstances. What we have to do in order to win the games, you have to not turn the ball over, and you have to play good on defense. Pretty simple."

Standing tall before your players and protecting them is good leadership. Then...

"You answered my question before I could even ask it..."

"Well I’m tired of answering the dumb question, all right? Excuse me, not a dumb question. I’m tired of answering the very important question that I knew was going to be asked (laughs). It’s a very relevant question (laughs)."

Well... if you KNEW that you were going to be asked this question, perhaps you could have been better prepared for that eventuality? Or is preparation the issue here? Hum. If you defend him with the "well, you'd be irritated being asked the same question", true. Yet the question has direct relevance to his own history. There is no security blanket to hide under. Take ownership.

That being said, the general feeling in Cincinnati is that, despite the postseason distraction, the team had a great week of practice.

"I think we handled this week very well," said wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. "We had a great week of practice and preparation. We've studied harder than we've ever studied before, and we practiced the best I've seen in a long time. I think we're ready and prepared. We're going to go out there and do what we know we can do."

Sanu figures to be the team's primary receiver with A.J. Green under concussion protocols this week and doubtful heading into Sunday's game. Naturally, his production this year was dependent on Green's participation.

Sanu production v Green participation

"(Practice was) very intense. I feel like everybody is very focused this week," said cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who is easing into a greater role on defense this season. "I feel like this is the most focused I've ever seen this group. We've got a job to do and everybody knows the job."

"I think we did great," said defensive end Wallace Gilberry. "Guys practiced hard. The attention to detail is definitely there, and there was a purpose all week. For me, driving to work, there was a purpose, so I'm excited."

Lewis and most of the players approached this week with a "this is a new team" philosophy.

"Last year is last year," said running back Giovani Bernard, who had a fumble in last year's wildcard game with two minutes remaining in the second quarter on San Diego's 16-yard line. "We’re focused on this year. We know what we have to do. We know where we have to go in there and accomplish."

"Regardless of what’s gone on in the past, this is a new team," said Andy Dalton, who has one touchdown, six interceptions and three fumbles in three postseason games. "We’re here again. We were able to earn our way back here. We've got to take advantage of it. We understand that. Whatever little extra you can do to be more prepared and be ready to go, do whatever you can to play your best game on Sunday."

Speaking of Dalton, he's looked great this week.

"Andy’s looked terrific in practice," said Sanu. "He’s firing the ball around. He’s taking command in the huddle, commanding the offense and leading us the way everybody knows he can. He’s doing a great job."

With Green possibly out and Sanu facing Vontae Davis, a first-time pro bowler with a couple of all-pro votes this season, the Bengals figure to rely on the running game.

"It’s been focused. Guys are really in tune," said running back Giovani Bernard regarding practice this week. "They know what we have to do. They know what we have to accomplish this season. Our season’s not going to end. We want to keep going. We want to keep riding (high)."

It's possible that Cincinnati, facing a defense that will load the box and force Dalton to beat them, will rely on their quarterback. If might even be necessary. If the quarterback puts the offense on his back and leads Cincinnati to a win over Indianapolis, it will go a long way to fixing his depreciating legacy this season.

"You answer the questions and then you don’t think about it. We've had the same goal every year that I've sat here: to win once you're here. Up to this point we haven't done that. Right now I'm doing everything I can to change that. Yeah, I've got to answer these questions and all that kind of stuff, but as soon as I answer them I put them aside, behind me, and just keep going about my day to do whatever I can to help this team win."

Step one: No more turnovers.

The narrative is the narrative. The story is the story... At least until it's not. But that's on the Bengals. They can't hide from it.