photo credit Mike Cyrus / Sports View America
Milestone victory gives loyal Bengals fans some hope
(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – Have the Bengals finally bottomed out? With their 22-6 win over the New York Jets, Cincinnati is no longer winless. The team improves to 1-11 for the year as Coach Zac Taylor revels in his first long-awaited NFL career victory.
“Proud of them, proud of the coaches, proud of the players for sticking together through these twelve games and earning this win,” an emotional Taylor said in his postgame meeting with the media. “Now that pressure is off of you a little bit. The guys felt it. Now that that’s off of you, you get a chance to go be free and get some more wins and finish this thing off the right way.”
Andy Dalton to the rescue
For this win at least, it was Andy Dalton to the rescue. Everyone readily admits that the Ryan Finley experiment went terribly awry. In the three weeks that the rookie got the start at quarterback, he completed only 47 percent of his passes, and the offense failed to score more than 13 points in any game.
Like General Douglas MacArthur, Dalton returned with a fury, breaking Kenny Anderson’s career touchdown (197) and pass completions (2,654) records on his way to a triumphantly sterling performance. For the afternoon, the nine-year veteran completed 22 of 37 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Dalton was asked if he felt like ‘giving the finger to the people who put him on the bench.’
“Just going into this one, I felt like we were going to get this one done,” Dalton answered diplomatically. “Regardless of all the other circumstances, the fact that I’m back out here playing—I want to win each time I’m out here. We were able to get that done today. I liked that we played great all across the board.”
The Bengals defense turned in their best performance of the season, limiting the Jets to 271 total yards on a stingy 4.0 yards per play. The six points allowed were the fewest given up by the team this year.
Not so fast–Bengals still stink
A win is a win, but this celebration is temporary. The reality is that the Bengals are still really bad. Last week against the hated Steelers, they set the franchise record for worst start in a regular season. Today’s game notwithstanding, they’ve already set a record for ineptitude. Remember those Dave Shula teams? These Bengals are worse. How about Marvin Lewis’? Not even close. If Zac Taylor doesn’t parlay this win into at least one more, this team remains in contention for a fate worse than Dick LeBeau’s 2002 squad which went 2-14.
Forget about the franchise itself, these Bengals may still be the worst team in the NFL. They’re certainly in the hunt this year, as Cincinnati remains the only one-win team in the league. Not only that, but combined with the 7 of 8 they lost under Lewis last year, the “Bungles” have now dropped 18 of their last 20 games overall.
Despite the incompetence, Cincinnati remains in the ironically enviable position of securing the first pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Given their propensity of blowing prior opportunities, I’m not sure this is something fans should be pining for.
What the fans desperately need now is just some semblance of future hope. They got that today, just like they did when Lewis got the boot at the end of last season and Taylor was hired. The former quarterbacks coach of the Super Bowl runner-up Los Angeles Rams was supposed to be some sort of offensive wunderkind—a chip off the old block of his mentor, Sean McVay.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. I know the injuries have been devastating, and not even Bill Belichick can win with that offensive line—but c’mon, no one thought they’d be this bad.
Remaining schedule is manageable
Fortunately, the remaining schedule is less than daunting. The Bengals have a home and home with Cleveland (5-7), a home date with New England (10-1), and a road game with Miami (3-9) still to come. Even with today’s win, they’ll most likely be underdogs in all of those.
Running back Joe Mixon, who rushed for 44 yards on 19 carries with one touchdown had some encouraging words for the fans.
“At the end of the day, it’s been a rough patch,” he admitted. “But it’s going to get better. We definitely appreciate every single one of you all fans that came out and supported us—or even the ones who watched on TV. It’s been tough, but just stick in there with us and we’re going to get this thing right.”
Have the Bengals bottomed out? I hope so, but we still have games left to play. Stay tuned—we’ll have a better idea after next week.