It’s difficult being a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals.
When things go bad, and things usually go bad, we want retribution. Fire the coaching staff, replace the front office, and release mostly every player on the team, is our common cause. It’s a singular purpose. Fucking replace everyone, the vendors, concession stand workers, janitors, and bartenders. Bulldoze Paul Brown Stadium while you’re at it.
There’s no blocking, no running game, passes are erratic (when they’re not being deflected), and the defense shouldn’t get a free pass either. When the game is on the line, when everything matters most, their production fades. Intermediate routes are open, coverages are exposed, and most defenders are caught catching blocks.
Many of us have experienced the horrific years during the 90s, which began with Dave Shula and mercifully ended when Cincinnati fired Dick LeBeau after the two-win season in 2002. The Marvin Lewis era began, going on 15 years now, with seven postseason appearances and four AFC North championships. Despite failing to win a playoff game, the ride has been fun.
However, the slow decay of the 2017 season has already sealed Cincinnati’s fate. There are only moral victories remaining. Way to block someone, Cedric. Nice job not throwing a reasonable pass, Andy. You didn’t get ejected, Vontaze? Great job! Well, this season is over. We need something to hang onto. Maybe we should simplify our goals even more; let’s just hope they don’t embarrass themselves. Is that too much to ask?
Sunday’s game was a commentary on offense, specifically the second half. Between the third and fourth quarters, both teams exchanged so many punts that not even alcohol could make this unattractive game pretty. A.J. Green livened things with an exciting 70-yard sprint to give the Bengals a 20-17 lead with over five minutes remaining in the game.
Yet, predictably, the Titans pieced together a 12-play drive, spanning 73 net yards, accumulating six first downs, and securing a game-winning touchdown with :36 seconds remaining to beat Cincinnati 24-20.
Titans with the quick lead
Strangely, Cincinnati opened with three consecutive passes, two being completed on quick strikes to Brandon LaFell and Josh Malone, reaching Cincinnati’s 32-yard line. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton overthrew Tyler Kroft on third down, forcing Cincinnati to punt the football.
Tennessee responded with a touchdown drive with amazing ease, covering 84 yards on 10 plays. The drive included three plays of 20 yards gained or more, one that helped Tennessee overcome a second-and-24 scenario. Cincinnati responded with their own touchdown drive, capped by a 37-yard touchdown to a wide-open Brandon LaFell, reducing their deficit to 7-6 (missed PAT). Thanks to a Geno Atkins sack at midfield, the Titans ensuing possession resulted in their first punt of the afternoon.
Bengals get a break, then f**k it up
Cincinnati, already down 7-6, were fending off another assault by the Titans offense. Titans running back DeMarco Murray is gashing Cincinnati’s defense for 23 yards with over 10 minutes remaining in the second, setting up a first down from the Bengals 29-yard line. Then everything worked in Cincinnati’s favor.
- Rishard Matthews, wide open, drops a pass that would have led to a touchdown;
- DeMarco Murray is flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct that puts Tennessee into a third-and-19 scenario;
- Ryan Succop pushes the 48-yard attempt wide right.
Two plays after Cincinnati resumed their offense from their own 38-yard line with 8:03 remaining in the second quarter, Brian Orakpo strip-sacks Dalton (thanks Cedric Ogbuehi). Tennessee moves 27 yards, with help from two Vontaze Burfict personal fouls (and an ejection), and takes a 14-6 lead on Murray’s one-yard run. NOTE: Burfict was flagged for unnecessary roughness, knocking down Murray well out of bounds, and then earned a second personal foul when he made contact with an official two plays later.
Bengals recover after turnover
Cincinnati is driving.
From their own 24-yard line, Cincinnati powers the football into the red zone. Andy Dalton settles under center around the 19-yard line with two minutes remaining in the first half. Center Russell Bodine snaps the football but Andy Dalton immediately panicked. Rather than grasping the football, Dalton lost couldn’t secure the snap. Tennessee recovers the football.
Spirits are dead. Ugh. How can we continue watching this miserable excuse for entertainment?
Yet, on Tennessee’s ensuing play, Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard crawls underneath a hitch route and intercepts Marcus Mariota around the 13-yard line and returns it 10 yards. Joe Mixon reduces Tennessee’s lead 14-13 on a three-yard touchdown. Titans add a field goal as the first half expired.
Cincinnati takes the lead and subsequently loses it
The second half between the Bengals and Titans was marred by horrific number of punts. Most people call that a game of field position. The rest of us call it boring. After both teams exchanged 10 punts, Cincinnati had the football on their own 30-yard line with 5:14 remaining.
It was a strike so quick you weren’t sure it actually happened.
A.J. Green ran a skinny post and Andy Dalton threw a football that couldn’t have been more perfect. Green, without breaking stride, hauls in the football and sprints 70 yards for the touchdown, giving the Bengals a 20-17 lead. Tennessee responded with a game-winning drive, spanning 12 plays, securing a touchdown with :36 remaining in the game.