On the way home from my flag football game on Sunday evening my teammate asked me, “How did the Bengals do? I didn’t see any highlights.” He wasn’t being facetious; he genuinely didn’t know the score. I, by contrast, had of course been hideously attentive to the Bengals for over three hours but also had not seen any highlights.
It’s difficult, once the reality of the actual season kicks in, to continue playing the Kermit to Sridhar’s Statler and Waldorf (we’re sticking with the Jim Henson theme, right?) when the Bengals fail to score a single touchdown against an opposition so mediocre. And, as a writer, it’s difficult to find a narrative that suits. Last week was such a wonderfully British glorious defeat. Oh yes, we LOVE glorious defeats. In sports. Not in war. Never in war, hence our most famous leader’s response to the idea of surrender being the word “never” sixteen times. But in sports? If you ever want to feel discombobulated watch the Olympics 100m finals with the British commentary. You’ll be amazed, following the ecstatic hyperbole, to discover that the Brit did not set a new world record. In fact, either the British guy finished seventh, or there was no British guy at all.
I digress, but frankly with good reason: there is little to say about the game that can’t be expressed with the word “disappointment.” After a lovely opening drive, we inevitably stalled at the two yard line. The resulting field goal kept us in the lead for what seemed an eternity with our defense being as solid against an anemic 49ers attack as our offense was, well, anemic. When, in the third quarter, it is still a feasible soccer score, you know you aren’t watching a classic. Unless, of course, it’s the Jets-Ravens on Monday Night Football, in which case it’s a fascinating tactical face-off between brilliant defenses. Obviously.
You know the story, of course, because you’re a Bengal. Our D held strong until it didn’t. Our offense was unable to take advantage of a San Francisco fumble on their own ten yard line. We marched up the field in the final two minutes before ending things with an interception. And then Ben Roethlisberger avoided nineteen dead certain sacks to give the Steelers an undeserved with on Sunday night.
Where does the buck stop? I don’t know. I’m a big fan of Marvin Lewis but it is undeniable that the Bengals have taken on something of a losing culture in the past two seasons. I mean, on Sunday, the opposition punter scored a quarter of our points! It worries me, lovely though the principle is, to hear him say that, “We’ll do whatever’s best for Jerome.” Look, I have no idea if Simpson is the Tony Montana of Northern Kentucky or if he’s simply an unfortunate man in the wrong place (in his own house) at the wrong time (as large amounts of illegal drugs were delivered). But I’d honestly rather Marvin Lewis, currently being paid millions of dollars to, well, run the Bengals, did what was best for the Bengals. (Still, at least we got rid of that troublemaker Chad!) It does not fill me with great levels of confidence at moments of tension when his body language is the same as mine.
I still believe in us. I still cling to the 10-6. I still think Andy Dalton is a winner. Let’s hope the Ced and Rome distractions this week are to blame and that we bounce back next week against perennial losers the Bills with the formerly-useless-Bengal-back-up Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. Oh wait, it turns out there are highlights from their game, I’ll just pop them on…