Where to begin with what several players quite rightly described as “an embarrassment” on Thursday Night Football to in-state rival and traditional whipping-boys-turned-whippers the Cleveland Browns? An embarrassment? A humiliation? A veritable subjugation to a team that even the most pessimistic of Bengals fans would not have seen us conceding our unbeaten regular season home-streak to, at least in such a thoroughly depressing manner? A.J. Green was left “speechless” and in some ways I wish that I too weren’t about to waste words on a performance that would be best left unacknowledged. But then, don’t feel bad for me, poor Justin Williams has to come up with five notable things from the performance to create his Power Rankings, which will presumably consist of Leah Still at number one and then four sad question marks.
So complete, so one-sided, so utterly thorough in its one-sidedness was this game that my Browns fans friends stopped texting me—we crossed the vortex, went beyond the rubicon to a place where trash-talk would have just been cruel; yes, Browns fans felt too bad to celebrate their victory in my presence.
Ok, so where to begin? We’ve all been there: you’re playing Beer Pong and suddenly your motor skills are just gone—where once you couldn’t miss the cup, all of a sudden you can’t hit the table, the ping pong ball is sticking to your fingers and a cold sweat comes over you as you realize with absolute certainty, I will NEVER make another cup EVER AGAIN. Except, you know, you aren’t getting $15-million next year to play Beer Pong. Afterwards Andy Dalton said that he didn’t come out playing “fast enough.” Oh yeah, that’s right, Andy, that’s what we were all thinking—if only he’d throw his interceptions faster, that would make everything better. His stats managed to be miserable and generous at the same time. Apparently he completed ten passes, but I’ll be damned if I can remember one. Beautifully, hilariously, he also said post-game, “I missed a couple early,” which is kind of spectacular—true, you did Andy. You then also missed another 23 after those early ones, threw three interceptions, and managed to usurp garbage-time back-ups J.T. “The Bodies Are In My Freezer” O’ Sullivan and Jordan “I’m literally only here because my brother asked” Palmer for the most depressing a Bengals QB has looked in a long while. I don’t remember a single pass that even looked like it was going vaguely close to where it was supposed to go. Missed a couple early? That’s like asking Joey Chestnut what he had for lunch on July 4th and him replying with, “A couple of hot dogs.” Sure, it’s true, but in no way does it come close to describing either the magnitude, nor horror, of the actual truth. Though, to be honest, the sight of a man stuffing endless encased pig offal into his face for prizes is a much more edifying sight than watching Andy Dalton Thursday night.
Lest you think only the QB was to blame, worry not. The entire team was a joke: the offensive line gave up sack after sack after sack, though maybe that was just their way of avoiding any more interceptions. The defense was horrid: I’ve long worried about new defensive coordinator Paul Gunther, because he looks like Jonah Hill, calls himself (without any apparent irony) “Paulie-G” and generally acts around the players like a loser at school who tries to ingratiate himself with the “cool kids” by offering to get them alcohol he stole from his parents. When he took over from Mike Zimmer, the Bengals were at pains to talk about how he “knew the system” and came up with a lot of Zimmer’s blitz packages. Well, la-di-da for him, shame nobody bothered to check if he had any idea how to stop the run. The Browns failed to run on Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Jacksonville, three of the worst teams in the league. Against the Bengals, they ran free and unfettered, like a caged animal released into the wild and thoroughly enjoying its newfound freedom. Every single Browns running back scored. Seriously. If you started ANY Browns running back in fantasy, you had a good day. Brian Hoyer suddenly looked like Tom Brady—the Browns played without their THREE BEST RECEIVERS (Hawkins, Cameron and Gordon) and they still eviscerated the Bengals in the air as well. Still, sweet Ray-Bans, Paulie.
The offense outside of Dalton wasn’t much better. Jeremy Hill fumbled the one big run he had. For some reason, with a minute left in the first half and two scores down, the team called a third-down run play for Rex Burkhead, a man who has never played RB professionally before. A.J. Green looked thoroughly annoyed, snubbing Dalton when the QB approached him like an awkward kid trying to ask a cute girl to prom toward the end of the game. Frankly though, he was hardly the solution: Unless he’s still hurt and we sent Greg Little out in A.J.’s jersey, there’s no excuse for his numerous drops and total anonymity.
And speaking of Greg Little, nice work on your revenge game, huh? They’ll be talking about this one for a while in Cleveland, that’s for sure, and when they do, I’m certain that your one catch for eight yards will really stick in their craw. Yeah, there’s no way they stuck your comments this week up inside the locker room to get them fired up before the game and to laugh at afterwards. Good work.
As for Marvin Lewis, his Bengals have now lost 12 out of their last 15 prime time games. Utterly humiliated in front of a national audience, Coach Lewis had to depart from his tried and trusted “We did some things well, some things not so well” script because it was literally impossible to think of one thing the team did well. Instead he said this: “The energy and focus were there.” What!? At this point I just have to assume that I don’t even know what those words mean anymore. The only way I can make that sentence make sense is to assume that he was asked about a party going on somewhere else, and that the emphasis should be placed on the word “there”:
Q: Why do you think the team was so lacking in focus and energy this evening?
ML: Honestly? It’s my fault. With Sunday off I got the entire team tickets for the opening night of Annie at the Anderson Center— I let them know right before the game, they all got a bit excited. The energy and focus were there, instead of on playing the Browns.
I halfheartedly joked with the Browns fans that they had cheated by watching tape, and coming up with a game plan and, you know, introducing their players to each other before the game. I certainly hope the Bengals didn’t work hard for this, didn’t prepare, didn’t watch tape, didn’t come up with specific strategies for the Browns. Because if they did, it was a damn waste of time.
This is a poor team with a passable record. They got thrashed by the two good teams they played (Patriots, Colts), and have now been thrashed by a Browns team that looked superior in every fashion. Oh, and now comes the hard stretch of the schedule. Great…
Man Of The Match: Really? Um. James Wright, I guess? He forced a fumble on special teams, had a 15 yard run, and I guess the interception he was targeted on was at least competitive? Dearie me.
Final Score: Browns 24, Bengals 3