Part of the joy of being a fan is indulging in outrage against perceived slights on your team. In football, this can be particularly exacerbated when you go up against a big name quarterback, because no other group in sports gets such disproportionately favorable interpretation of the rules from referees and commentators alike. So, when every analyst from top to toe was picking the Colts to beat the Bengals, this only fed fuel to the Bengaldom fire. As the referees steadfastly refused to acknowledge any holding whatsoever when it meant giving Andrew Luck enough time to throw, well, that did too. And when the supposedly neutral CBS analysts lauded the Colts players for running the ball into the end zone well after a play had been called dead as being a “smart play” while complaining that Domata Peko’s long hair made it impossible to be sure who he was (I mean, he’s number 94 with the long mane of hair—it can’t be that difficult?)…it’s the sort of thing that can really get you amped up.
Of course, none of this righteous fire can burn for very long if your team is garbage. And, make no mistake, the Bengals were garbage. So bad that we made Trent Richardson look like a first-round running back. So bad, SO BAD, that I would have rather watched the Two And A Half Men Hallowe’en Special that they kept advertising every 90 seconds after yet another three-and-out. If you missed the game, it’s worth taking a look at the miserable statistics (no points scored, fewer than 50 percent passes completed, eleven runs all slightly shorter than if the runner had literally fallen face first with his arms outstretched) while noting that a garbage-time drive REALLY improved them. Two minutes before half, the Bengals still didn’t have a first down and only got one because Jermaine Gresham goaded one of the Colts players into pushing a referee. The subsequent 15-yard penalty was more than double the length of any play the team had managed by that point.
To be fair, the defense hung as tough as they could with the Colts, holding them to just a 10-point lead and even forcing a couple of turnovers, but there is only so much you can do when your offense never gives you a break. It is also worth acknowledging that the Bengals were absolutely decimated by injuries; it’s hard enough playing a good team away from home, but without your best two receivers (Green, Jones), best tight end (Eifert), best cornerback (Hall), and entire starting linebacker corps (Lamur, Maualuga, Burfict) you’re probably going to struggle. But the Bengals “effort” on Sunday was miserable. In his post-game press conference, Marvin Lewis noted, “You can jump up and down and bang your head against a wall, but it’s not going to get you a first down.” Well, no, Marv, that won’t get you a first down, but you’re sort of paid to think of an actual way to get one of those, you know, using tactics and stuff. I could make more jokes about this, but the truth is, if you watched the game on Sunday and someone told you that Lewis and Hue Jackson did, in fact, prepare for this game by spending all week jumping up and down and banging their heads against the wall, then you’d be hard-pressed to argue.
Colts 27, Bengals 0
Man Of The Match: Carlos Dunlap. He was in on two fumbles and got in Luck’s face on a few occasions, despite NFL edict 2794 proclaiming that no defensive player is allowed within three feet of Andrew Luck. Kevin Huber had some nice punts, too. Umm, other than that…yep, it was really that terrible.
PS: Perhaps the most unforgivable aspect of the Bengals performance was this: during the first half, head referee Gene Steratore was having trouble with his contact lenses. Now, for a (hopefully) comedic sports writer this is manna. Football has instant replays but football (soccer) has a joyous and ancient history of abusing referees based upon their inability to see (the classic, “Are you blind, ref?!” at its most PC and watered down), and the moments when a referee actually has issues with his vision are like real life poetry, especially when commentators offer deep truisms such as, “Vision, as we know, is important”. Indeed, and thanks. But no, the Bengals had to ruin it. The refs could have all sported Colts-themed eye patches and Cincinnati fans still wouldn’t have been able to complain. It was just that BAD.