No, the sky is not falling. The season is not over, the playoffs hopes are not dashed, James Harrison did not turn the post-game locker room into a scene from Game of Thrones by slaughtering everyone in sight (though he almost definitely considered it). Everything is going to be alright.
In fact, the Bengals nearly won a game, on the road, against a solid opponent, despite playing like a bunch of drunken buffoons. It was almost impressive. When it comes to sports, dumb and talented is always preferred over smart and competitively challenged. Smart and competitively challenged teams are great for explaining why they lost. Dumb and talented teams can win in spite of themselves. “Can” being the operative word.
Alas, a boneheaded effort from start to finish put the Bengals at a disadvantage, and will in turn weigh heavily in the first regular season edition of the Bengals Weekly Power Rankings. This is a continuation of the Hard Knocks Power Rankings from this preseason, which itself was a ripoff of Mark Lisanti’s Mad Men Rankings (as I explain here). I’m still tinkering with how this post will look each week, so if you have any thoughts, send them my way. Unless they’re mean.
1. Beeing Stoopid
The HBO cameras made this group look like loveable goofballs. The gridiron made them look like dumbasses. It was one dumb mistake after another for the Jabronies in Stripes: Dalton forces a pass and gets picked off on the first drive, Dre Kirkpatrick gets a late-hit penalty on a punt that leads to a field goal before the half, AJ Green dropped a ball that led to an interception, Mo Sanu fumbled a ball in the redzone, the team had too many men on the field for a friggin’ extra point attempt, they burned timeouts like hippies burning draft cards during Vietnam, and Rey Maualuga extinguished any chance at a late-game comeback by committing an obvious personal foul penalty in the closing seconds with God and the referees and the entire stadium staring directly at him. And the Bengals still only lost by three. I’m not a fan of the whole “did Team A win the game or did Team B lose it” argument, but the Bengals did their damndest to change my mind Sunday. In any event, the mistakes were largely of the petty and correctable variety. It’s much easier to stop committing personal foul penalties and burning timeouts and fumbling the ball than it is to move the ball on offense, stop the ball on defense, and put points on the board. And as Pacman Jones tweeted at Michael Wilbon—with grammar so ironic it was nearly too hilarious to bear—the team is aware of its mistakes. They may have made some dumb discussion, but that don’t make them a dumb team. Yeah. Ultimately, bad things happened on Sunday. The season isn’t cursed, the team isn’t terrible, outlooks are not crushed. Bad things happened. And why do bad things happen, Mr. Forman?
2. AJ Green
AJ Green had a ball bounce off his hands and into the intercepting mitts of a Bears defender. He fumbled a ball that fortunately got kicked out of bounds. He did not play a perfect game. But he did finish with nine catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and it was even more impressive to watch than the stats suggest. Sadly, there are no words I can write that will do justice to his skill, talent, ability, and awe-inspiring awesomeness. So just watch. He is a god amongst insects.
Nevermind, Marvin Lewis just used this one, too.
4. Anthony Collins
AC, starting for the banged-up Andrew Whitworth, blanked Bears defensive end Julius Peppers on Sunday. As he told Paul Dehner Jr., “I’m a grown man.” He’s also a great example of the depth and talent of this football team, and a reason why there was plenty to be impressed with in a sea of stupidity.
5. Tight Ends
The duo of Jermaine “The Jerm” Gresham and rookie Tyler Eifert combined for 10 catches and 82 yards, with the majority of those yards coming after the catch. Both pose matchup problems in space, and The Jerm looked impossible to drag to the turf unless there were six or seven Bears jumping on his back. Dalton was also 10-for-10 on throws to his tight ends, which, if I’m not mistaken, is a pretty good completion percentage.
6. Vontaze Burfict
The man is clearly a maniac, which is exactly what you want a linebacker to be. (At one point, following an impressive and ardent chase-down and tackle by Maualuga, I said to my dad, “Rey must be dipping into Burfict’s cocaine stash.” It was a joke, obviously, but the point still stands.) He seemingly makes every tackle, is jawing with every opponent, and is always spazzing out and screaming stuff prior to the snap. It’s like he’s on fast-forward or something. On his 2nd half interception and runback, he took a nasty helmet shot to the leg, suffering what looked to be a significant injury…followed by him making a slew of tackles on the next defensive possession. He’s gonna be a fun player to watch.
7. The AFC North
All four teams are tied for first place with an 0-1 record. The Ravens got mollywhopped by Peyton Manning on Thursday, the Steelers fell to the Titans and suffered a bunch of injuries, and the Browns struggled mightily against the mediocre Dolphins. If there is any silver lining to the Bengals’ brain fart, it’s that of the division’s four crappy performances, Cincy’s was the least crappiest.
8. Andy Dalton
The QB—who has been touted as the offense’s one major question mark this offseason—was on point. The interception on the first drive was his only true blemish; it looked like the nerves might have gotten the best of him as he forced a slant to AJ Green, with Charles Tillman jumping the route. Other than that, his throws were on target, his pocket presence was strong (and well-protected), and his second pick was Green’s fault. If he can play like that, the team should be in good shape. Very few dumb discussions.
What James Harrison was probably thinking during the game.
These uniforms are pretty cool…better than having a decal on only one side of the helmet. Why does Taylor Mays keep talking to me about their QB and some chick from MTV? I have to remember to kick his ass later. And I know I’m on his team now, but something about Dalton just makes me want to drill him. AJ is playing well, so it makes sense that Coach Gruden is in love with him. Why does Marvin keep calling timeouts? He knows we only get three per half right? Hey, backup, go tell coach we only get three timeou…welp, nevermind. I like this Zimmer guy. He’s the only person who will make eye contact with me. Coach Lewis might too, if he wasn’t so busy telling Rey to get his head out his rear end. Seriously, I thought for sure we would cut Taylor Mays. Why is he still here? That Marshall guy has a lot of catches. Maybe I should rip his head from his shoulders and pull his spleen out through his armpit. Damn, we lost. Where’s that Taylor kid?
Who’s disappointing us now?
The sackless defensive line (although Pro Football Focus still gave them high marks), Maualuga, Kirkpatrick, Sanu, whoever decided you only get three timeouts per half, Taylor Mays.