The two Bengals staffers exited the elevator on the basement floor of Paul Brown Stadium and immediately set their sights on Marvin Lewis’s office. The head coach does not like to be kept waiting, especially when it comes to receiving critical information.
After 60 yards of twists and turns, the staffers found themselves on his doorstep. One of them knocked just below the eye-level ‘DO YOUR JOB’ engraving on the imposing wood door.
“Enter,” grumbled a voice as the door mechanically swung open.
The two staffers ambled in. The only portion of a seated Lewis that was visible were his orange and black sneakers, which were propped up on his desk as a projection screen played Vontaze Burfict’s college highlight film on a vast back wall.
Ten seconds of silence passed before one of the staffers spoke up.
“He…he is ready,” the staffer squeaked. “No more snap restrictions for Eifert.”
Lewis’ face twitched; his cheek muscles yearned to produce a grin but were quickly suppressed.
“Goooood,” replied Lewis in a dark tone only Sheev Palpatine could truly appreciate.
The staffers nodded in agreement, and then quickly exited for their next task: packing for the upcoming London trip.
As for Lewis, his eyes turned to a nearby printout of Wembley Stadium’s field conditions.
“If we cross the ocean only to tie in a damn soccer stadium,” he muttered, “I’m going to mail Goodell’s office a crate of week-old cheese coneys as a ‘f— you.’”
Bengals 27. Washington Racial Slurs 27.
You’re welcome, London.
The result was a justified one for a team that’s neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ in the purest forms of the adjectives. Rather, the 3-4-1 Bengals remain the average compilation that they are, and deep down, all of us rational observers have known this truth for many weeks. The only difference after Sunday was that the Bengals are now internationally famous for their ordinariness.
Sunday morning’s tilt was part comedy of errors, part thrilling offensive showcase. The former was illustrated by a litany of gaffes:
*Twenty-two combined penalties, including five from Washington’s shutdown cornerback, Josh Norman, who was bested by A.J. Green on the day. (I love the hell out of Norman’s irrepressible and honest personality, but Green gave him the business.)
*A quartet of missed kicks, the egregious examples being Mike Nugent’s missed point-after that eventually allowed Washington to settle for a game-tying field as the fourth quarter wound down, as well as Dustin Hopkins’s 34-yard overtime shank that would have won the game for Washington. Perhaps one of the teams could have inked Paul Pogba to a one-day contract; the world’s most expensive soccer player was in attendance wearing what appeared to be a full-body robe.
“I felt like we lost by 30 or 40 the way I played,” Nugent said postgame.
*The first Bad Andy (Dalton) sighting of 2016, as the normally-sterling Bengals quarterback not only threw a crucial interception early in the fourth quarter deep in Washington territory that may have led to a 14-point swing, but Dalton also fumbled away a possible chance at a game-winning field goal at midfield late in overtime. Pro Football Focus gave Dalton a subpar 43.3 grade for his efforts, correctly docking the Red Rifle for a handful of dropped interceptions by Washington and underthrown deep balls that may have altered the fate of the game.
It should be noted that both offenses rendered their defensive counterparts mostly useless. Washington’s Kirk Cousins masterfully conducted former Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s quick-hitting and equal-opportunity scheme, piling up 458 passing yards and completing at least five passes to five different receivers.
As for Dalton, though he wasn’t near his best, he wasn’t atrocious, either. Taking advantage of the opening left by Washington at halftime—Washington owned a near-nine-minute edge in possession, a 144-yard advantage in yardage, and converted 6-of-10 first downs through two quarters but only led by three at intermission—Dalton seized the opening by piloting a pair of touchdown drives to open the second half to push Cincinnati ahead 20-10. A possible third touchdown march was derailed because of the aforementioned pick that snapped Dalton’s streak of 165 consecutive passes sans an interception.
Green (nine catches on 18 targets, 121 yards) and the newly-freed Eifert (nine catches on 12 targets, 102 yards, one touchdown) ran wild on Washington while Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard (a combined 128 yards on 31 carries) were productive enough on the ground for the semi-resurgent ground game.
In the end, the collective mediocrity of both sides produced a fitting draw. And while it’s difficult to stomach a tie for the teams and their fans that traveled thousands of miles for Sunday’s showcase, it’s worth noting that Cincinnati and Washington were allotted 75 minutes to determine a clear winner. How much more time is necessary?
As for the Bengals, the bye week is at hand. Their next game will be two weeks from tonight in New York to face the Giants.
“If we still handle our business, we’re fine,” Lewis said postgame.
Lewis has to offer (utterly false) platitudes like that—it’s part of the NFL head coach job description. But it’s a fine line between confidence and delusion.
Prepare the coneys.