Taste the Bright Lights

 

 

Up until recently, the moment was distinctive because of its joyful distinctiveness.

Not too long ago, I visited a local watering hole within the Cincinnati city limits, an outpost known for its late-night karaoke. On this particular evening, a young lady stepped up to the stage, grabbed the mic, and took on Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle.”

And she nailed it. I mean, she really, really nailed it.

She so nailed every nuance—the refrain’s “sha-na-na-na-na-na-knees, knees,” the seven-second, Yeah!-based shriek prior the song’s conclusion—of the Bengals’ unofficial anthem that I half-expected to suddenly spot Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, and Pharrell Williams joining the capacity crowd in standing from their oversized red-and-black chairs and expressing their overwhelming approval for a standout performance.

***

The Bengals have been 4-0 before, but this 4-0 feels extra special, doesn’t it?

In 2005, the last time the Bengals were 4-0, the Bengals were special because of Chad Johnson’s outsized touchdown celebrations and because Cincinnati reached the postseason for the first time since 1990.

This 4-0 start feels special because not only is Andy Dalton, resident football Einstein, not only turning woeful snaps into 36-yard dime drops to A.J. Green, throwing across his body for 27 yards to Rex Burkhead, and air-dropping 55-yard bombs to Brandon Tate, but the Red Rifle is also showing some unscripted spontaneity. All of this seems to reinforce Dalton’s cemented leadership role within the locker room and just his overall comfort level within the confines of Paul Brown Stadium. If Good Andy removes Bad Andy from the picture and transforms into Awe-inspiring Andy, look out.

Every special season requires a fair share of breaks, and the Bengals have a lot of things going for them at the moment:

*Geno Atkins, the team’s resident Destroyer of Interior Offensive Linemen, has returned to form.

*Through four weeks, the Bengals have escaped major injuries.

*The Bengals own a two-game lead in the AFC North.

*Michael Vick is (temporarily) playing quarterback for the 2-2 Steelers. (This would be a frightening thought as recently as 2010, but the Best Madden Player Ever is way over the hill.)

*The Terrell Suggs and Torrey Smith-less Ravens are 1-3.

*The 1-3 Browns appear as incompetent as ever.

*The possible return of Vontaze Burfict in the second half of the season to inject some audacity into a somewhat staid linebacking corps.

*And though the Bengals are facing the two-time NFC champion Seahawks this week, Seattle must travel across the country for a 1 p.m. Sunday start following an escape of the Lions at home on Monday Night Football.

***

In years past, I’m not sure the Bengals fly across the country and end a 10-game losing streak in Oakland to begin the season. I’m not sure they overcome Jeremy Hill’s fumbleitis and come up with a massive play on defense in the waning seconds vs. San Diego. I’m not sure they deliver a possible kill shot to Baltimore’s season after attempting to blow the game multiple times. I’m not sure they come up with enough red zone fortitude on defense to overcome seven scoring drives by Kansas City.

So, 2015 could very well be The Year for the Bengals, but despite Good Vibrations aplenty, consider me firmly stationed on the Patience Bandwagon. For now.

Having said that—and to paraphrase Drake, I don’t get the sense that the Bengals are too strung out on compliments or overdosed on confidence, a self-important sass that probably existed after 2014’s 3-0 beginning, an unbeaten start that, in retrospect, appears more flukey than genuine—if the Good Vibrations seep into November, I just may have to stand up and recognize the special team before me.

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Grant Freking is a Fulcher 2 Stay and Cincinnati Magazine contributor, and also writes for Land-Grant Holy Land, Redleg Nation, and The Ohioan. You can follow him on Twitter at @GrantFreking.

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