Get Back From the Ledge

It was a fluke. A lucky bounce. A play that could have been run a thousand times and never happen the exact same way.

So don’t jump off the Bengals bandwagon just yet. Don’t start blasting the entire team or calling for the head of Coach Lewis. Don’t start attacking Leon Hall for doing exactly what a defensive back is supposed to – attacking the ball at its highest point. And don’t start dragging the past 17 years of futility into this one just yet.

Yes, the Bengals lost to the Broncos.  But it was a fluke. ESPN radio even called it a miracle. And even though the offense was ugly and inept, in the end it came through in crunch time, something that hasn’t happened far too often in the past. I know this is a tragic start to the season, but I found a few survivors among the wreckage, a few glimmers of hope that I’m desperately holding on to.

1) The defense – This group has the potential to be very nasty, a unit that can finally measure up to AFC North standards. Roy Williams absolutely blasted Knowshown Moreno, knocking him from the game. Eddie Royal nearly suffered the same fate. And Brandon Marshall took a wicked hit from Rey-Rey. So I think there’s hope for this unit. Maybe even enough to carry an inconsistent offense.

2) Heart – This team has a pulse. In years past, the Bengals would have folded on defense, allowing a late field goal. Instead the team got a sack, turning the ball over back to the offense. Then, that offense that had been abysmal all day, drove 92 yards to score the winning – at least for a few seconds – touchdown.

Now for the warts.

1) The offensive philosphy – The Bengals want to be a power running team. Well, I want to be an underwear model. But I don’t have washboard abs or boy-band looks. So I work in education. Cincy needs to do the same. This team has an elite quarterback, a line that is best-suited for pass blocking and talented receivers that run four deep. They need to throw the ball just like they did on the final drive. Stretch the field, take advantage of mismatches and pass to set up the run. It will work, just as it did on the final drive.

2) Where the heck is Chris Henry?

Too many times I saw “Slim” on the sidelines. Remember him? He was the guy who was almost uncoverable during the preseason, a guy who grabbed touchdowns every few times he touched the ball. The Bengals rewarded him by keeping him off the field for a lot of snaps, instead trying to establish a running game that was only marginally effective.

No one in Bengals nation should be happy with yesterday’s game, but it’s too early to turn “Tiger” tail. I expected this team to be 2-3 in the first five weeks and it can still happen. Only now Cincy has to win one as an underdog, picking off Green Bay, Pittsburgh, or Baltimore (who struggled with Kansas City). This season isn’t over yet. It’s a long grind, where a single loss doesn’t carry the same weight as it does in the college game.

Our team lost because of a fluke play. The first game sucked. But you should give them four more before bailing out.

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