Bengals need a strong finish to generate interest
By Emile Pierce
After a horrendous start, the Bengals have a chance to turn their season around. A strong finish could bring back lost fans and generate interest.
Well, it’s upon us all. The second half of the season will arrive with a gut punch. That sleepy and sluggish feeling isn’t from turning the clocks back. Lack of interest in the Bengals has set in and it’s draining the energy from fans who actually still care. Many of the faithful who still manage to throw parties and get hyped for the games have turned to other activities. College hoops is ramping up, the NBA is in full effect. To keep things interesting, the Bengals need a seriously strong finish to the season.
Yeah, that’s rather redundant. Seems like the same scenario as last year. At the halfway point, the Bengals were 3-4-1 and still in the hunt for a playoff berth, This season, at 3-5, the going is a lot tougher. This version of the Bengals looks like a team that hasn’t found an identity and is in desperate need of an overhaul.
To be honest, there’s very little to keep fans and analysts interested in how this team fares over the last eight games. That’s exactly why they have to go against the grain and have a mind-numbing turnaround. Will that necessarily keep the peace, if they finish 10-6, after a horrible start? Not really. Things are so disconnected between the city and the Bengals, it’ll take much more than a 7-1 finish.
The biggest issue
If the Bengals are able to sneak their way into the playoffs, there has to be a W in the left column. For too many years, the saving grace of this team has been to make the postseason. They’ve proven the ability to get to the dance. But, getting over the hump and moving to the next round is ingrained into the collective psyches of Cincinnati faithful.
Now, it’s all about taking the next step. Winning a few games would surely be nice. But, it’s time to put the icing on the plain cake.
Nothing less than a winning performance in round one will satisfy those who’ve gotten fed up. Yes, there’s always an outside chance that the Bengals sneak into the playoffs. But, the harsh reality is too upsetting for the fans who want and expect more from the Bengals.
A repeat of 2012?
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The Bengals were staring the very same record in the face, at the midway point of 2012. They reached down deep and found a way to rebound and make the postseason party.
This is a different team. There are variables that make a run seem almost impossible. But, it’s not that far-fetched. Injuries play a huge part in any attempt to win down the stretch. Jake Fisher and Jeremy Hill are recent additions to the early departure list. Speedster John Ross is having trouble getting on the field and he’s “healthy.” Kicker Randy Bullock has been upgraded, but that doesn’t guarantee anything.
If a repeat of that 2012 miracle is going to happen, players need complete faith in game plans and the coaches’ ability to put them in situations to win. The first test is on Sunday against a Dick LeBeau defense that has been playing well. Essentially, the Bengals will be facing a zone blitz scheme that was a staple of the Steelers teams that have dominated Cincinnati.
Andy Dalton is aware of that.
"“There’s some stuff that is similar to what we saw,” Dalton explained, per Bengals.com. “We’re looking at this as his 59th year in the NFL. That’s a long time to be doing it. He’s obviously been a part of a lot of successful defenses. There’s some similarities to what he was doing when he was in Pittsburgh.”"
Could be a long day for The Ginger.
It’s about attitude
According to Marvin Lewis, the tempo and physicality of practice were taken up a notch, this week. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor didn’t come right out and say it, but there was a lack of intensity coming from the Bye Week.
"“I try to be very solution-oriented and look at it as, ‘OK, this is where we are. And, obviously, whatever we did on the Bye Week we should do opposite next year.’ because it’s come out from there and not gone real well as far as the run game in particular. But, offensive production generally hasn’t gone well.”"
And then there’s this gem from Lewis.
"“I think you lose some of the physicality as you go throughout the season. The communication part of the game, the physicality part of it. When you’re thinking too much, it’s hard to be as physical as you need to be.”"
It’s an old saying. Don’t think, just react. The Bengals have been doing too much thinking and not enough pure hitting and reaction.
To turn things around and get the fans involved, the ante has to be upped. On each level, there needs to be a renewed dedication. Coaches must take a long look in the mirror and players should think about how much they really want to win.
No, it’s not over. But, the final destination of the Bengals depends upon a serious group effort on one accord.