Bengals and Bearcats peaks and valleys: A weekend of football in Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bengals hosted the Cleveland Browns on Sunday and the day prior saw the Cincinnati Bearcats face Tulsa after being featured on College GameDay.
As I awake on Saturday morning at the loving hour of 4 am, I realize that this weekend could be one of the greatest football weekends of my 23 years of living. College Gameday was finally coming to my city of Cincinnati, Ohio.
I must say, the turnout for Gameday was beyond my wildest dreams. My friends and I made a point of it to try to get into the front section of College Gameday. We knew that we had to get there mighty early to get in. We left the Clifton college house at 4:45 AM to secure our spot. You would think that’s early enough, right? We were sorely mistaken.
We arrive at the commons to get in line, and the line was backed up for what seemed like miles. We made the executive decision to stand in the row behind the front section, which had no line, and we waited. From 5 to 9, we sat in the bitter cold. It was definitely worth the wait. The intensity of the crowd was enough to make the state of Kentucky glance up at us.
The air may have been frigid, but the heartbeat of the UC faithful was burning red hot! It was mentioned during the College Gameday show that the attendance was close to 10K, and you could hear every single one of them. The energy, the smiles, the thrills of it all could send chills up any Cincinnatian’s spine.
While the game wasn’t the blowout that we all were hoping for, the Luke Fickell-led Cats found a way to win with a stellar defensive performance. After one of the most amazing experiences as a college football fan, I was expecting to be just as elated with Joe Burrow laying the smackdown to the hated Cleveland Browns. The highest of high came this weekend right before kickoff on Sunday. The sold-out Paul Brown Stadium reached a fever pitch right before kickoff. The crowd was loud and ready for an ultimate Ohio showdown.
This is where we quickly descended to the lowest of lows.
The Cincinnati Bengals started with the ball and drove down the field in dominant fashion. I started to capture faith that the Bengals will deliver an absolute beatdown of the Browns and claim their rightful throne atop the AFC North. That dominant drive ended with Joe Burrow throwing his 10th interception of the season that was returned for a touchdown by Denzel Ward of the Cleveland Browns.
The number of grown men that started to bark in my face crossed the point of annoyance too downright rage-inducing. After the Bengals answered the first touchdown with one of their own, the Browns took control of the game and stepped on the gas.
My ultimate weekend of Cincinnati football ended in quite the spiral, with the Bengals being humbled on their own field in a 41-16 loss.
The question of “who’s to blame?” rears its ugly head, and needs to be answered. In a 25-point curb-stomping at home, there is plenty to go around.
Nick Chubb took the ball and ran the Bengals into the turf, posting 137 yards on 14 attempts with two touchdowns. These stats are incredibly disappointing knowing that it came against a Cincinnati defense that has been incredibly stout against the run all season. This is the same defense that held Dalvin Cook to 61 yards. The Bengals’ defense struggled to bring Chubb to the ground all game.
In order for the Cincinnati defense to return to their previous prowess, they need to find a way to tackle at the first point of contact. Something that the Bengals did so well all season, has been basically nonexistent in the past two weeks. However, all of the blame cannot be placed on the defensive side of the ball. The savior of the franchise looked incredibly pedestrian. Joe Burrow captured another first place in an NFL statistic, but it isn’t a statistic that you want.
Joe Burrow threw two interceptions on Sunday. He is now at a career-high 11 interceptions this season, which is tied for first place in the NFL. Anyone that has watched Joe Burrow this season or last season knows that he likes to take chances. While these chances have resulted in some magical moments this season, they have also led to game-changing mistakes.
Burrow has to find a way to pick his spots when he’s taking these chances. He can’t be forcing the ball constantly. Sometimes, it is best to throw the ball away. The defense cannot be starting with a short field in tight moments in the ball game.
Burrow also has to get back to sharing the wealth across the receivers. Ja’Marr Chase isn’t going to be open every play, especially now when teams have figured out the scheme. Tyler Boyd has become a non-existent factor in this offense. Boyd only had two targets the entire game.
These two are clearly not on the right page, and the BYE week will provide a long stretch of time where they can get back on page. While this result bitterly ended a great weekend of football in the city of Cincinnati, hope is not lost! The season is still young, and the Bengals have everything in front of them.
Everything is still within grasp for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 5-4 overall and 2-1 in the AFC North. Two of those division wins are at Baltimore and at Pittsburgh. The Bengals could theoretically go 7-1 and claim the AFC North crown.
The Bengals have shown us as fans that there is enough talent and connection that this team can be really good. I’m holding onto this belief that the Bengals can eclipse 11-12 wins and make the playoffs, possibly hosting their own playoff game.
Many fans wanted to overreact due to the nature of the loss. We have to remember that this isn’t college football. A 41-16 loss and a 20-21 loss still counts as just one loss. This team believes in themselves, and you should believe in them too.
I understand that it takes a lot to ask a Cincinnati sports fan to put full belief into a team. Believe me, I’m with you friend. We have two great football teams in the city of Cincinnati, and a reason to believe that both teams can go incredibly far.
The Cincinnati Bearcats just captured a 9-0 record and are No. 6 in the College Football Playoff polls. The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-4 and 2-1 in their division.
Let’s all do ourselves a favor, and look at the picture. Enjoy the winning, and enjoy the ride. Go Bearcats! Who Dey!