Commentary: Cincinnati Bengals can remedy inconsistent season Sunday
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 20:11
In an up-and-down season, the Cincinnati Bengals have shown flashes of brilliance only to be followed by disappointing losses to teams with losing records. They can only hope the trend ends Sunday.
On Sunday, the Bengals (4-5) routed the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, showing the football world what Cincinnati’s young athletes can do when their execution is on point. Quarterback Andy Dalton had a career day, throwing four touchdowns and ending a streak in which he had thrown at least one interception in every game this year. The Giants’ talented defensive line was not successful in pressuring Dalton and failed to register a sack. As a result, Dalton, the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, picked apart a defense that had been carrying New York in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s defense went to work on Giants quarterback Eli Manning, forcing him into a day to forget and making the MVP candidate look discombobulated and frustrated.
The 31-13 triumph was more than Bengals fans could have asked for.
To put that win into perspective, the San Francisco 49ers are widely perceived as being a championship contender.
The Giants embarrassed San Francisco at home, 26-3, four weeks earlier on Oct. 14. Immediately after, experts began to doubt the 49ers championship pedigree while declaring that the Giants, the NFL’s 2011 champs, were still the team to beat in the NFC. When Cincinnati dominates the Giants the same way New York handled the 49ers, it raises eyebrows around the league.
In addition to the margin of victory and level of competition, there were a number of other positive elements of last week’s win. Bengals running back Cedric Peerman had a productive game, proving he is worthy of sharing the load with fellow running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. And perhaps the best bit of news is that the Bengals might have found a legitimate threat to play opposite from wide receiver A.J. Green, the league leader in receiving touchdowns with nine. Rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu made an athletic grab for a first down on his first catch of the game against the Giants, establishing Dalton’s confidence in him. Dalton later found Sanu in the end zone for his first career receiving touchdown. The 6-2, 210-pound Sanu, who threw a 73-yard touchdown pass against the Redskins, continued to put his versatility on display, picking up a third down lined up at running back.
Now it’s time for Cincinnati to come back down to earth. They cannot afford to overlook their next opponent.
On paper, the Bengals have a huge advantage in their next matchup.
The Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) have had just about everything go wrong for them this year. They’ve been outscored by double digits six times already. They have fluctuated between two quarterbacks who can neither stay healthy nor perform at a consistent level — Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn have six touchdown passes and 15 interceptions between them.
Their lone bright spot is in a rushing attack that ranks fourth in the NFL. Look for Kansas City to feed the ball to featured back Jamaal Charles in order to avoid exposing their quarterback to a Cincinnati pass rush that has been on a tear in recent weeks.
Fortunately for the Chiefs, their biggest weakness on defense is against the run. Meanwhile, the Bengals are averaging only 3.7 yards a carry and rank 25th overall in rushing. This means that Kansas City, ranked eighth against the pass, can focus on shutting down Cincinnati’s greatest strength — an aerial attack with budding stars.
Moreover, the Chiefs might have recently turned a corner.
On Monday, the Chiefs played the Pittsburgh Steelers and would have won if not for a few unfortunate breaks, some of which were the result of questionable officiating. More importantly, Kansas City showed signs of pride and grit. On a number of big plays (though two of them were overturned by penalties) the Chiefs celebrated and even taunted Pittsburgh. In no way did they seem to be shrinking from the challenge of playing a team regularly in championship contention. Lastly, the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium is normally one of the most disruptive atmospheres for visiting teams, though such has not been the case this year. But the opportunity to play a team as inconsistent as Cincinnati might just inspire the home crowd enough to throw the Bengals off their game.
After starting 3-1, the Bengals were upset by three teams with losing records: the Dolphins (1-3 at the time), the Browns (0-5 at the time) and the Steelers (2-3 at the time).
In order to make the playoffs, Cincinnati simply cannot lose another game against an inferior opponent.
The Bengals are slated to play at Kansas City on Sunday at 1 p.m.