Category Archives: Cincinnati Bengals

Pro Football – Bengals – Inefficiency, Ineptitude, and Injuries—By Dr. John Huang

Denver Broncos’ Phillip Lindsey scores in 1st half – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – The last time A.J. Green was on the football field, the Bengals were 5-3 and still riding the coattails of a promising start to the season. Since that time, they’ve dropped four in a row, lost their starting quarterback to a thumb injury, and are barely staving off mathematical playoff elimination.

Against the Denver Broncos, the 7-time Pro Bowl Wide Receiver was back on the field—for just over a quarter. He had one catch for 7 yards…and then the unthinkable happened. A.J. Green left the game with a right foot injury. He was carted off the field, holding his head in his hands, as his helpless teammates, stumbled, bumbled, and fumbled their way to a 24-10 soul-sapping defeat. Cincinnati is now 5-7, with playoff hopes on life support after having lost six out of their last seven games.

Jeff Driskel, replacing the injured Andy Dalton and making his first NFL start at quarterback, finished 25 of 38 for 236 yards with a touchdown and a pick and was sacked 4 times. Joe Mixon rushed 12 times for 82 yards, while Tyler Boyd led the team in receiving with 6 receptions for 97 yards. The Bengals beleaguered defense made an all-star out of Broncos undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay who ran wild for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on the afternoon. Having 100 yards in penalties and three turnovers certainly didn’t help the Bengals’ cause, but when Green went down early in the second quarter, what little air the team still had was symbolically sucked out of the stadium.

I like A.J. Green. In the two years I’ve been covering Bengals Football, he’s always been professional, courteous, and fair in his dealings with me. Win or lose, it seems he’s always sitting for interviews and patiently answering questions. I’ve never seen him raise his voice or become irked by inane queries. In fact, he speaks so softly that you frequently must strain to hear him over the usual locker room chatter. His work ethic is relentless.

As the consummate teammate, Green spent the last four weeks encouraging his cohorts to stay like minded and focused. “I just tried to talk to some of the younger guys and the older guys just stay together, stop pointing fingers. Everybody can go down once you have a losing season and a lot of people start to point fingers,” he said. “For me, we all have to stick together. We are all in this together. We are all losing together. Nobody is winning. End of the day we just must go back to the drawing board and look ourselves in the mirror and go out there and practice hard. Try to do your job, that’s the biggest thing and everything else will take care of itself.”

Those are powerful words, especially coming from the lips of your best player. The fact that they’re so soft spoken belies their impact. Literally, everything about A.J. Green is impactful. After being chosen as a USA Today High School All-American receiver at Summerville High School in Summerville, South Carolina, Green continued his star-studded football career at the University of Georgia, where he attained college All-American honors before being selected as the fourth pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft by the Bengals. Now in his 8th professional season, he’s had just over 600 receptions, is nearing 9000 receiving yards, and stands at the pinnacle of his profession.

AND NOW THIS HAPPENS. I know that injuries are part of the game, but A.J. Green deserves better. He’s spent his whole career laboring for a team mired in mediocrity and steeped in poor management decisions. Honors are nice, but you have to wonder what would happen if he played on a real contender. After losing in the first round of the playoffs during each of his first five seasons, the Bengals are now in danger of missing the playoffs altogether for the third year in a row. Despite a beautiful December afternoon with record-setting high temperatures, Paul Brown Stadium was only half filled. The “average Joe” fan is way past incredulous. Even the most hearty, supportive, and optimistic fans are voicing their doubts.

What happened to A.J. Green today was indicative of the Bengals’ season to date. The major difference is that his toe injury wasn’t self-inflicted. “We shot ourselves in the foot it seemed like with the penalties we had today,” Coach Marvin Lewis said in his postgame presser. “We took back offensive plays, offensive possessions, throughout the day. That really set us back on offense when we’ve had good positive plays…obviously we can’t drop a punt, and then we allow a 60-yd touchdown run. It boiled down quickly to about 3 plays in the football game.”

The Bengals’ woes lie much deeper than just failing to execute on 3 plays. I’m not sure what the quick fix is, but everyone’s tired of the constant inefficiency and ineptitude. Injuries to team-leading studs like A.J. Green only add fuel to the growing Queen City dumpster fire. For the Bengals’ sake, let’s all hope for a quick and complete recovery. After hitting rock bottom, it’s time to start putting the pieces back together again.

Dr. John Huang covers the Cincinnati Bengals for Bluegrass Sports Nation and Sports View America. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Pro Football – A Bengals Thanksgiving

Bengals fall hard to Browns – Photo by Mike Cyrus – BSN

John Huang – 11-25-18 – Bluegrass Sports Nation

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – In this season of Thanksgiving, as far as football is concerned, Bengals fans don’t seem to have much to be thankful for. A 35-20 beatdown by divisional rival Cleveland has everybody scratching their heads. With the loss, Cincinnati not only essentially eliminates itself from playoff contention, but also continues its free fall as laughingstock of the league. Like I said, the gratitude cup isn’t necessarily overflowing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to win the Super Bowl. (OK—maybe just once in the half century of franchise existence would be nice.) I’m just looking for respectable seasons where coordinators aren’t replaced like used paper towels, where 4-1 starts don’t disintegrate into 6-10 finishes, and where management doesn’t continually settle for mediocrity. I don’t want my defense setting modern day era records by yielding over 500 yards in three straight games. I don’t want to have to pin all my false hopes on Hue Jackson returning as assistant coach and savior. I don’t want to expend my heart and soul cheering for a team that I know will not reciprocate.

How ugly was it at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday? It was butt ugly. Granted, the Bengals defense resembles a MASH unit—but they couldn’t stop my grandmother. The game was essentially over by halftime as the Browns moved the ball up and down the field with impunity to the tune of a 28-7 lead. Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield looked like Otto Graham—directing his team to 296 total net yards in the first half alone. Predictably, boos cascaded from the stands as fans filed out in droves—an understandable mass exodus back into their fantasy world of Super Bowl dreams.

This Battle of Ohio ended in unconditional surrender. Cincinnati waved the white flag early, relinquishing their starting quarterback (Andy Dalton left the game in the 3rd quarter with a thumb injury), their pride, and maybe even their head coach. Mayfield ended up 19-26 for 258 yards and 4 touchdowns on the afternoon.

For the Bengals, Andy Dalton was 10-17 for 100 yards and a touchdown. His backup, Jeff Driskel, performed admirably, completing 17-29 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown in less than a half of action. He also ran for the Bengals’ final score as the game wound down. Joe Mixon rushed 14 times for 89 yards and caught 7 passes for 66 yards. Tyler Boyd and John Ross both caught lone touchdown passes accounting for the Bengals’ other scores.

When pressed on the slow start, Coach Marvin Lewis was predictably exasperated. “I think I’ve said it both three or four times over, it’s a matter of guys got to relax and do their jobs,” he said. “Just execute your assignment…We got to bear down. We got to bear down and relax. We don’t have to press. We just got to bear down and relax and get it done. I got to do my job. We got to do a better job. I got to prepare them better. They got to go out and they have to execute their jobs better. It rests squarely on me.”

Now that’s a scary thought. Despite the carnage, fans should remain ever thankful. It’s still just a game—a pleasant distraction and temporary respite from the grind of everyday life. Plus, it’s more than just the football game itself. I’m thankful for tailgating, for the smells and tastes of burgers and brats on the grill, for opportunities for fellowship with like-minded fans. I’m thankful for Marlana Vanhoose belting out a rendition of the National Anthem as only she can, while a packed stadium of 56,122 listens on in awe. I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch the game in climate-controlled comfort while snacking on a smorgasbord of gourmet delights.

A prominent sign displayed in the upper deck of the stadium said, “PLAY HARD and HAVE FUN.” The Bengals did neither today, but Bengals fans everywhere—despite their team’s turmoil—do manage to play hard and always have fun. I’ll add one more phrase to the banner up high—BE THANKFUL. After all—even as a Bengals fan—it is the season of Thanksgiving.

BENGALS VS BROWNS PHOTO GALLERY

Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Group Media. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Pro Football – WHO DEY? SAINTS DEY!!!

Saints hammer Bengals – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN

November 11, 2018 – Cincinnati, Ohio – CASEY ALLEN – Bluegrass  Sports Nation                

It was a monumental task for the Bengals. They came into the game on pace to break the single season record for most yards given up defensively.  Definitely not the best time to play a future 1st ballot Hall of Famer in Drew Brees who has set just about every passing record the NFL has.  If that wasn’t tough enough, the Saints have a two-headed monster behind Brees in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Continue reading Pro Football – WHO DEY? SAINTS DEY!!!

Pro Football – Afternoon Delight – By Dr. John Huang

Dalton tries to shrug off a tackle – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN/SVA

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – The Bengals’ 37-34 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers served as a bit of a bounce back from their drubbing a week ago in Kansas City. Unlike the prime time embarrassment against the Chiefs, Cincinnati’s offense looked spiritedly viable as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead before a predictable Tampa rally tied the game late. Randy Bullock’s 44-yard game-winning field goal as time expired gave Coach Marvin Lewis a hard-fought win over his old college roommate, Dirk Koetter. The Bengals defense was in a generous mood throughout the afternoon, surrendering a whopping 576 total yards, but also garnering four interceptions and five sacks along the way.

I’m giving credit not only to Bullock’s kick, but also to the one o’clock kickoff. The early-afternoon effort generated just enough fire to keep the embers of hope burning for success this season. The win improves the Bengals’ record to 5-3, a game ahead of the Ravens and percentage points behind the Steelers in the divisional race. Cincinnati has an upcoming bye-week, giving their walking wounded a chance to heal up for the second half sprint.

“Obviously we wish we had played better in the second half and made the game a little bit easier than having to drive down and kick a field goal with no time left,” quarterback Andy Dalton said in his postgame presser. “We had too many three and out drives, so from that standpoint, it’s disappointing. But we won. To be 5-3 now is huge.”

Dalton, consistent with his performance during non-prime time contests, was a respectable 21-34 for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tyler Boyd continued his outstanding season with a 9-catch, 138-yard, 1 touchdown performance. Joe Mixon had 2 touchdowns of his own while accumulating 123 yards on 21 carries.

So why the uptick from last week? You know if this game had been played in prime time, the Bengals would have blown it at the end. Put this game under the bright lights, and they would have surely self-destructed while the rest of the nation looked mockingly on. The past indignity has been well documented. Cincinnati has lost thirteen out of sixteen on Sunday nights alone, including nine straight. They’re 6-15 in prime-time night games since 2011, when coincidentally, Dalton came into the league. Marvin Lewis, coincidentally, is 0-7 in his playoff tenure. It’s gotten to the point where big-game embarrassment and heartbreak is expected by fans who deserve better.

The reality is that the Bengals aren’t cursed or snakebit. The cold hard truth is that they’ve just never been that good. They’ve always been a franchise steeped in mediocrity. Prime time games are usually played against quality opponents that are consistently better than what management puts out on the field. As much as fans like to imply, it’s not solely a matter of Marvin or Andy choking away the big ones. They’re both OK—mediocre at best. There’s a big game, prime time pecking order, and unfortunately, the Bengals are middle of the pack. Count on them throwing up a clunker playing Kansas City under Andy Reid in prime time at Arrowhead, but—as everyone witnessed today—they’re still fully capable of occasionally squeaking out a victory versus Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter in the afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.

Speaking of Dirk Koetter, I asked Marvin how he manages his emotions when coaching against friends. “I play against somebody every week,” he answered dismissively. “Dirk and I are obviously closer, but we play against somebody every week. I play against Sean (Payton) in a week. I played against Andy (Reid) last week. These guys have been friends for a long, long time. That’s just part of coaching and being in this as long as I have. Every time we go out there, we know the guy. But we’re in a business to win, just like they are. That’s part of it.”

The rest of the schedule bodes well for Marvin. Fortunately, there are no more prime time meetings scheduled between him and his friends.

Dr. John Huang covers the Cincinnati Bengals for Bluegrass Sports Nation and Sports View America. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

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Bengals Football – Oh No, Not Again—By Dr. John Huang

Mixon ties game for Bengals – Photo by Brendon Miller for BSN

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – For the Cincinnati Bengals, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers has been likened to a recurring nightmare. To say that the series has been one-sided is probably a bit of an understatement. When you lose the last 7 in a row, 10 out of the last 11, or 15 of the last 18—and when your head coach is 8-25, including 2-16 at Paul Brown Stadium with a pair of embarrassingly freakish playoff losses—the word domination seems much more appropriate.

On a misty, dreary Sunday afternoon, the horrific dreams continued as Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on a 31-yard TD pass with ten seconds left in the game for another unfathomable 28-21 Steeler victory. Whether heart-stopping or heart-breaking, the loss drops the Bengals season record to 4-2, and leaves their legion of long-suffering fans wondering what they did to deserve such prolonged misery.

“It’s frustrating to lose games at home, particularly division games,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said when asked about any personal frustration he feels losing time and time again to their hated rivals. “We lost this one today. We just got to rebound back. We don’t get a chance to whine about it or whatever. We gotta get ready to go…It’s unfortunate we lost the game today, but we got another one in Kansas City come Sunday night.”

There were no 24-point fourth-quarter comebacks needed in this one as Cincinnati clawed its way back from only a six-point deficit late in the game. When Joe Mixon plowed into the endzone from four yards out with a mere 1:18 left on the clock, visions of a streak-busting celebration appeared briefly on the fog-shrouded horizon. According to the well-known script, however, we all knew it wasn’t to be. Big Ben, when left with too much time to throw and too much time on the clock, will ultimately deliver the dagger that pops all your party balloons.

For the afternoon, Andy Dalton completed 26/42 passes for 229 yards and 2 TDs. Tyler Boyd continued his breakout season with 7 receptions for 62 yards and 2 TDs. Joe Mixon led the team in rushing with 64 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. The Cincinnati defense, which won the game against Miami last week, gave up 481 total yards and couldn’t make the crucial stop when it needed to.

In sports—even on the professional level—the mental aspects of the game frequently play a huge role. A smart opponent will try to get into your head, looking for the possibility of gaining any slight advantage. I daresay the Steelers, for the past decade, had successfully burrowed into the Bengals’ brains—leaving them gasping game after game as if hexed, cursed, and jinxed by the terrible towel waving hordes from Steeler Nation.

How else could you explain the Monday Night meltdown from last year, when the Bengals blew a 17-0 lead? Or what about in 2015, when the Bengals were poised to post their first post-season victory in twenty-five years, only to fumble and bumble their way to an embarrassing 18-16 loss? Rewind another decade, and thoughts of Kimo von Oelhoffen’s season-ending hit on Carson Palmer only adds to the harrowing narrative of anybody old enough to remember.

My hope was that the ignorance of youth would be the key to the success of this year’s Bengals—that they’d be too young for historical scars to affect their psyches. After all, thirty-five of the players on this year’s fifty-three-man Bengals roster are younger than 25. Nineteen of them are in their first or second season. Thus far this campaign, some of the biggest plays have been from the Bengals’ kiddie corps, especially on defense. Clayton Fejedelem, Sam Hubbard, Jessie Bates, Nick Vigil, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis have all contributed one way or another to the Bengals’ wins. Unfortunately, they may now just be another generation of players who continue to lose to Pittsburgh—a footnote in the record books for consecutive losses and decades of pain.

“We’re better than them,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said afterwards, when asked about another loss to the Steelers. “They ain’t better than us. Period. They ain’t better than us; we’re better than them. I’m gonna be a team player…they went out there and they fought. They got the win; we got the loss.”

And so it goes.

Dr. John Huang covers the Cincinnati Bengals for Bluegrass Sports Nation. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Pro Football – Bengals Defense Pounds the Dolphins in the Second Half to Win 27-17

October 7, 2018 – Cincinnati, Ohio – CASEY ALLEN – Bluegrass Sports Nation

It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, in fact, the Dolphins controlled the game for two and a half quarters.  That’s why they play four quarters.  That’s why you play until the final whistle. With 9:25 left in the 3rd quarter, the Miami Dolphins were up 17-0, but the Bengals stormed back to take the win, 27-17. Continue reading Pro Football – Bengals Defense Pounds the Dolphins in the Second Half to Win 27-17

Pro Football – Flashback to Glory – By Dr. John Huang

Bengals roll to 2-0 with win over Ravens – Photo by Brendon Miller – BSN

(CINCINNATI, Oh.) – Cincinnati’s 2018 home opener against the Baltimore Ravens went much better than planned. Not only did the Bengals defeat their AFC North divisional rivals to go 2-0, but they did it in impressive fashion in front of a Thursday night national television audience on a special occasion honoring their 1988 Super Bowl team. The 34-23 victory before the 50,018 fans in attendance sparked memories of yesteryear and rekindled hopes for the remaining season to come.

The 1988 Super Bowl team—coached by Sam Wyche and led by quarterback Boomer Esiason—was the last one to make even a ripple in the postseason during the past three decades. Since that time, the Bengals have gone through a lot—not much of it good. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in the history of the NFL. Marvin Lewis is 0-7 in the postseason in his fifteen years as head coach.

It was the best of times—1988 that is. “Do I think about that? All the time,” said owner Mike Brown. “That’s what’s in my mind. I know the feeling you’re talking about, and I want us to somehow come back and grab onto that again. It’s the best of times, and some of that is what keeps me plugging along here.”

For a franchise steeped in mediocrity, the Bengals appear to be making noticeable efforts to capture past glory. Everyone agrees their offensive line was horrendous last year, as the team finished last in the league in yards gained. By drafting center Billy Price from Ohio State with their first-round pick, acquiring left tackle Cordy Glenn in a trade from Buffalo, and signing right tackle Bobby Hart, the Bengals front office shows that they’re serious about moving back toward the preeminent days of Anthony Munoz and Max Montoya.

Against the Ravens this evening, the 2018 Bengals offensive line provided outstanding, sack-free protection for quarterback Andy Dalton. The second-round draft pick from TCU, entering his eighth year as a pro, was on fire, completing 24-42 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns. His three quick touchdown tosses to A.J. Green by the thirteen-minute mark of the second quarter brought back memories of Boomer Esiason connecting with Eddie Brown. Remember that Esiason passed for 3,572 yards and 28 touchdowns in 1988—numbers that Dalton could easily surpass with games such as this.

The offensive line also blocked well for running back Joe Mixon. The second rounder from Oklahoma had 21 carries for 84 yards in what he hopes will be a breakout second season. Can Mixon surpass 1988 running backs James Brooks and Ickey Woods, who together accounted for over 2000 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing and receiving during that magical season? He and backfield cohort Giovani Bernard have a ways to go this year before matching those lofty numbers.

On the defensive side of the ball, it’s out with the old and in with the new—well sort of. Cornerback Adam “Pac-man” Jones and linebacker Kevin Minter are gone, replaced by linebacker Preston Brown, safety Jessie Bates, and defensive end Sam Hubbard. Still anchoring this defensive unit, however, are stalwart defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins, both of whom signed multi-year contract extensions right before the start of the season. The duo should provide a solid foundation for Teryl Austin’s defensive unit looking to make its mark in the year ahead.

For the game, the defense did just enough to win. Safety Jessie Bates intercepted Joe Flacco on the Ravens’ second series, setting the stage for the Bengals’ first touchdown and an eventual 21-0 lead. Behind Flacco’s arm (32/55, 376 yards, 2 TDs), Baltimore battled back, cutting the deficit to 28-23 with 9:35 left in the game. Leading by eight with less than three minutes to go, a Shawn Williams forced fumble on a scrambling Joe Flacco effectively ended Baltimore’s chances. Although forcing two interceptions, Cincinnati gave up 425 total yards on the evening. Perhaps All-Pro nose tackle Tim Krumrie from the 1988 team could shed thirty years to return and help out.

Whether or not the 2018 Bengals can channel the greats of thirty years past remains to be seen. “We knew they (the 1988 Super Bowl team) were going to be coming back,” Dalton said after the game. “Obviously to play in Super Bowls is something that you dream about doing. It’s what you work so hard for. Yeah, that’s the goal, is to win the Super Bowl and come back and be honored for it.”

Undefeated out of the gate, the Bengals already find themselves atop their division. They’ll hope to continue their winning streak with upcoming road games at Carolina and Atlanta in the next couple of weeks before returning home to face the Miami Dolphins on October 7.

For long-suffering Bengals fans, a win over the Ravens is always sweet, but the Super Bowl still seems decades away.  

Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Bluegrass Sports Nation, Sports View America, and Nolan Group Media. He’s currently working with former LEX18 sportscaster Alan Cutler on his new book. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

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