Put down the pitchforks, Bengals fans. Extinguish the torches and postpone the riot. The Bengals may have lost their second straight game on a last-second field goal by the Arizona Cardinals Sunday night, but by no means is it time to start jumping ship.
There’s no point in mincing words: the Bengals, specifically the secondary, looked terrible for most of the game against the Cardinals. Carson Palmer threw interceptions on two of his first five throws, then looked like an MVP for the majority of the next three quarters.
You can blame the referees as much as you want, but the refs can’t cover the Cardinals’ wide receivers, nor can they keep defensive backs healthy and on the field.
Already without Adam Jones due to injury, the Bengals’ secondary took hit after hit when Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and Reggie Nelson all left the game at various points with various ailments. It got so bad that sixth-round draft pick Derron Smith saw a pair of snaps on the field, and I had no idea he was even still on the team, let alone the active roster. (Apparently, not only is he still on the team, he’s been active every week. Who knew?) In addition, Chris Lewis-Harris played three snaps at corner and rookie Josh Shaw was on the field for 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. There is no earthly way that was in the game-plan.
Regardless, it’s hard for the defense to make stops when the secondary’s attempt at covering wide receivers was so poor at times it made Bruce Willis’ cover of “Respect Yourself” look respectful.
That said, is there any reason to panic over a three-point loss to a good team on the road? I don’t think so, but that doesn’t mean the team can just sit back and assume things will get better. The squad has to cut down on penalties, including the one tackle Domata Peko was called for right at the end of the game. Peko, according to the referees, was simulating the snap count in an effort to get the offensive line to jump offside. Marvin Lewis, for his part, said it was a “phantom” call and that Peko was preparing his defense for the run. Which, you know, the Cardinals would totally be getting ready to do with no timeouts in the fourth quarter of a tie game as the clock wound down close to zero.
To be honest, I think most of the fans’ issue with this loss can be traced back to Monday night and the team’s performance against the Houston Texans. They were awful, there’s no way around that. The only silver lining was the defense, but the offense absolutely had to step up. They did, but the Cardinals were just the better team.
Even the loss to the Texans, while awful, doesn’t mean all that much in the long run. Every team who has won the Super Bowl has a bad loss.
The league is simply too good for teams to be perfect every week. The New York Giants took the 2011 title even though they lost two games to a 6-10 Washington team. In 2012, the Baltimore Ravens took the title, but the 4-12 Philadelphia Eagles took home a week two victory. In 2013, the Seattle Seahawks had three losses, but all three came to teams who would finish the season with at least 10 victories. One year later, however, the New England Patriots got blasted by Kansas City 41-14. It happens to every team.
By no means am I saying that the Bengals are going to win the Super Bowl, although they have just as good a chance as any other team this year.
The Bengals’ season, like it or not, will be defined by what they do in the postseason. If Andy Dalton and the rest of the team can’t win a playoff game, nobody is going to care about the mid-season loss to the Texans. It’ll be forgotten, like how well the team played during the 8-0 start to this season will be if the team falls in the playoffs.
It’ll be an interesting few weeks to end the season for the Bengals, that is certain, then again football season around here is always interesting, one way or another. Given how poorly the Cincinnati Bearcats played against South Florida Friday, maybe it’s a good thing basketball season has finally tipped off.