If a win isn’t televised, does it make a sound?
Perhaps not, but coupled with a breather of a stretch, a couple of wins for the Bengals could at least return the team to TV in Cincinnati soon.
The Bengals put together their best performance in years on Nov. 11, dominating the defending Super Bowl champion Giants 31-13 at Paul Brown Stadium on Veterans Day. But only the 56,614 in attendance got to see it, as the rest of Cincinnati was blacked out by Mike Brown’s preseason choice to make you earn your Bengals on TV with your wallet.
What you missed was the Bengals’ most complete victory since a thrashing of the Bears in 2009, when Cedric Benson introduced the term “going ham” to white people across the Tristate. Also missed was the sight of a defense putting pressure on Eli Manning, making the two-time Super Bowl champ look ineffective, while the vaunted Giants pass rush didn’t get close enough to Andy Dalton to tell you what color his hair is. Nobody decided to cover A.J. Green, and the Bengals returned hope to the locker room — maybe to the fanbase. Well, maybe.
The optimist looks at an upcoming schedule of the putrid Chiefs (seriously, ask any sports fan not from Missouri to name five Chiefs), Carson Palmer’s woeful Raiders and the erratic Chargers and believes this team could easily be within sniffing distance of eight wins by Week 14. In the forced mediocrity that is the NFL, the Bengals are still alive. In fact, after Sunday’s victory, the Bengals were in a three-way tie just one game out of the playoffs.
The pessimist has an easier case. It’s the Bengals. The Giants usually struggle around this time of the season; they had one bad game and moved on. The Giants are still relatively secure atop the middling NFC East and they have a recent history of success to show that a midseason swoon isn’t a death knell.
The Bengals, though, have struggled in the second half of seasons, petering out even amid the most promising of starts. The Bengals stumbled through a favorable stretch of schedule this season, but suddenly find themselves in a position to remain relevant, which is about as much as you can ask after losing to the Dolphins and Browns in back-to-back weeks. The team had lost four in a row heading into the game against the Giants, and the win helped them at least find something resembling confidence.
“Guys are just excited,” offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said the day after the victory. “When you win you feel like all your work kind of paid off for that week. It’s good for the guys, especially having a young football team like we do to kind of have a chance at success and build off that, give them confidence to keep doing what they are doing. But the truth is the last four, they hurt, they were close games. All games that there’s a play here or play there that we should be on either side of the coin. They got to learn from those, too, and we got to learn from them and take what we got out of this game and move forward. We still got a long road to hoe and still got a lot of work to do.”
But it’s not impossible. And that’s something — or at least Brown hopes it’s enough to get you back in the building for a home game against Palmer and the Raiders the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Thinking Out Loud
There was grumbling among Reds fans that Todd Frazier didn’t win the Rookie of the Year in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, even though he won the Players’ Choice Award for Outstanding Rookie the week before. The difference was the players’ award was voted on in mid-September, while the BBWAA award was voted on after the season concluded. Frazier suffered his worst month of the season in September, while Bryce Harper had his best. And overall, as good as Frazier was, Harper was better. ... The Reds are hoping to start Aroldis Chapman in the rotation next spring, and that’s the right choice. They still want a veteran closer, but a starter will always be more valuable than a closer. ... College basketball season is upon us, yet it still feels like the Bearcats and Musketeers are afterthoughts, at least until we get closer to the shootout. While it could figuratively be a long season for the Musketeers, it could literally be one for the Bearcats, who have a shot at going deep in the NCAA Tournament.
CONTACT C. TRENT ROSECRANS: [email protected] or @ctrent