The end of the season is just four games away and the Cincinnati Bengals have positioned themselves for another playoff run. Looking back on how the team got to this point, there were times when no one thought they would possess a winning record, let alone put together a four game win streak heading into week 14.
The 2012 campaign has been one of ups and downs for the team. When they can fuse all of their talent together as one unit, the team is unstoppable. However, when they can’t pull it together, it seems like all hope is lost for the fans and the Bengals.
Let’s start at the beginning of the season. As training camps began, there was much speculation surrounding the team. Many wondered if Andy Dalton and A.J. Green would be able to compete at the same level as they did in their rookie season. Both first year players made the Pro Bowl and broke records on their way to a playoff berth. The NFL talking heads thought that Cincinnati would be the team to beat in the AFC North, with the powerhouse Ravens and Steelers aging.
Then the first regular season game was played. The team opened the season in Baltimore against division foe, the Ravens, on Monday Night Football. The bright lights of prime time were not forgiving to the Bengals and their vulnerabilities. The defense had suffered from injuries in the preseason and training camp, and that did not translate well to the field.
In a game that many thought Cincinnati would win, the team was trampled on and outmatched on both sides of the ball. Andy Dalton threw an interception and zero touchdowns. He also lost a fumble, which was recovered by Baltimore’s Lardarius Webb. In the end, the defense allowed 430 yards and 44 points, allowing the Ravens to make a mockery of what was supposed to be an impressive Bengals season. Baltimore beat Cincinnati 44-13.
At the end of this game, hope seemed to be lost for Cincinnati. All of those same that people that thought the Bengals would be a powerhouse, quickly turned their back on the team. Even the fans were discouraged by the thought of another season with just a handful of wins.
Then the team came home to face the Browns to open the Paul Brown Stadium season. Cincinnati got into a shootout that no one expected, but eventually came away with the win over Cleveland 34-27. The patchwork defense struggled mightily, allowing the Browns rookie quarterback to throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
However, the defense got a little help from Dalton and the offense. The Bengals’ quarterback threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns of his own. He also added another interception, keeping those talking heads around the NFL speculating about a sophomore slump for the quarterback.
Then came week three in the NFL; the team hit the road and headed to the nation’s capital to face off against the Washington Redskins. This game was one to remember for a couple of reasons. First of all, the team was meeting and playing against the most talked about rookie quarterback in recent NFL history. Robert Griffin III was not only dynamic, he was tough under pressure.
Cincinnati started the game off, lining Andy Dalton up wide and putting rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu under center. As the ball was snapped, everyone held their breath. This wasn’t the type of play that Bengals fans had come accustomed to from the normally conservative team. Sanu dropped back, hit A.J. Green on a long bomb, and just like that the Bengals were on the board first and Andy Dalton hadn’t even touched the ball.