I , for one, believed until the two-minute warning. Sure, the lead up to that moment looked like every other Bengals loss we have come to know as ‘typical Bengals’, but I still believed. Even when the halftime buzzer sounded and A.J. Green, probably the best player on the team and definitely the best player on the offense, didn’t have a single catch, I believed. Even after Shayne Graham, of all people, made his third field goal of the day to give the Texans a two score lead, I believed. Silly me.
Yes, the Bengals fooled us again. With Houston falling from the one time first seed to the third in the final weeks, finishing 1 and 3 after starting off 11 and 1, and the Bengals coming in winners of 7 of 9 to end the season, it looked like the young team could pull off the upset. Oh, how we believed! We threw out stats that supposedly told the real story, the Bengals story. We conveniently forgot that Andy Dalton and A.J. Green looked more like Carson Palmer and Chad ‘Call Me Who-Knows What’ the last couple weeks of the season. We ignored recent history, specifically last year’s loss to Houston, where they started T.J. Yates at quarterback and still beat us. Heck, I even ignored my own prediction from last year. Like so many quarterbacks before him, Andy Dalton was due for a less than solid year two. After last year’s loss I told everyone that would listen that the 2013-2014 season would be ours. Then came this magnificent end to the season I forgot my own prediction and began making bets on this year’s Super Bowl. Again, silly me.
It will be interesting to see what happens this offseason. Jay Gruden may leave. So too may Mike Zimmer, supposedly the best coordinator to never be a head coach. While Zimmer will be missed, I would love to sit in on any interview with Gruden. Question number 1: “Jay, what the heck happened in Houston? Did you forget A.J. was on your team in the first half?” Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that one.
No matter what, it will be an impact offseason. Dalton was running for his life by the end of the season. Sure, injuries were a major part of that, but another lineman would be nice. So too would a safety to play next Nelson. Crocker is good but he’s getting old and Taylor Mays looked about as useful to the Bengals as I am.
In the end, it was another Bengals season, strong and true. They made us believe before once again breaking our hearts. I could rant about Mike Brown all day, I’m serious by the way, check my first Bengals article, but he isn’t out there missing tackles or overthrowing receivers. No, if I had to make a prediction now, I would say Andy Dalton and Co come back stronger than ever next season and once again take the city on a wild ride that ends in the playoffs. When that ride ends is what will be exciting to see.
One ray of hope shines through the dismal cloud of loss this week, however. Pitchers and Catchers report in just over a month. Now, on to the Reds…
Questions, comments or story ideas for J.? He can be reached at [email protected] or on Linked In at J. Shifman.