By what we saw late yesterday afternoon, the Cincinnati Bengals definitely made a statement to themselves and to the league that we are here and we are not going away, time to start talking about this team being one of the top teams in the NFL.
The team some still know as the Bungles wasn’t bumbling and fumbling its way up and down the field in front of a sold out Paul Brown Stadium crowd late Sunday afternoon. Instead, they were defending their home turf for a fourth time from another solid conference opponent.
If you haven’t paid attention to one of the league’s hottest teams, maybe now you will. With a 49-9 throttled of the New York Jets, the league’s best kept secret team suddenly is out.
After such a performance, the Bengals surely will be more closely scrutinized. Can they handle the increasingly brighter lights they’ll see in the coming weeks? Can they handle being front and center this Thursday when they play on one of the league’s biggest regular season stages at Miami? Can they handle the added pressure that comes with being a team that, for now, just doesn’t know how to lose?
More importantly, can they handle being declared an elite team? So far they look like it through the first half of the season.
At 6-2 and in the middle of a four game winning streak, the Bengals are an elite team. If last week’s win was a gut check win , than this one was a start to finish a dominant victory.
Until Sunday, the Bengals weren’t able to close out a victory this easy. Aside from the 10 point win over Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night a month ago that wasn’t much in doubt, the Bengals have won games this year that needed some sort of heroics at the end of regulation or in overtime. The ability to pull out such contests should help once the postseason begins if they get there still got 8 more games to go.
Part of maintaining what has so far been playoff caliber football team is to maintain the focus that has led them to this point in the year.
That youth is the combination of second,third, fourth, and fifth year players who are making major contributions. It’s players such as quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw for 325 yards and a career high five touchdowns. It’s others such as receiver Marvin Jones, who set a franchise record by catching four of Dalton’s touchdown passes.
What may come as a surprise to those who caught the Bengals for the first time Sunday is the play of Dalton, a former second round pick out of TCU long derided nationally for his apparent weak throwing arm, and Jones for not being part of the offense rotation. Jones now has a touchdown reception in each of the past three games, and Dalton has become the ninth quarterback since 2001 to pass for 300 yards and three touchdowns in three consecutive regular season games.
The more the Bengals can get this type of production from their youngest stars, the more attention they will garner.
Good things have been happening, all right. But a few more dominant wins are necessary for the Bengals to hold on to this elite status that the rest of the country is beginning to see. And, with this win yesterday Bengals fans let’s not wait til Thursday for the deadline to sell out PBS, every home game from here on out should be sold out!