The Cincinnati Bengals are supposed to be 0-1. That's what all the pundits thought going into Sunday's game (this one included). That's what it looked like, too when the Bengals trailed by four with just under five minutes remaining.
Up until that point, the Bengals were reprising their Bungles role they've played in Cincinnati longer than "Cats" was on Broadway. Leaving points on the field by settling for a field goal instead of a touchdown, check. Blowing a double digit lead, check. Game-ending injury to a key player, check. Losing a timeout from a failed challenge, check. These were the same old Bengals well on their way to kicking off another dismal campaign.
Then it happened. The Bungles turned the tables. With the Browns defense sleepwalking out of their huddle, the Cincinnati offense quick-snapped and AJ Green streaked down the right sideline completely uncovered. Green wasn't that open in pregame warm-ups. The Bungles would have overthrown him, or dropped the pass, or committed an illegal shift penalty or something else that would have made Cincinnati fans groan and start planning their Fall lawn care schedules. Not this time. Bruce Gradkowski hit AJ Green in stride and he glided unchallenged in for the touchdown.
Still, anyone who's been a Bengal fan during the past two lost decades waited for the other shoe to drop. Surely Colt McCoy would drive the Browns down the field, not just for a tying field goal, but for a gut-wrenching, game-winning touchdown. Or maybe not McCoy. It would probably be a slew of missed tackles on the kickoff and Joshua Cribbs would take it to the house. But that's not the way it happened.
The Bengals stopped the electric Cribbs at his 20 and forced the Browns to punt. Then Cedric Benson ran out of bounds on second down, stopping the clock and allowing the Browns to hold on to the timeout that you just knew would wind up being the key to the Browns' comeback. But then it happened again.
The Bengal cornerbacks covered the Browns receivers. Not a one of them slipped on the now slick Cleveland Stadium turf like we all though they would when we saw the rain coming down. They didn't fall back to a prevent defense and let Colt McCoy sit in the pocket checking his Twitter account while scoping for an open receiver. No, they pressured McCoy up to the point where on fourth down McCoy did his best Gus Frerotte impersonation, desperately chucking a fourth down duck at one of his offensive linemen.
The Bengals took over on downs, and on the crucial third and short that, had the Browns made the stop, would have given them the slightest sliver of hope, and which we Bengal fans know is more than enough for the Bengals to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, Cedric Benson broke off right tackle and put the game on ice.
Yes, I know it's only the first game, and yes, it was just Cleveland, but there's just something different about this Bengals team. They looked like…. winners.Tags: AJ Green, Bruce Gradkowski, Cedric Benson, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, NFL