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Are the Cincinnati Bengals Pretenders? Hardly.

December 5th, 2011 at 8:32 AM
By Chuck Chapman


With apologies to legendary Cincinnatian Earl Pitts, "You know what makes me sick?" You know what makes me so angry I want to take Phil Simms and twist his little pinhead around like Keith Gary did to Kenny Anderson? National media writers and commentators who apparently must spend their Sundays watching the Red Zone channel instead of the actual games. How else to explain the memes that emerge on a weekly basis that have absolutely no context or basis in reality.

Of course, the latest meme is that the Cincinnati Bengals "don't belong" after Sunday's 35-7 thrashing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Simms alluded to as much in his post game wrap up, and other outlets went with that meme. Some "national" writer named Reid Forgrave of wrote this summary:

"This was a statement game. And at Heinz Field on Sunday, the Bengals' statement could be heard, loud and clear, all the way back in Cincinnati: No. These Bengals are not for real. They are not the comeback story of the year. Instead, the 35-7 shellacking to the Steelers only proved the 2011 Bengals have been a mirage, built by feasting on inferior competition."

Seriously? Did he watch the game? Has we watched Cincinnati play all season? First of all, hats need to be off to the Steelers who played a great game yesterday. Yes, the Bengals made several errors, but the Steelers were able to cash in on all of them. They put the ball in the end zone and put the game away early. That's a testament to them.

Anyone who watched the game yesterday saw this Bengals team came ready to play. The defense came out ferociously and forced a three and out. Then the offense effortlessly moved down the field and into the red zone where Andy Dalton threw a laser to Jermaine Gresham to put them up 7-0… except AJ Green leaned slightly and Ike Taylor pointed at him causing the side judge to throw a flag. The failure to cash in early understandably took the wind out of the Bengals' sails.

Then came the 45 yard pass interference penalty when Mike Wallace ran into Chris Crocker. Regardless of what you might have thought about the correctness of the call, this penalty is the worst part of the NFL rules. No penalty should give an opponent half a football field without a felony being involved. 

Credit Pittsburgh with a fine play against Brandon Tate to force the fumble on the ensuing kickoff that gave the Steelers great field position. Also credit the lack of holding call against Pittsburgh on their touchdown pass.

The back breaker of course was the 60 yard punt return at the end of the first half when Antonio Brown was sprung by a block in the back that even Phil Simms saw but wasn't flagged. Add in the Steelers' second half scoring drive that was aided by a phantom facemask call and the reality of yesterday's debacle is fairly obvious.

No, I'm not saying officiating cost the Bengals the game. Cincinnati was almost a touchdown underdog on the road in one of the most difficult places in the NFL to play. Few (not even Bengals101) predicted a victory. The officiating most definitely played a role in the margin though, and that is the basis for the Monday Morning Meme that somehow the Bengals don't belong. Three drives aided by questionable calls in a four touchdown margin will do that.

This isn't about the officiating though (that's another column. Did you see the Giants-Packers game?). This is about the national media and their lazy commentary and pack mentality. That's the only way to describe the clearly ill-informed conclusions that hone in on one statistic (the Bengals record against winning teams) and completely ignore the context around it. 

Are the Bengals the class of the AFC? Hardly. They have major holes yet to fill and yesterday played without their two starting cornerbacks. If one looks more closely though, they would readily see that yesterday's game was the first blowout of the season for the team in a season where this same cognoscenti had predicted we'd see a steady diet of blowouts. 

No, the Bengals haven't beaten the Steelers or the Ravens… yet. But for a couple of plays here or there, they might have. When the Bengals take down the battered, but courageous Houston Texans this week at home, will the meme change. The Bengals will have knocked off the top rated team in the AFC, but will the pundits notice? Or will they make excuses that Cincinnati only beat a decimated Texans team?

Don't look now, but if the playoffs started today, the Bengals would be in! They have some winning to do to maintain that, but it's not just possible, but entirely probable. Of course the latest meme will then be rewritten after writers like Forgrave check with their colleagues on what the collective opinion should be.

Of course, it's not just the Bengals. The wave of backtracking on the Tim Tebow meme is wearing a path. A month ago when Detroit blew out Denver, the Lions were challenging the Packers for NFC supremacy and Tebow was a national embarrassment. Since then, Tebow and the Broncos are 5-0 and the Lions are 1-3. 

Wake up America! Don't expect "reality" from the analysis of the national media. I can understand some frustrated Bengals fans who still haven't jumped on the bandwagon. But there's no excuse for professional members of the national media who are supposed to be unbiased "analysts." Stop being so lazy! Watch some games, for crying out loud. The DVR is your friend. And stop simply repeating what your colleagues are saying. Step away from the echo chamber and write your own analysis. It's your job!

Tags: Andy Dalton, Antonio Brown, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Football, Jermaine Gresham, NFL

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