Cincinnati Bengals: The Song Remains the Same

Cincinnati Bengals

Stop me if you have heard this one before. “We will go back to work now. We have to get things cleaned up.” Yes, those were once again the word of Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in the locker room after the team’s 24-21 loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday. After an entire training camp and four preseason games to get things “cleaned up”, the Bengals fell victim to a number of questionable decisions from the sideline and a slew of untimely penalties in dropping their 2013 season opener.
Granted, the Bengals did not lose to any slouch. The Bears were 10-6 last season, have an above average quarterback who can make plays, a talented running back, and an elite wide receiver, not to mention a solid defense. But this was a game that the Bengals literally gave away, squandering outstanding performances from the duo of Andy Dalton and A. J. Green.
The blunders began near the end of the first half with the Bengals offense on the field holding a 14-7 lead. Instead of choosing to run out the clock and take the ball to begin the second half, the Bengals ran three plays, had to punt, and after a Dre Kirkpatrick personal foul penalty, the whole scenario resulted in Robbie Gould nailing a 58-yard field goal to swing momentum back to the home team heading into the intermission.
“I’m trying to make a first down. I just don’t want to give up,” Lewis told reporters after the game. It is a decision that Bengals fans want to see, the offense trying to score at the end of the half and if they do, everyone looks great and if not for the Kirkpatrick penalty, the Bears likely don’t score either.
After holding a 21-10 lead in the second half, the Bengals self-destructed in the final quarter. After an injury to linebacker Vontaze Burfict, there was confusion on the sidelines and the defense could not get the right number of players on the field, and the team was out of timeouts with eight minutes left in the game. Coach Lewis stepped up and took the blame for those errors.
“With the injuries we had, they were a little confused by the different personnel, and that’s my fault,” Lewis told bengals.com.
It fell on linebacker Rey Maualuga to make the final telling mistake. With the Bengals down 24-21 late in the game, the defense made a third down stop, meaning the offense would get the ball back. With the way that Dalton and Green were clicking, you had to feel confident that a possible game-tying field goal was possible.
But Maualuga, much maligned in 2012, lost his composure as a Bears blocker held on to him after the play and was flagged for a personal foul penalty on that third down stop, giving the Bears a first down and effectively ending the Bengals’ chances.
“We had the lead going into the fourth quarter, and we got outplayed down the stretch,” Lewis told bengals.com after the game. “We lost our composure a little bit, got outplayed, and made it difficult on ourselves. There are a couple of things you can’t do: You can’t come in and just turn the football over. We had some penalties early in the game. The turnovers put us behind, and we were able to overcome them and get back in the lead but we didn’t play good enough football today to win.”
If there is a silver lining in the disappointing Week One loss, it’s that the rest of the AFC North teams looked bad, if not worse, all suffering losses to open their seasons. With the Chicago loss behind them, the Bengals move to the national stage on Monday night, hosting a Pittsburgh Steelers team that struggled mightily in a 16-9 loss to Tennessee. Bengals fans can only hope that Lewis and his team get things cleaned up this week in practice and the ship can be righted on Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium.