Misery, mediocrity and missed opportunity.
All three come to mind when trying to describe the current state of the Bengals and what’s becoming a lost season.
An interesting and impressive third quarter Sunday put the Bengals on the verge of scoring an impressive win, patching things together and going to their midpoint at 4-4. Totally average, at this point, would be outstanding.
Would have been, actually. Instead, the Broncos did what anybody who knows Peyton Manning and this Bengals team thought the Broncos would do, and that’s own the fourth quarter and win. A win of any kind has eluded the Bengals since September, and the last three (at Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver) have come in must-win situations.
When must-wins become losses, you become an afterthought by early November. When you haven’t won since September, you accelerate that process.
Winning is a great deodorant. Because Manning and the Broncos came back to win Sunday, everything about this four-game losing streak continues to stink.
The running game exists only in that it gives A.J. Green a temporary breather. The Bengals gave up a 105-yard kickoff return touchdown and just haven’t been consistently good in any one area (besides Green freelancing and finding the end zone) in more than a month. If you’d have known Green was going to get 99 yards and a(nother) touchdown Sunday, you’d have said the Bengals win, right?
Manning is still really good, and Denver is just hitting its stride. But the Bengals were at home, coming off a bye and knew from that Steelers game two weeks ago that it’s no good to be the team that helps the talented veteran find such a stride.
There are eight games left. If the Bengals go 5-3 in that stretch — and that’s a stretch — they’ll be worth watching. Even if that happens, they’d finish 8-8.
There’s no reason to think or expect better. With the Giants coming in next week, this negative streak could continue to grow in a negative direction.
It’s easy to write the Bengals off as done until next fall. It would be better if their play gave us any reason not to.