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Cincinnati Bengals

A Year in the Life of the Bengals – 2001

Andrew Dunn

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While the Cincinnati Bengals’ run of futility that ran throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s wouldn’t really end until 2005, 2001 was really the beginning of a new era in the Queen City.  Sure, Dick LeBeau was still the head coach, and yes, the team finished 6-10 (their 11th straight losing season), but the pieces that would make up a new Bengals regime started to be placed in 2001.

Not only was a new era of Bengals football blossoming in 2001, but a new movie phenomenon was hitting theaters – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was the first of eight movies in the series, and the franchise now has its own theme park.  And I know what you’re wondering – yep, this guy’s a fan.

This was also the year the Xbox and iPod would be released, one of which is borderline obsolete these days, while the other is still booming.  And this would be the year of the best baseball season of my life – in my opinion at least.  Barry Bonds launched a season-record 73 home runs, and the Arizona Diamondbacks upended the New York Yankees in one of the most riveting World Series battles of all time.

The Bengals, with the aforementioned 6-10 record, were in the cellar of the crowded six-team AFC Central – yes, even behind the Browns.  The Akili Smith project was officially in the can, and the team had signed veteran quarterback Jon Kitna to a four-year deal, taking him out of Seattle in the process.

Remember how I said this was the beginning of a new era?  Well, the 2001 NFL Draft saw the Bengals draft defensive end Justin Smith fourth overall, wide receivers Chad Johnson (36th) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (204th), and running back Rudi Johnson.  We’ll cover their seasons in longer form as they come to us, but if you’re reading this, you know what effects all of these guys wound up having in Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, established star Corey Dillon put up another stellar season, carrying the ball 340 times for 1,315 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Unfortunately, it would be another year where he was the only offensive standout – which we know would wind up leading to his disgruntlement with the organization.

This version of the Bengals got off to a decent start, heading into their Week 8 bye with a 4-3 record and momentum following a 31-27 win over the Lions – had we turned a corner? Oy.  The Bengals lost seven straight out of the break, and salvaged the final two games of the season.  Kitna struggled with turnovers and inconsistency, throwing for 3,216 yards and 12 touchdowns with a whopping 22 interceptions.

Second-year wide out Peter Warrick pieced together a nice season in a mediocre offense, reeling in 70 catches for 667 yards and a touchdown.  Rookies Johnson and Houshmandzadeh combined for 40 receptions and 557 yards, Johnson catching the only touchdown between the two.

On the other side of the ball, the defense actually wasn’t too bad, but like a solid pitching staff in baseball, good outings were often wasted by a poor offense.  Takeo Spikes continued his rise to stardom with 109 tackles, six sacks, a pick and a forced fumble.  Fifth-year linebacker Reinard Wilson recorded a career-high nine sacks and was responsible for three turnovers.

Artrell Hawkins and Kevin Kaesviharn stood out in the secondary as well – so while there were pieces doing great jobs on defense, they just couldn’t overcome the offense and Neil Rackers, who continued his case of the yips, hitting 17/28 field goals.

At the risk of revealing spoilers for next week, I need to re-visit the ‘new era’ comments I’ve mentioned several times within these few paragraphs – I’m very aware that 2002 was a 2-14 season, appearing to be another step backwards for the franchise.  However, I stand by this 2001 season being the beginning of the modern era in Cincinnati, where teams are competitive more often than not.

Andrew graduated from the University of Kentucky (direct your hate tweets to @atdu222) with a degree in Business Management and minor in Communications. You can find some of his previous works on Bleacher Report. Andrew is a lifelong fan of the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds... he was born in 1990, so his life as a sports fan has been pretty crappy until you extend the boundaries to Lexington. Andrew works full time for Western & Southern Financial Group and is married with a 1 year old daughter.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Not Another Bengals, Chiefs Preview

Jeffery Carr

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Week seven of the NFL regular season is upon us and the Cincinnati Bengals have a golden opportunity this Sunday on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. Guessing that’s not where your mind went when you thought of this game?

The Basics

The Bengals and Chiefs have squared off 28 times, over the years, with the Bengals holding a slight 15-13 advantage. Cincinnati holds a four-game winning streak over Kansas City with the last loss coming at Arrowhead in 2007. Marvin Lewis is 6-2 against the Chiefs and 2-2 at Arrowhead. The Lewis-led Bengals have outscored the Chiefs 167 to 136, in their eight meetings.

The last game between these two teams was in week four of the 2015 season. The Bengals won in Paul Brown Stadium 36-21 with four of the touchdowns coming from running plays. Three TDs were scored by Jeremy Hill and the other came from Giovanni Bernard. The lone TD pass was a 55-yarder to Brandon Tate from Andy Dalton.

The Offense

This is a marvelous chance for Andy and the offense to get back on track. They managed just nine total yards in the third quarter against the Steelers, but will be facing a very pedestrian defensive squad, this coming Sunday night. In two games career games against the Chiefs, Dalton has completed 66% of his passes for 551 yards and three scores. He will face a Chiefs defense that ranks stone cold last in pass defense, allowing 340 yards per game, through the air.

Joe Mixon will be happy, though, as the Chiefs also allow an average of 127 rushing yards, per game. In fact, the Bengals offense, as a whole, should feast on Sunday. They’re averaging 29 points per game and the Chiefs allow 28.7 per game.

The Defense

They’re banged up, and they’re outgunned in this matchup. Statistically, Cincinnati’s defense has fared only slightly better than Kansas City’s. The Bengals are allowing just over 400 total yards, a game, and 26 points per game. Couple that with the high-flying offense of Patrick Mahomes, who averages 418 total yards and 35 points per game, and I’d say you should bet the over, whatever Vegas has it set as.

Nick Vigil and Darqueze Dennard have been ruled out and Shawn Williams is listed as questionable. Given that eight different defensive starters came off the field last Sunday, at different points in the game, and this coming game may be crazy, simply from a health standpoint.

The Skinny

This matchup has a real chance at being a playoff preview as well as a carbon copy of the Falcons game, a few weeks back. The Chiefs will be in a battle with the Chargers, all season, for the AFC West and the Bengals, though on top for the moment, have no room for comfort with the Ravens and Steelers knocking on the door. Whoever has the ball last in this pivotal game could very well end up the winner.

I’d expect to see a lot of William Jackson and Tyreek Hill matchups. Some have said Hill is the best receiver, in the game, this year so Jackson will need to be on his toes for all 60 minutes. Meanwhile, Kansas City receiving threat 1-B, Travis Kelce, will probably be Teryl Austin’s biggest headache. The Bengals, no matter the personnel or the coaching staff, have always struggled to cover the opposing tight end. Enter, arguably, the best tight end in the NFL with his 468 receiving yards and three TDs. I’m no expert fantasy football predictor, but I’d bet he is a top scorer, this week. And I haven’t even mentioned the Chiefs’ stud running back, Kareem Hunt. Dude is a threat to run all over the place (456 yds, 4th in NFL) and be a pain to the Bengals pass defense (17 yards per catch). Pray for Austin and the Bengals defense.

Bringing it Home

That being said, this is a winnable game for the Bengals. They have the firepower to hang with Kansas City. If you jumped off the wagon after the loss to the Steelers and think the Bengals are going to get absolutely crushed by the Chiefs, you won’t agree with me, so whatevs, but this game isn’t that big of a mismatch. John Ross will be on the field for Cincinnati, giving them their bonafide deep threat to contend with the Chiefs’ big play abilities. AJ Green has nobody to worry about on the Chiefs defense, and will be able to roam free, looking for holes in the coverage. Which just means Tyler Boyd will be able to give as much of his safety blanket-ness to Andy as he can. Should the line have a rough day protecting the pocket, Dalton will have plenty of chances to scramble and make something happen while extending the play. One of these two teams will begin the game hot only to try to slow it down with the rushing game, but I believe both defenses will be porous enough to allow some highlight reel plays deep. This is going to be an entertaining game to watch, if your pacemaker doesn’t give out in the first half. Call me crazy, call me a homer (whatevs, I’m no professional), but I say the Bengals win.

Prediction: Bengals 42, Chiefs 38

Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonBengals for more Orange and Black content on Twitter

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Cincinnati Bengals

WATCH: Houshmandzadeh says the Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs

James Rapien

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Former Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh says the Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs on Sunday night football. He also thinks Andy Dalton’s struggles in primetime games are just a ‘coincidence.’ He was a guest on ‘The Herd’ on Fox Sports One. Watch the video below.

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Cincinnati Bengals

‘Vontaze can be as great as he wants to be’

James Rapien

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Vontaze Burfict has been talked about a lot this week. Not for his dominant play, but for a questionable hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.

This isn’t new for Burfict. His play has been discussed for years. He’s been fined or suspended 11 times in his career, which has cost him over $1 million in salary.

Some people believe Burfict should be suspended for the rest of the season. Others think he should be out of the NFL forever. There’s no denying that he’s earned his reputation.

Burfict doesn’t like how he’s viewed in the media. If he wants to change it, he can start by playing like an elite linebacker against Kansas City. He doesn’t look like the player he once was. It’s probably because he’s missed so much time over the past few years. Burfict has appeared in 11 games or fewer in his last four seasons due to suspensions and injuries. He hasn’t forced a turnover since 2016, which is the last time he was playing at an elite level.

That leads me to a question that has been asked a lot this week: Is Burfict worth the headache? His teammates certainly think so.

“Vontaze can be as great as he wants to be,” Carlos Dunlap said earlier this week. “And as you’ve seen up to this level he’s played as one of the best linebackers in the league. And I feel like he has the potential to be even better.”

Sunday is an opportunity for Burfict to put on a show. It’s a chance for him to remind people that he is one of the best linebackers in the league. If he goes out there, dominates and does it without any questionable hits, then the entire country will see why the Bengals signed him to two contract extensions. Leading a struggling defense into Kansas City and getting a win would be huge for how people view him. Fans and media could discuss his stellar play, instead of a late-hit or a PED suspension.

He needs to remind people, including fans, that he can be a great player. Burfict just turned 28-years-old. He signed a contract extension with the Bengals last season. There has been plenty of chatter about Burfict this week, but that isn’t bothering rookie safety Jessie Bates.

“He’s so smart and he makes things easier for me communication wise,” Bates said on Wednesday. “Obviously he’s been doing this for a long time. He plays very violent and some people don’t like that. I’m glad that he’s on our team.”

It’s hard to envision Burfict changing at this point, but he can use Sunday to his advantage. He can show a national television audience that he’s able to play the game at a high level and do so without getting fined, flagged or suspended for questionable play.

Once upon a time Burfict was an undrafted free agent who impressed coaches with his knowledge of the game. Fast forward to present day and he’s a ‘dirty player’ who should be suspended or worse. Burfict has a chance to remind everyone of how good he can be. Whether or not he takes advantage of it is up to him.

For more, listen to the latest Locked on Bengals podcast below.

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