We are now in the 11th week of our stroll down memory lane, and the argument could certainly be made that with 2002 at this week’s forefront, we’ve finally reached rock bottom. Some of the 90’s seasons were painful, no doubt, but after more than a decade of awful, this 2-14 Bengals squad was, at the very least, a gut punch for Bengals fans. I described last week in much detail about the beginning of a new era in Cincinnati, but had a said that at the time, I’d have had a hard time finding support.
Before the misery, as always, our fun facts, starting with one of my favorites of our 11-week run (but let’s be honest, Blockbuster not purchasing Netflix is likely to stay my favorite) – Spider-Man was released in 2002, starring Tobey Maguire. What I learned is that if you recall the season where Peter Parker catches Mary Jane and everything on her lunch tray – there was no CGI involved. It took Maguire (Parker… it occurs to me I’m switching names) 156 takes to nail the scene.
One of Eminem’s biggest hits, if not the biggest, Lose Yourself reigned supreme as the year’s top song, CSI was the top television show, and New Coke was officially discontinued in July of 2002. Though it had been around since the mid 1980’s, it was widely considered a failure from its launch, as Coca-Cola Classic was re-introduced three months after New Coke was introduced.
Moving on from mediocrity to an even lower level, we’re back to our beloved Bengals of 2002. In the first year of the AFC North as we know it, the Bengals were 2-14. They began their season 0-7 before beating the expansion Houston Texans 38-3… so yeah, it didn’t really impress anyone. They eeked out a shocking victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 16, who wound up 9-7 that season.
I’m not the only one who perceives this season to be rock bottom – in a piece published on ESPN.com, they called this version of the Bengals the worst in the franchise’s history. This 2-14 team had a myriad of issues, headlined by an uncertain quarterback situation and the worst defense in the NFL. No, seriously – the defense allowed a league worst 28.5 points per game, despite some solid performances I’ll mention below.
Corey Dillon remained one of the few bright spots on the roster, rushing for 1,311 yards – his sixth thousand-yard season – and seven touchdowns, but his irritation and disgruntlement in Cincinnati started to build here in 2002. Chad Johnson, now in his second year, had 69 catches for 1,166 yards and five touchdowns, which really established him as a force on this Bengals’ offense. While we all know where this Dillon story ends, the Johnson story is much different from the perspective of fan of the Bengals.
Peter Warrick was… okay… again. He had 53 catches for 606 yards and six touchdowns – I don’t mean to turn my nose up at these numbers, especially with the quarterback situation we’re about to address, but as a fourth-overall pick, it’s hard to accept what many would consider No.2 receiver numbers.
And that leads us to our quarterbacks. Jon Kitna was the starter for most of the season (Gus Frerotte and Akili Smith would have three and one start, respectively), tallying 3,178 yards with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions – shockingly good numbers when you consider how bad the offense truly was. Even with the stats of some of these guys I’ve discussed, the Bengals scored under 10 points a whopping six times, including doing it in five of their first six games (and first four overall).
It’s hard to fathom the defense being as bad as it was when you consider the talents there – Takeo Spikes was a top-notch linebacker, Justin Smith wound up being an upper-tier defensive end, and Artrell Hawkins was a very good defensive back, at the very least – it’s this writer’s opinion that he never got his due respect in the league. And oh, by the way, the team was coached by DICK LEBEAU! As Bengals fans, we all know what he would go on to do with Steeler defenses… but that may just be what good cultures will do for you.
Part of the reason the defense was so bad was more likely because they were on the field so often – evidenced by the fact that Takeo Spikes racked up an incredible 171 tackles, along with two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Smith notched 6.5 sacks, while Hawkins gathered 92 tackles of his own and had hands in five turnovers.
The only notable Draft selection in 2002 was the 10th overall selection, Levi Jones, an offensive tackle who was very good for his early seasons here, but ultimately left on sour terms later in the decade.
The 2002 season saw the Dick LeBeau era come to an end, and while there were pieces added in his time here, no real progress was made towards relevance. It was really a continuation of the 1990’s era, where expectations weren’t met and results were wildly underwhelming.
So, we head into 2003 with a coaching vacancy and a first overall Draft pick. 2003 wound up being a critical year in Bengals history, as it was the true beginning for most fans of a new era.
An era that still continues in 2018.
Not Another Bengals, Chiefs Preview
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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WATCH: Houshmandzadeh says the Bengals are going to beat the Chiefs
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.
‘Vontaze can be as great as he wants to be’
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.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 14, 2018
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.
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