And finally… mercifully… we have the turning of a corner in Bengals history. We started this journey back in 1992, and though we have had some minor ups along the way, it’s mostly been a lot of bad memories that didn’t seem to have an end in sight.
Enter Carson Palmer and Marvin Lewis – an era we somehow still live in. While we all have a lot to say on the situation these days, the outlook was considerably different back in 2003. So much was about to change in the Queen City.
Other notable occurrences in 2003 – the $2 bill, while still in circulation, was last printed that year. Outkast topped the music charts with Hey Ya! which is ironic because I was listening to that song early today for nostalgia purposes. And 2003 was the year in which Steve Bartman became something of a baseball legend. The Chicago Cubs were playing the Florida Marlins in the NLCS, and on what appeared to be a playable foul ball for Cubs’ left fielder Moises Alou, Bartman reached over and tipped the ball away from Alou. The Cubs’ left fielder was outraged, the Cubs went on to lose the series, and Bartman became synonymous with all of the other various Cubs’ shortcomings over the years.
Now for our main event. The 2003 Bengals effectively kicked off with the signing of Washington Redskins Defensive Coordinator Marvin Lewis to be the new head coach. They would also hold the top draft pick that year, and used that selection on reigning Heisman trophy winning quarterback Carson Palmer out of USC. Gone were the days of David Klingler, Jeff Blake, and Akili Smith – enter the upper-tier Palmer. It is also worth noting that the Bengals drafted Eric Steinbach in the second round, a talented guard from Iowa who would go on to have some nice seasons in Cincinnati.
This 2003 team began their season much like so many of the teams before them, dropping three consecutive games to open the season and entering their Week 6 bye at 1-4. It seemed that another woeful season awaited. And then the team caught fire, winning six of seven out of the bye week, capping off the streak with a Week 13 win in Pittsburgh. This setup a huge division-defining Week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens, with the Bengals walking into the game 7-5, prepared to separate themselves at the head of the AFC North.
Like so many times since then, the team let us down, showing they were in no way ready for the spotlight, losing 31-13. They would win Week 15 in a thriller against the 49ers, but dropped the final two games of the season to close out an 8-8 campaign, 2nd in the AFC North.
In a move that would be questioned by many in today’s NFL, Palmer did not play in 2003 – Jon Kitna remained at the helm, and what a season he had. He tallied 3,591 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions en route to the best season of his career and earning the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award. Chad Johnson was the primary beneficiary of Kitna’s stellar season, notching 1,355 yards on 90 catches and 10 scores.
This would also be the last year of note for former fourth-overall pick Peter Warrick, though it was arguably his best. He managed 819 yards and seven touchdowns on 79 catches – he would make sporadic appearances in 2004 and 2005 (in Seattle), but this was effectively the end of his career. Third-year receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh missed all of 2003 with a hamstring injury.
This is the longest any of our recent journeys have gone without a mention of Corey Dillon. The Bengals’ star running back hit his proverbial rock bottom with the Bengals this season, as a combination of disgruntlement and injuries limited Dillon to only 541 yards on 3.9 yards per carry, easily his worst season in orange and black. However, this was not all bad, as Rudi Johnson emerged as a pretty good running back, filling in to the tune of 957 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
The defense still had its struggles as key linebacker Takeo Spikes had departed for Buffalo. However, his spot was filled by former Jaguar and Cowboy Kevin Hardy, who racked up an impressive 124 tackles. Duane Clemons and John Thornton had six sacks apiece, while Tory James began what would be a fairly impressive run in Cincinnati with four interceptions.
Having only been 13 years old at the time of this season, it’s hard for me to remember exactly how the feeling in town was, but I can recall quite a bit of excitement for what turned out to be an 8-8 team. We knew that better times were ahead and we were excited at what all of these changes were becoming. A new coach had turned the team around to be a competitive club, a new face had entered at running back, Chad was emerging as a top receiver… .we couldn’t wait to see what it would bring.
Tune in next week as we begin to examine the rise of Carson Palmer!
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.
For more, listen to the latest Locked on Bengals podcast below.
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