The winds of change were strong in 2004. Following an 8-8 campaign in 2003, the Bengals carried lofty expectations for the future. Veteran quarterback Jon Kitna had been outstanding, but the reigns were being turned over to second-year man Carson Palmer. The roller coaster we experienced – given that we now have the gift of hindsight, turned out to be a wild ride. The Palmer era was officially here.
This year was also the age of Usher, who turned out four top hits, including Yeah! which I promise can still be heard at fraternity parties all over the country. The same couldn’t be said of Britney Spears, who was married for about 55 hours one weekend in what began quite the downward spiral for her. Luckily, she bounced back quite nicely. And finally, 2004 was the year Oprah “gave away” cars to every member in her studio audience, immortalizing the phrase “You get a…!” What actually should’ve been said was, “You get a car! YOU get a car!… as long as you pay roughly $7,000 in taxes, otherwise, no car for you!”
Palmer was at the helm of one of the youngest teams in the NFL at the time, and it was probably the beginning of a trend where for the next decade, the Bengals would have a top five roster in the NFL. As young as they were already, the team brought in a pretty good load of rookies in the 2004 Draft – Chris Perry aside, the team drafted Keiwan Ratliff (CB, 49th overall), Madieu Williams (S, 56th overall), Landon Johnson (LB, 96th overall), and Robert Geathers (DE, 117th overall).
And as a last nail in the youth coffin, so to speak, Corey Dillon was traded to New England, where he would get a much-deserved Super Bowl win. You can dislike him for his words against the Bengals, but the guy was a workhorse for some truly terrible teams. He was to the Bengals what LeBron was for his original run with the Cavaliers – a top-notch guy with no support.
Finally, let’s get into the nitty-gritty here – the Bengals went 8-8 once again in 2004, which was mildly disappointing, but did nothing to deter optimism for the future. Palmer, who started 13 games before a sprained knee ended his season, was good, not great, throwing for 2,897 yards with 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. There was some inconsistency, but that was to be expected from the young guy. The Bengals were 6-7, in games started by Palmer. Things started, off rough, as the Bengals came out of the gate 1-4 before winning five of their next seven games. Kitna (623 yards, 5 touchdowns, 4 picks) finished the season 2-1, notching two victories to end the year.
No Dillon? No problem – even being the workhorse he was with Chris Perry injured most of the season, Rudi Johnson put up a stellar 2004, leaving no doubt he could fill the void. He racked up 1,454 yards on 361 carries (4.0 YPC) and 12 touchdowns.
Chad Johnson solidified himself as a top 5 receiver once again, catching 95 passes for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns. T.J. Houshmandzadeh – who, if you recall, missed all of 2003 with a hamstring injury – bounced back into the fold nicely, catching 73 passes of his own for 978 yards and four scores.
The defense – despite allowing some hefty scoring games (eight games allowing 26 points or more) – showed a lot of promise as well. Justin Smith continued to establish himself as a top-tier defensive lineman, recorded 97 tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Tory James reached his first Pro Bowl to the tune of 74 tackles and 8 picks – he likely would have gotten a lot more attention if not for the beast that was Ed Reed in 2004.
Our aforementioned rookies had some solid numbers as well – Williams racked up 103 tackles with a couple sacks and three interceptions, Landon Johnson had a whopping 133 tackles, and Robert Geathers kicked off what would be an outstanding Bengals career with 3.5 sacks and an interception.
This Bengals team also had some milestones worth talking about, which is something I don’t think I’ve typed in the 12 or so weeks I’ve been working on this series. The team had four Pro-Bowlers, most by far up to this point in our walk down memory lane, those being James, the Johnsons Rudi and Chad, and Willie Anderson. They also played in the highest scoring regular season game in NFL history on 11/28/2004, as they battled the Browns (no, seriously) at Paul Brown Stadium to a 58-48 victory.
And perhaps the most jarring milestone, though it probably shouldn’t be – the Bengals played on Monday Night Football for the first time since…. 1992! I wish there was a way to put numbers in all caps, because that is a deserving number for such a thing. Keep in mind everyone – 1992 was the beginning of our journey I refer to as ‘A Year in the Life of the Bengals’. Notable reminders from that piece – Anthony Munoz and Boomer Esiason were Bengals in 1992, Dave Shula was in year one, and Harold Green was the only Pro Bowler. 12 years later, on October 25, 2004, the Bengals played the Denver Broncos at PBS on Monday Night Football, then on ABC. They won (again… seriously) 23-10.
And here we are folks. The last 15 or so years of Bengals football has been something of a roller coaster ride, and we’re entering the first real thrill of the ride next week as we cover the fun, emotional, and controversial 2005 season.
Strap in everyone – the wild ride that has been the Marvin Lewis tenure is just getting started.
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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