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Cincinnati Bengals

A Year in the Life of the Bengals – 2009

Andrew Dunn

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Following what I perceive to be the most unpleasant Bengals season in recent memory, we have a scrappy 2009 team that bounced back to surprise us all.  I don’t recall much optimism around Cincinnati as the Bengals kicked off this season, and as we go through this, I’m thinking it’ll become clear that that was for good reason.  Another so-so draft (at least initially) and relative silence in free agency left a lot to be desired during the offseason, but Marvin Lewis had some tricks up his sleeve.

Before we get into the memorable season, our fun facts for the week.  Avatar hit theaters in 2009 and as of this writing, is the highest-grossing film of all time (per this article in Newsday), sitting a bit under $3 billion.  Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby with 50-1 odds to do so, second worst of all time behind the 1913 winner, Donerail (91-1 if you were curious).  And, of course, we lost Michael Jackson in 2009.

The 2009 season for the Bengals turned out to be an eventful one, both in terms of incredible highs and horrible lows.  Starting from the beginning – star wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh left the Bengals to go out west to Seattle, leaving a gaping hole on the offense.  Linebacker Brandon Johnson also left, and while he wasn’t quite the impact player TJ was, Johnson had some solid performances.

The team attempted to replace Houshmandzadeh with veteran receiver Laveranues Coles, who had three 1,000 yard seasons under his belt in nine seasons with the Jets and Redskins.  And, following a relatively good showing in limited action in 2008, former first-round running back Cedric Benson received a two-year extension to the featured back.

In the Draft, the Bengals added some key names – offensive tackle Andre Smith, linebacker Rey Maualuga, defensive end Michael Johnson, and punter Kevin Huber were some of the headliners.  There’s no doubt that all of these guys had shining times in orange and black, some moreso than others.  However, for the most part, the immediate splashes were underwhelming, particularly for Smith, the sixth overall selection that year.  He wound up holding out until the end of August, and fractured his foot a few days later.

And so begins another season following an offseason that left a lot of us shrugging, unconvinced that the front office was attempting to make real strides in the right direction.  The Bengals opened the season in heart-breaking fashion – they battled the Denver Broncos in a defensive struggle on opening weekend at Paul Brown Stadium.  At the end of three quarters, the score was 6-0 in favor of Denver.

One touchdown from Cedric Benson later, the Bengals led 7-6 with 38 seconds left.  On the ensuing drive, the win looked sealed as the Broncos lined up on their own 13 yard line with seconds to go – Leon Hall deflected the pass on the following play into the air, and it landed into the waiting arms of Brandon Stokely, who ran the 87 yards to paydirt.  Denver wins, 12-7.

However, the Bengals rattled off three wins in a row following that defeat, two of which came against the Packers and Steelers.  The offense seemed to be clicking again and Mike Zimmer had the defense humming right along, when tragedy struck.

Zimmer’s wife, Vikki, was found dead on October 9, 2009.  At just 50 years old, she had passed away of natural causes.

It’s hard to transition back into football, but we will give it a shot – Zimmer did show up for his duties as defensive coordinator just three short days later, when the Bengals went into Baltimore and upset the Ravens behind a strong effort from the defensive unit.  Zimmer received the game ball.

Ultimately, the team looked strong going into their bye week in Week 8 – they were 5-2 and fresh off a 45-10 beating of the Chicago Bears.  They came out of the bye with a 17-7 victory over the Ravens.  In this game, troubled wide receiver Chris Henry broke his arm in what would turn out to be his final game in the NFL.

Sadly, Henry died on December 16, 2009 following injuries he suffered after he was thrown from the back of a pickup truck during a domestic dispute.  He was a young man who seemed to have finally gotten his life and career on track, and I remember vividly the shock that shook the city, much the way it had been shaken two months prior.

Again, it’s not easy to transition away from that, but we’ll move forward through the rest of the season.  Following the Bengals’ 9-3 start, they finished the season by losing three out of their final four games, including an ugly 37-0 loss in the season finale against the New York Jets.  It was an ugly tone to set as the division winners (spoiler alert) ahead of what wound up being a rematch against the Jets one week later.

There are those that stick to the idea that Marvin Lewis and the Bengals were effectively resting up for an already clinched spot in the postseason – a difficult thing to sell considering the starters played most of that game.

As has become too common, the Bengals lost their playoff game a week later at Paul Brown Stadium, 24-14.  Despite an early 7-0 lead, Jets’ running back Shonn Greene proved to be too much and the Cincinnati offense was just not clicking on this day.  A 10-6 record, AFC North crown, and first-round playoff loss was the 2009 season, in a nutshell.

We did this week a little backwards, so onto the stats.  Carson Palmer put up a good season in 2009, if slightly more than mediocre – he threw for just over 3,000 yards, collecting 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.  Perhaps it may be unfair to be critical of that season, combined with the facts that he’d lost one of his receivers and this wound up being a division-winning team, but Palmer had set a bar for himself in 2005 that he really never came close to again in Cincinnati.

The aforementioned Benson rewarded the team for their faith in him, as he ran for 1,251 yards on 4.2 yards per carry, and scored six times.

Chad Ochocinco (yep, it’s time for that) had a good bounceback season in his own right, a thing that seems to be forgotten when fans remember the ‘Ochocinco’ seasons.  He caught 72 balls (on over 100 targets) for 1,047 yards and nine scores.  His backup was okay, not great, as the offense tried to move on without Houshmandzadeh.  Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles combined for eight touchdowns.

The defense, from an overall standpoint, was a solid unit, even if there were no dominant stat hogs.  Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph established themselves as a top-tier cornerback tandem, totaling 12 interceptions (six each) and also had 58 tackles apiece.  Defensive end Antwan Odom tied a career high with eight sacks, and linebacker (turned network star) Dhani Jones led the team in tackles for the second year in a row with 76.

This brings to an end a highly memorable 2009, which means we have to step back into the dark ages for another year in 2010.  While 2008 was my least favorite season, 2010 wasn’t far behind, and I’ve labeled that year not as a season, but a circus.  Terrell Owens joins the fray as we prepare to discuss Carson Palmer’s swansong in a Bengals uniform.

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

Three-Wide Set, All My Bengals

Jeffery Carr

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© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There was a soap opera that was on television, when I was a kid, that I would see when I stayed home sick from school. Figured the title fits what has happened with the Bengals the last few days, so I tweaked it for this week’s three-wide set, what’d you think?

  1. Teryl Austin out, Marvin Lewis in…again.So the most obvious move, ever, happened Monday with the separation of the Bengals and their defunct defensive director. Austin seemed like a good guy, and all, but his defense was horrendous. In case you’ve lived under a rock and are just now delving into the Bengals 2018 season, they are last in all the NFL in yards allowed. Somehow, they are not last, but second to last in points allowed. In fact, as Jay Morrison remarked on Twitter, the Bengals are 11th in points scored this season, but 28th in point differential. That’s how bad this defense has been. One more oh wow moment with bad defense is I am pretty sure, without looking, that the last two Bengals opponents haven’t punted. (Checks stats) Ok, they forced two punts in the Buccaneers game. That being said, opposing offenses had converted over 50% of their third down attempts against the Cincinnati defense. That’s not great. Oh, and one more, one more, oh wow moment: the Bengals became the first team in NFL history to allow 500+ yards in three-straight games…okay, I am done.
    Enter Marvin to “fix” the defense. Not sure it can be done, at this point, but to be real, it can’t get worse. Like, when you’re last, you can’t be more last. Just like if you’re dead, you can’t die again. Yet, somehow, with the worst defense in the league, the Bengals are not dead.  Lewis can schematically fix the defense (which doesn’t help the tackling) and may be able to up the ante on the pass rush, as this defense has been the most passive I’ve seen since Marvin came aboard, but will it be enough? If they pull out a win this Sunday in Baltimore, it will put them in a nice spot for the 2nd wild card spot, if they don’t get it together and lose to Baltimore then the three-wide set might start looking at three draft prospects for the Bengals, each week.
  1. Hue Jackson is back, again again. Welcome back home Mike Brown’s favorite son not named Marvin. The prodigal son returns as he, once again, tried to take his inheritance and go off to another team to make a name for himself, only to find himself, yet again, an assistant on the Bengals coaching staff. This time it’s very Dwight Schrute-esque as he is the “Special Assistant to the Head Coach.” Read that, “assistant to the head coach,” not “assistant head coach.” Here’s hoping Bill Lazor puts his stapler in jello.
    I really do not know how to feel. The “in the moment” side of me likes it for the simple fact he can provide inside info on the Browns, who the Bengals haven’t played, and he might be able to help out a now double-duty Marvin. But the “big picture” side of me hates this. Now it gives a reason for Mike Brown to let go of Marvin Lewis, after his contract expires, and seamlessly transition to another coach he likes. Brown now doesn’t have to go through the necessary, desperately needed painful process of interviewing new coaches who could possibly provide fresh-thinking to a team that desperately needs it. Instead he can hand over the keys to the coach’s office, without any hullabaloo, to a man who does not deserve it (objectively) but, rather, is someone who Mike Brown sees as a son. Ugh…
  1. John Ross scored! That’s right, much congratulations to the man who has endured a lot of criticism, a lot of vitriol, a lot of unnecessary hate…I am talking, of course, about our fearless podcast host, James Rapien. I thought Ross looked good, I thought Andy was bad. JR15 was getting separation, making some guys miss on their coverage…and the ball fell short. Dalton underthrew him. What was the joke when Ross was drafted? “Great, now we can have the fastest dude in the NFL for Andy to still overthrow.” Well, he wasn’t overthrown, he was underthrown. Seriously, there was a tweet, can’t remember who (probably Joe Goodberry), that showed all of John Ross’ targets. The ones he didn’t catch, were bad throws. Plain and simple. Those who criticize Ross are not looking at the whole picture. I think he gets better and I think Andy can build a rapport with him, maybe even this week at Baltimore. Point is, fans and haters, John Ross is going to be just fine.

This is the biggest game of the year, this Sunday, at M&T Bank stadium. Last year, the Bengals knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs there. Will the Ravens get revenge? Or will the Bengals continue their recent dominance over the Ravens (eight wins in the last 10 games)? Stay tuned!

Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonBengals for more Cincinnati professional football content

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Cincinnati Bengals

Reacting to Austin’s firing and our film review with Joe Goodberry

James Rapien

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I discuss the Bengals firing defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Marvin Lewis taking over for him, plus Joe Goodberry joins me for our weekly film review. We talk about the Bengals’ 51-14 loss to the Saints, what can be fixed on defense, their issues on offense and more. Listen and subscribe to the podcast below.

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Cincinnati Bengals

The Saints march all over the Bengals 51-14

James Rapien

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The Saints dismantled the Bengals 51-14 on Sunday afternoon. Cincinnati falls to 5-4 and continues to struggle following a 4-1 start to the season. I recapped them game, discussed the defensive struggles, plus hear from Drew Brees, John Ross and I respond to your voicemails on a postgame edition of the Locked on Bengals podcast. Listen and subscribe below.

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