The 2013 season is one of those seasons I’ve been both looking forward to examining, as well as dreading it. While the fairly recent 2008 and 2010 seasons were torture to sit through as fans, the 2013 Bengals brought on a new kind of pain – after four playoff losses had already dragged Marvin Lewis’ reign as head coach through the mud, it was this fifth one that really put a lot of fans over the top. This team was brilliant and fun to watch for the entire regular season, only to have the biggest gut punch of a playoff loss (until this point, at least…. We’ll get there) crush the remaining optimism in the hearts of a good chunk of the fan base.
This week’s fun facts are a little different than usual – you won’t be finding any music chart toppers or highest grossing movies this week. No, 2013 had some incredibly obscure facts/occurrences for our entertainment. First, 2013 marked the first year since 1933 that no Loch Ness Monster sightings were reported… which came as a highly disappointing finding for the conspiracy enthusiast in me. Next, the Google site went down for roughly a five-minute period in August of 2013 – it took roughly 40% of internet traffic with it, an astounding number for just one site, no matter how gargantuan said site is.
And of course, a little hiccup from PayPal that most of us would like to have been on the receiving end of. The company – erroneously, of course – deposited $92.2 quadrillion into a user’s account. I’m not entirely sure what happened next, but I would assume that the man/woman in this case instantly woke up from their dream.
Now then, onto one of the more impressive teams of the Marvin Lewis era. This team went 11-5, including 8-0 at Paul Brown Stadium, and came out of the regular season as AFC North Champions.
They were mostly quiet during free agency, as per usual, but they did make something of a splash by signing longtime Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison. The 2013 Draft wound up turning out some good players for the Bengals, even if one in particular realized his potential after leaving the team. Much to my chagrin at the time, the team grabbed Tyler Eifert 21st overall, adding him to a corps that already included Jermaine Gresham.
They also used another one of the Raiders selections they received as part of the Palmer deal to draft Giovanni Bernard 37th overall, giving some lightning to BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ thunder. Safety Shawn Williams joined the Bengals in round three, while running back Rex Burkhead was drafted 190th overall. As most of us have realized, he’s done more in New England in one season than he ever did with the Bengals – a large fan contingent blames that on the coaching, not on Burkhead himself.
Cincinnati, despite an opening weekend loss to the Bears at Soldier Field, came out of the gate pretty hot, starting the season 6-2. Those six wins included victories over some strong teams, including the Patriots, Steelers, and Packers. Two consecutive overtime losses – one of which came via a safety on Halloween in Miami (only the Bengals, folks) – halted the momentum a touch, but not for long. The Bengals’ lone blemish in the final six games of the season came at Heinz Field, culminating in the aforementioned 11-5 record.
The division title set the Bengals up with the AFC’s third seed in the playoffs, meaning they would host the sixth-seeded San Diego Chargers – a team they had defeated in San Diego only a handful of weeks prior. Going into the January 5 showdown, even the experts were finally showing the Bengals some respect, as most of them predicted a Bengals victory.
Before we get into the game and the stats on the season, I feel compelled to tell a small anecdote. Once the Bengals reached the 5-0 mark at home that season, I recall looking at my dad and saying, “They’re going to go unbeaten at home and drop the opener in the playoffs… I can feel it.” The sad part of being a fan in Cincinnati is that I know I’m not the only one who had that thought during the season.
Stories aside, we all know how that cold, snowy day in Cincinnati ended – the Chargers, fresh out of their warm weather environment, dismantled the Bengals in every sense of the word, crushing the dreams of the team and fans, 27-10. Another mediocre-to-subpar performance in the playoffs by Andy Dalton took on the brunt of the punishment from fans, but the fact is I recall one thing about this game very vividly – the Bengals were destroyed in the trenches.
The offensive line was constantly overpowered by the Chargers’ front four, while the Bengals’ star-studded front four on defense was no match for the Chargers’ offensive line. Ronnie Brown, long past his prime with Miami, ran for 77 yards on just eight carries, while he and Danny Woodhead each scored a touchdown. The loss really cemented the sour taste of the Marvin Lewis era in most fans’ mouths, while this was what really fueled the fire directed at Dalton.
But, there will be more on both of those fronts as we move down the line. Dalton – say what you want about him during the postseason – was very good in 2013, throwing for 4,296 yards, 33 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. That’s definitely more picks than you want to see, but a 4,000+ yard season and 30+ touchdowns blew a lot of critics away.
Veteran running back Green-Ellis was largely disappointing in year two as a Bengal, going for a modest 756 yards on a very disappointing 3.4 yards per carry, but he did score seven times. The rookie Bernard racked up 695 yards on 4.1 yards per carry, scoring five touchdowns of his own. Bernard also caught 56 passes, second most on the team, for 514 yards and three scores.
The receiving corps really had two stars, one of which was, of course, star receiver A.J. Green. He caught 98 passes for 1,426 yards and 11 touchdowns, arguably his best season in orange and black. Second-year wide out Marvin Jones only caught 35 passes, but 10 of which went for touchdowns – the sixth-round receiver managed to catch four in one game against the Jets in 2013. This began his ascent up the NFL ranks, which has now landed him with a lucrative contract in Detroit.
The rookie, Eifert was fairly underwhelming in his 15 appearances, only catching two touchdowns. While he was a rookie, his red zone effectiveness was largely considered his strength, and it was never really on display.
Mike Zimmer continued to put himself on the map as a head coach target by throwing out one of the league’s better defenses week in and week out. Vontaze Burfict made a team-high 131 tackles, while Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick each collected three interceptions. Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry each had solid seasons along the front four, making 7.5 sacks apiece, while star pass-rusher Geno Atkins had six of his own before a major injury ended his 2013 season on Halloween.
Sadly, this marked the beginning of what some may view as a revolt against the Bengals in general. The playoff struggles had now dragged on for 20+ years, and with Marvin Lewis being one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, it was a constant belief that his hot seat should’ve been on fire.
Next week brings a new issue to Cincinnati – sure, the playoffs will be on the agenda, but an injury-riddled team will at least give Marvin an excuse.
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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