After letting the pain and emotion of the 2016 AFC Wild-Card game subside for a few days, a game that’s quickly become known as “The Meltdown At Paul Brown Stadium”, I have to admit that despite the way that game ended the Bengals had an amazing year. Twelve wins and four losses. With each of the four losses coming against teams that would all advance to the playoffs.
And after our starting quarterback Andy Dalton went out with a thumb injury, things could have easily fallen apart, but they didn’t, they still managed to win with a rookie backup quarterback from Alabama named AJ McCarron.
And the amazing thing is, with that backup quarterback the team scored more points in the second half of that playoff game against Pittsburgh than in the second half of all six previous playoff games combined. (That’s just from memory but I’m going for it)
And with under two minutes left in the game, with under two minutes left till our first playoff win in 25 years, we had the lead, we had the ball, we were easily within field goal range, and the game was all but in the bag.
But time and chance and a pro-Pittsburgh bias have their effects on all things. (That’s an exact quote from Ecclesiastes and I’m sure of it) But seriously, the more I pay attention to it, the more I see that pro-Pittsburgh bias everywhere. Keep your eyes open and I’m sure you’ll start to see it too.
So, should we have won? Absolutely. But we didn’t. And it was an ugly, excruciating, can’t sleep for days, kind of loss. And if you’re like me it would have been easier to live with had we not scored all.
Can we blame the Refs, Jeremy Hill, Vontaze Burfict, or Adam Jones? Sure. But after 25 years of losing in the post-season, what good would it do? Because in my opinion, even when things seem so simple and obvious, they seldom are.
Despite recent improvements, the Bengal’s franchise, the franchise the legendary Paul Brown built, has been somewhat of a train wreck for close to 30 years now. We all know the knocks on the team. We hear them every week from a biased national media, and from that one neighbor we all have who flies a Steelers flag every Sunday. And we all know that when it comes to the Bengals, we cheer for them, invest our time and our emotions in them, at our own peril.
My hope for next year is that the core of the players, and assistant coaches, stay on.
I can’t say I have that same hope for the Head Coach Marvin Lewis, or Mike Brown the Team’s Owner. Because, other than the name of the team, they are about the only common denominator in the longest playoff losing streak in the NFL. But at this rate, we could easily spend the rest of our lives with those two right where they are today.
What bothers me most about that is outwardly they don’t seem to care about their lack of playoff success as much as their fans do.
And after a meltdown like we saw in the 2016 AFC Wild-Card game, I for one want to see their pain. Pain like we saw on Hill’s face as he stood alone on the sideline after the fumble, or the pain in the frantic and exaggerated Burfict explaining how he tucked his shoulder to avoid a more serious hit on the Pittsburgh receiver, or the pain as Jones cried on the bench, his head buried in his hands, as the game ended.
Finally, I want to know that Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown have a plan to make sure a meltdown of such epic proportions never happens again. Because without at least that, for myself and many real Bengals fans, the pain is simply too much.