Sunday the Bengals gave up the second most points in club history – missing the record by a single point – and that mark would almost certainly would have fallen had New Orleans not pulled quarterback Drew Brees and then decided to take a knee on the final plays rather than kick a field goal from the Cincinnati 31-yard line.
An even more embarrassing mark is the record NFL flop the defense has had over the past three games. The Bengals are the first team in league history to give up over 500 yards three weeks in a row.
After yielding 509 yards to New Orleans – a porosity preceded by allowing Kansas City 551 yards and Tampa Bay 576 – the Bengals defense has now been victimized for 1,636 yards in their past three outings.
No wonder the team got a chorus of boos from the crowd as it left the field at halftime and again after the final gun.
Just as the fans showed their displeasure, the slumped body language of several players who trudged off the field said something similar.
This is a team going in reverse and once in the dressing room, players had no answers, just hackneyed offerings about “looking in the mirror.”
The truest analysis may have come from linebacker Preston Brown afterward, who admitted: “I don’t know exactly what was going on.”
The guy paid to know – head coach Marvin Lewis – wasn’t offering any immediate solutions afterward either.
“I’m not going to get into any observations today with that,” he said when asked about the defensive scheme for the Saints.
Asked if he might make a change with his defensive coaches – and though it wasn’t voiced, the inference was his new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin —he wouldn’t commit one way or the other.
Granted in the 8-1 Saints, Cincinnati played one of the best teams in the league and in Brees faced one of the greatest quarterbacks the game has known.
And it’s also true that Cincinnati’s defense is riddled with injury – specifically with linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil and cornerback Darqueze Dennard all sidelined.
But the Bengals still should have fared better than this.
“There’s no cavalry coming as some people say,” said Rey. “The rest of us just have to go out and play.”
Veteran defensive end Michael Johnson agreed: “There’s no magic that’s going to happen. It’s just each of us who has to do a better job.”
On the sideline Johnson kept telling his teammates:
“Look, let’s just get one stop.”
As he explained, “Do that and then it goes from there. In order to get two stops you first have to get one. But we were never able to do that today. We couldn’t get just one.”
Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s offense could never get rolling.
The Bengals were 0 for 6 on third down. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. And running back Joe Mixon, who started out strong, was taken out of the offensive mix because the game got out of hand so quickly. He finished with 61 yards on 11 carries.
The game got so bad that Bengals cornerback William Jackson said he quit looking at the scoreboard and afterward he wasn’t sure what the final score ended up.
Yet, for all the dire talk, the Bengals are still 5-4 and more than one player noted that with a win at Baltimore next week – a team that Cincinnati topped in Week 2 – and then another victory a week later over lowly Cleveland at Paul Brown Stadium, they would be right back in the playoff hunt.
“All I can point to is 2012,” said Johnson. “History – that’s all I got to draw on. We came out of the bye week then and lost to Denver — though it wasn’t as bad as this – but we finished winning seven of eight games and made the playoffs.
“Who knows, we may look back on this as a turning point.”
Rey pointed to another historical trend:
“It’s November and November is when you become who you become. Once Thanksgiving comes, that’s who you are. And Thanksgiving is coming.
“That’s when we find out who we are.”
In November turkeys usually find out who they are, too.
And you know what happens to them on Thanksgiving.