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The Bengals Were — And Are — One Year Away

Posted by Dan Hoard on January 9, 2013 – 7:11 pm

In his first two NFL seasons, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco won three out of four playoff starts – all on the road.

Pretty incredible right?

Here are Flacco’s stats for those four games:  37-for-85, 471 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT for a passer rating of 45.8.  In one of the wins, Joe was 4-for-10, 34 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT for a QB rating of 10.0.

I bring up those stats because it seems to me that the national bash-fest of Andy Dalton after his second subpar playoff game is absurd.  The playoff losses in Houston were not strictly Dalton’s fault, just as Flacco clearly didn’t deserve all of the credit for Baltimore’s postseason wins in his first two seasons.

Dalton and Whitworth (440x319)

Look, nobody knows for sure if Andy is going to develop into one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, but I do think that his career if off to an outstanding start – especially when you consider that he inherited a team that was 4-12 the year before he arrived.

“I think Andy is an incredible quarterback,” said Andrew Hawkins.  “He is going to continue to progress and continue to get better and he’s going to bring the Bengals a lot of wins and playoff wins for many years to come.”

Going into this season, I thought that the Bengals young nucleus was still one year away from being a championship contender.  With a quarterback in his second season, a receiving corps made up mostly of first and second-year guys, and two rookies starting for most of the year at center and right guard, the offense is still developing.  But despite their inexperience, the Bengals went 10-6 and ended the franchise’s 30-year draught without consecutive playoff appearances.

“We wanted our season to go further and felt like we had the potential to go further, but it was still a good season,” said Andrew Whitworth.  “To make back-to-back playoff appearances is an accomplishment.  It’s a young football team with a lot of promise and there’s a lot ahead of us.”

Unlike last season, the Bengals didn’t slide into the playoffs by simply taking advantage of a soft schedule.  They beat three teams that finished with winning records (Baltimore, NY Giants, and Washington) and earned their postseason berth by knocking out the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a must-win scenario.

“Going into this season, I told the guys that we really hadn’t beaten anybody in big games,” said Chris Crocker.  “We finally got over that hump, but we also gave away games that we should have won.

“The tide is kind of turning in this division.  It’s not Pittsburgh and Baltimore anymore; we’re really somebody to reckon with.  I feel really good about this team.”

“Everyone is learning and gaining from experience,” said Rey Maualuga.  “Last year I thought we were good, and this year we were even better.  With the guys coming back next year, who knows what this team can do?  ‘Look out,’ I guess.  These guys are a team to watch and a team to beat next year.”

The key is to keep getting better from top to bottom.  Dalton appeared to regress late in the season, and needs to continue to improve at reading defenses and throwing accurate deep balls.  A speedy and shifty compliment to BenJarvus Green-Ellis would be a boost to the running game, and Jermaine Gresham needs to become more consistent to live up to his immense potential at tight end.  On defense, there are obvious questions at linebacker and safety that have to be answered, but the key pieces will be back from a unit that was the NFL’s best over the second half of the season.  It’s a roster that needs tweaking instead of wholesale changes.

“The truth is there aren’t a lot of teams playing now,” said Whitworth.  “Whatever we’re missing, there are a lot of other teams that are missing more.”

A second straight playoff loss in Houston has left a bitter taste in all of our mouths, but it hasn’t changed the way I felt about this team all along:  It was – and is – one year away.

“Next year for the season to be a success, we have to go to the playoffs and win a playoff game.  That’s how you take the next step,” said Hawkins.

“We have to live and learn from it and keep growing and keep beating on that door until we beat it in,” said Marvin Lewis.

“It’s time to push ourselves further,” said Whitworth.  “It’s still going to be a young team, but we’re going to expect a lot of ourselves.”

“The sky’s the limit for this team in 2013,” said Geno Atkins.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net

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Posted in Heard It From Hoard | 5 Comments »


5 Responses to “The Bengals Were — And Are — One Year Away”

  1. By jamison007 on Jan 11, 2013 | Reply

    I must say I am very excited about next year too.

    Truly hoping the team goes nuts this offseason and outworks all the players. It starts this offseason guys, your offseason has to be championship caliber, its time to get on the bus.

    Geez man, our Bengals squad is so solid; I beg all our players and coaches – please stay together and keep grinding through this offseason! Be pissed this offseason, but set your sights on what you are taking in 2013.

    Lets go get it in 2013. Who Dey!

  2. By mwindle1973 on Jan 11, 2013 | Reply

    The Dalton-bashing is absurd. He’s way ahead of schedule. We have overachieved the last 2 years. And we were a much better team this year than last. We are well set up with lots of young players getting ready to come of age, a good cap situation to retain a lot of our own guys, and 3 picks in the first 2 rounds again. The biggest challenge we will face is replacing assistant coaches we may lose. If we lose none, then the only challenge is to continue to grow the talent level on the roster. And increasing the competition at each position level.

  3. By mwindle1973 on Jan 12, 2013 | Reply

    @jamison…long time no post…good to hear from you…Once I got over the loss, I’m pretty excited about this team too. This isn’t the Bungals of old. These guys don’t do stupid things and they have a commitment to each other, the coaches, the fans, and even to Mike Brown. A lot of these guys talk about wanting to win for Mr. Brown…that’s a big change from the past. And the fact we have 3 assistant coaches drawing interest for promotions tells us the coaching staff is top notch too. I can’t wait for free agency and the draft!

  4. By azredsfan on Jan 14, 2013 | Reply

    This team is a year or two away. They need a vetern WR to compliment AJ and the kid receivers ( Jones and Mohamend).
    Move Burfect to MLB, resign Howard and Skuta, draft a good outside LB with the Raiders second round pick. We need to add depth to our young D line , line backers and DBs. The Bengals first round pick should be used to get a stud safety, Raiders second round- OLB, bengals second round pick- fast RB ( Varner-ORE). I would also sign Adrain Wilson (Safety from AZ cardinals) to a 2 year deal. He would solidify the secondary and provide leadership to the newly drafted safety.

  5. By fraleyr on Mar 23, 2013 | Reply

    lets do this bengals!!!!!!!!! who dey!!!!!!!!!!

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