The original “Not Ready For Prime Time Players” included Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner.
The Bengals will have to live with the same nickname for at least another month.
Sunday night’s 43-17 loss at New England reinforced the notion that Cincinnati is a talented team that fails to play its best when the spotlight is brightest. Fortunately, the Bengals still have nationally televised night games against Cleveland (Nov. 6) and Denver (Dec. 22) to change the perception.
“We still have two more prime time games and hopefully we’ll win enough games to have a playoff game,” said George Iloka. “So we still have two or three more chances. We’re not saying, ‘Oh here we go again.’ This is a different team. I feel it. I sense it.”
Now they have to prove it.
The Patriots emphatically answered the critics after a Monday night drubbing at Kansas City by playing their best game of the year against Cincinnati. Suddenly nobody seems to be saying that New England is a mediocre team with a declining quarterback. Instead, it’s the Bengals who are taking potshots after their first poor showing of the season.
“That stuff is just garbage,” said Andrew Whitworth. “I’m not worried about the fans or the media or any of the crap. We just need to play well and win. The same people thought Tom Brady should quit football a week ago so I bet they don’t think that now.
“That’s football. Every week you have to show up and play your best. If you don’t, you’re going to get beat.”
But does a legitimate contender lose by 26 points?
Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon for good teams to get hammered by at least three touchdowns. In fact, four of the last eight Super Bowl champions have suffered a regular season loss similar to what the Bengals experienced last Sunday.
2012 Ravens: 43-13 loss at Houston (week 7)
2011 Giants: 49-24 loss at New Orleans (week 12)
2007 Giants: 41-17 loss vs. Vikings (week 12)
2006 Colts: 44-17 at Jacksonville (week 14)
The Patriots used the embarrassment of a 27-point loss at Kansas City to fire them up six nights later, and the Bengals will attempt to do the same thing as they get ready to face Carolina this Sunday.
“We have to bounce back like they did – that’s a good example,” said Iloka.
“I think there’s an adjustment in how you go about your work and probably a new-found focus,” said Marvin Lewis.
Like the Bengals, the Panthers will come to town on Sunday in first place in their division. Carolina is 3-2 and has a one game lead in the NFC South over New Orleans and Atlanta.
One of the Panthers biggest stars is St. Xavier High School grad Luke Kuechly who has some big fans on the Bengals coaching staff.
“You show him one play and then you come back and run it later on and he’s already standing there where the play is going to come,” said Hue Jackson. “He understands football as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.”
“Luke is probably the finest linebacker I’ve ever evaluated coming out of college,” said Marvin Lewis. “I just thought he had it all. Not only that, but he’s such a great kid. One that was a pleasure to have in our building for a day or so (before the 2012 draft). I’ve known him for a long time – since he was an 8th or 9th grader playing lacrosse with my son.”
Marcus Lewis is now a member of the Bengals coaching staff.
In addition to losing three fumbles on Sunday night, the Bengals lost four points when Jermaine Gresham dropped a touchdown pass forcing Cincinnati to have to settle for a field goal.
I asked offensive coordinator Hue Jackson if Gresham has a hard time bouncing back from a mistake.
“I hope not,” Hue told me. “He can’t let those things linger. It’s unfortunate that it happened to him that night, but it’s just like the fumble by A.J. – that’s football and those things are going to happen. We don’t want it to continue to happen and that’s what we have to guard against. We’ll work at ball security all week and we’ll work on catching the ball better – we want to catch the ball better than any other team in the NFL and we didn’t the other night. So I hope guys don’t let things linger from play to play.”
Brandon Tate did not have a good game against his former team on his 27th birthday.
But after watching the “All-22” video of his kick returns and discussing them with special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, I can confirm that there were big plays to be made if his teammates had carried out their responsibilities.
“I don’t have a problem with his decision-making process,” said Simmons. “We put a yard line back there where he lines up. Anything in front of that he can bring out and anything behind that he sets it down. Aside from the fumble which was a big mistake, the rest of the times where he got tackled were not his fault because we didn’t block it well enough. I give New England credit – they changed a couple of things up – and we just didn’t do a good enough job of finishing blocks. We were one block away on a couple of those plays from having huge returns. I don’t say that a lot unless it’s there.”
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