Gut Check Time

Can the Bengals rebound from one of their worst performances in recent memory and be the team everyone thought they could?

One year ago, the Bengals were celebrating a solid victory over the New England Patriots. Bengal fans thought maybe that season would be the turnaround. Meanwhile, the Patriots were left wondering what was wrong. "I thought we were better than this" was a popular refrain. Four and a half months later the Bengals were preparing for the 10th pick in the draft while the Patriots were parading through downtown Boston with the Lombardi Trophy.

That isn't a prediction, but it does exemplify the fact that the loss to the Chargers was just one game. A bad loss, yes. A humiliating and embarrassing experience, yes. But it is not the end of the season. Over the next few days the Bengals will be ripped to shreds in the local talk shows and likely in more than a few national columns. They deserve it for the house-sized egg they laid on the turf of Paul Brown Stadium. It doesn't mean they have to throw in the towel.

In the past the Bengals have allowed bad things to snowball into huge problems that are never overcome. This has to change immediately. It seems like this team is so prepared to lose that they aren't as focused as they need to be. They will need to take a massive chip on their shoulder to Cleveland since they face another 0-1 team who does not want to be 0-2.

The Bengals can win this game. The Browns have in the past had trouble stopping Corey Dillon on the ground and had boatloads of trouble with Priest Holmes yesterday. The Browns also proved yesterday that they are the masters of finding new and unusual ways of losing football games. Yesterday's lateral to lineman John Tait, unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Dwayne Rudd and game-winning field goal by Morten Anderson was even more stunning than the way the Browns gave the Bears and Jaguars victories a year ago. They have to be wondering if there is some kind of Art Modell jinx going on .

The defense, if it has any pride at all, should come out foaming at the mouth. They got hammered yesterday, then worn down, then shut down. They cannot allow that to happen again. The offense simply has to run the ball. The Chargers shut it down and the Bengals, reminiscent of the Coslet era, gave up on it way too soon. Corey needs his carries early and often.

Simply put, its gut-check time. It's time for each and every man in the Bengals locker room to evaluate what makes him tick. They are talking the good fight, about looking at film and not allowing this to happen again. Talk is fine, but until they go out and punch someone in the mouth, much like the Chargers punched them Sunday, it means nothing. Sunday we found out how bad this team can be. It's time to find out how good they can be, starting with Cleveland. There's no time to waste.


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