I've been to my fair share of football games in recent years. I'm no Peter King (thank god) or anything but I've seen some real highs (Purdue over Michigan in 2000 to go to the Rose Bowl) and some serious lows (the infamous Palmer knee injury game in last year's playoffs comes to mind), but I have never, ever seen a game like what transpired yesterday in Cincinnati. To see a team take a game that is so completely in hand and blow it like Hugh Grant on a street corner was not only shocking but heartbreaking. I feel like I've been bent over and I'm still squealing like a pig.
Everybody knows the NFL is a league of ultimate parity. The Colts soundly beat New England on the road last week, then come home and beat the Bills by one point. The only excuse is parity, and that's what makes the Colts such a big story for being 9-0. But, back to the Bengals game. Through a series of - admittely fortunate - events, they managed to stretch their halftime lead to a comfortable 28-7. Let me tell you, my halftime piss was a joyous occasion. This is perfect I told myself, the NFL is too tough for any team to come back from a 21 point deficit. Little did I know what the defense had in store for the second half.
Putting into words the complete lack of playmaking by the defense is difficult. At one point on third and long I turned to my uncle sitting beside me and I could see the dispair on his face. We both just seemed to know there was a far greater chance of the Chargers converting than not. I don't know, nor do I care to know what the stats were. The results speak for themselves. 42 points in the second half. FORTY FUCKING TWO POINTS IN ONE HALF! I hasten to think there is another team in the entire league that could give up that many points in one half if they tried.
Let's say you put a team of random NFL players out on the field and say "play just hard enough not to get cut" for one game. That team would perform better than this defense did in the second half Sunday. And you know what, by the end of that game, nobody I talked to on the way out was shocked. There was no surprise, just outrage. Welcome back to Cincinnati. Maybe, in time, I will come around to find some positives in the offense or Chad's big day, but when I realize how many people spent their time and money to show up and watch a team give up down for an entire half it makes me want to vomit.
Thus bringing me to my final point: the Bengals playoff chances are finished. At 4-5 there suddenly becomes a lot of teams to hurdle. Making some slightly premature assumptions that the Colts, Chargers, Broncos, Ravens and Patriots are in, that leaves only one playoff spot in the AFC. So, they would have to pass Jacksonville, New York and Kansas City (all 5-4). On the surface this doesn't sound impossible, but best case scenario is that it takes 9 wins (more likely 10) to get into the playoffs meaning they would have to go 5-2 down the stretch. With road games against New Orleans, Indy and Denver plus a home meeting with the Ravens, it's hard to imagine this team which is in complete disarray won't take three losses out of those four.
Well, there's always next year. (Right Cubs fans?)