It was appropriate on “Salute To Service” night at Paul Brown Stadium that I felt like we were watching patriots.
As in the New England Patriots.
In their 31-10 win over Cleveland, the Bengals did not have a turnover, only committed two penalties, made great halftime adjustments, had their quarterback post a 139.8 passer rating, and got three touchdown catches from their sensational tight end.
Sound like anybody you know?
To take it a step further, their postgame comments were positively “Belichickian.”
“We can play better,” said Andrew Whitworth. “We’ve got to keep pushing ourselves. That performance is not going to be good enough in four or five weeks so we really have to amp it up.”
“We know the potential that we have,” said Marvin Jones. “It’s up to us every week to go out and reach that potential because it’s so high and we have high expectations for ourselves.”
“We’re a tight group and I feel like we’re a championship-type group,” said Dre Kirkpatrick.
Cincinnati wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. When Cleveland ended the first half with a 10-play, 92 yard touchdown drive, the Bengals only had a 14-10 lead.
But the coaching staff made a great adjustment to keep Johnny Manziel in the pocket and the Browns were only able to gain 32 yards while being shutout in the second half.
“I think the defensive coaches and players did a good job of understanding that, ‘This is their attack. If we want to win the football game, this is what we’ve got to do,’” said Marvin Lewis.
And when the defense got three straight three-and-outs in the second half, the offense scored 17 straight points to turn it into a rout.
“We were all talking about it at halftime and saying, ‘Dang, we only had three possessions,’” said Jones. “But they were effective. Two of them resulted in touchdowns and we were just playing good, solid football.”
“Good” and “solid” are not strong enough words to describe Eifert who put on a show for the nationally-televised audience with a career-high three touchdown catches.
“It’s crazy,” said Jones. “After he scored his first touchdown, I was like, ‘Bro, you’re going to get two more.’ I called it because we know the talent that he has. He’s a match-up nightmare.”
“He’s a better route-runner than I am,” said A.J. Green. “At 250 pounds.”
“It feels good to score touchdowns and it feels good to help this team win, but the best feeling is winning,” said Eifert. “That’s the most important thing, and the guys in this locker room understand that.”
At the halfway point of the regular season, Eifert has nine touchdown catches putting him on a pace for 18 this season. The NFL single-season record for a tight end is 17 by Rob Gronkowski. Ironically, Eifert debuted a Gronk-like spike after his first TD on Thursday night.
“I’m just getting into the whole spiking thing,” said Eifert. “Growing up, I was always told to just hand the ball to the ref. But sometimes when you have so much time between the score and all of your buddies running up to you, you’ve got to do something or otherwise you look stupid. I’m definitely not going to dance, so I just went with the spike.”
The Bengals are 13-2 in their last 15 regular season games, matching the – you guessed it – Patriots for the NFL’s best record during that stretch. The difference between the two teams, of course, is that New England ended last year with the Lombardi Trophy.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has four of them in his trophy case and while Mike Brown is still trying to win his first, Carlos Dunlap hopes the Bengals owner was able to savor the team’s eighth straight win on Thursday night.
“I know Mr. Brown is up there excited and probably popping a couple of bottles of champagne,” said Dunlap after the game. “Hopefully he saves one for me.”
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