It would be easy to sit back, dissect the Bengals loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and point fingers. It would be even easier to say that Cincinnati was the team without poise on Saturday night. But, the truth of the matter is a combination of facts that make fans scratch their heads. When will it end? The Bengals have the talent to go all the way. Yet, each year, they fall short by losing their composure during big games.
Each year, the Bengals blaze through the regular season and do the job necessary to get into the playoffs. But the heartache always arises when the pressure hits. It’s time to be a responsible football fan and lay the blame where it belongs. If you put your heart into watching the Bengals on a yearly basis, there comes a time when the emotion takes a back seat and reality grabs you in the collar.
Marvin Lewis cannot control his players. There, it’s been said. The white elephant in the room has been addressed and everything should be okay from there. But it’s not that easy.
Saturday night’s Wild Card game was a rollercoaster of emotions. The game started out as a defensive battle that really shouldn’t have been one. During a playoff game, emotions naturally run high. Mistakes will happen and timing will be off, due to adrenaline. But, a good coach will settle the players down, so they can execute with perfection.
When you look at the Evil Empire, better known as the New England Patriots, they win because of poise and emotional control. That’s the reason they’ve been to the playoffs seven straight years. That’s also the reason, per ESPN, they’ve won the Super Bowl four out of six times in the past 12 years.
You would never see a team run by Bill Belichick melt down as many times as the Bengals. Would Belichick allow his players to get into shoving matches with coaches? Would it happen during the most pivotal time of the game? Marvin Lewis has had a series of breakdowns with a talented group of athletes that shouldn’t be happening. The City of Cincinnati deserves better.
The Bengals have a chance to be more than perennial playoff contenders. They have a chance to be one of the elite teams of the NFL. But, until the lack of poise is addressed, there won’t be a Lombardi sitting in Paul Brown Stadium.
When Paul Brown’s namesake team, the Cleveland Browns, played their first game in the NFL, he was stoic and in control. He wasn’t going to let his team look like a gang of crazed animals to the media. As found in The New York Times, he told them to remain poised and professional.
“Today,” he told his team. “You will have a chance to touch the great Steve Van Buren.”
He followed that with words the Bengals players have to be taught.
“Act like you’ve been there before.”
Bengals fans who bleed Orange and Black are a patient bunch. They wait year after year for things to change. This was supposed to be the year the Bengals made it all the way. This team had depth and superb talent. Yet, the same results crept onto the PBS scoreboard.
There were more factors than out of control players contributing to the Steelers’ win. The offense was a horrendous mess. There was no spark until Burfict sacked Ben Roethlisberger. In a game with such meaning and magnitude, the offense came out flat. If they had scored just one field goal in the first half, the game would have been over and no one would be talking about players having meltdowns.
If Marvin Lewis gains control of the returning players, there’s a chance the Bengals will achieve greater things in 2016. But, until the white elephant is removed permanently, fans will still be crying in the stands.
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]