Bengals Putting Wild Card Behind, Moving Forward

The season starts now for the Men in Stripes. With the Bengals beginning their off-season workout routine on Monday, the quest for success is under way. After suffering a season ending thumb fracture, quarterback Andy Dalton is back to throwing missiles. Players are vowing the January 9 Wild Card loss has been laid to rest. The 2016 campaign will be filled with expectations of moving deeper into the postseason.

The 2015 season was one to remember. The Bengals tied a franchise record for wins, by going 12-4 in the AFC North. Five straight playoff appearances have put them in lofty company. The downside of that notoriety is the lack of any victories.

Coming closer is no consolation. With just over two minutes remaining in that rainy game, the Bengals saw their dreams of a playoff run slip away. AJ McCarron led Cincinnati back from a 15-0 deficit. Bengals fans experienced the joy and adulation of victory and the agony of defeat, in the span of a few moments. The sting is still fresh, but the dawn of a new year brings promise.

Bengals Putting
[Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images]
Dalton is back to zipping passes like nothing happened. The rejuvenated signal-caller is ready for the challenge of a new season. He says he’s been throwing for a little over a month and feels fine.

“I’ve never had all that time off from throwing before,” Dalton explained, via Cincy Jungle. “So just to get back into it again and making sure mechanically that everything was sound — because of the amount of time I had to take off — it felt good. The ball is coming out of my hand well right now, and I feel like I’m getting back to where I was.”

Getting back to where he was will be paramount for Dalton and the Bengals. Before the injury to his thumb, Bengals brass and fans were envisioning a playoff win. The analysts and skeptics were finally warming up to Dalton. There was even talk of the Bengals beating Tom Brady and the Patriots, if they met in the AFC Championship game. NBC analyst Tony Dungy was on board with a Bengals victory, per Cincinnati Bengals.

“I would give them a shot. I don’t think New England is a great defensive team. They’re a very, very good offensive team. You have to be able to pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. That’s the way you slow them down and a couple of teams have been able to do that this year. I think Cincinnati can score on them.”

The Bengals didn’t get a chance to meet the Patriots. The Steelers ended that dream with a Chris Boswell 35-yard field goal. Dalton says he would have been ready, if called upon.

“We were super conservative with it at that point, because there was no reason to rush it. So who knows what would have happened if we would have won and if I would have been able to come back and play.”

Bengals Putting
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]

Bengals faithful were almost given the opportunity to see what would have happened. AJ McCarron gave the Bengals their first chance at a playoff victory in 25 years. Unfortunately, the dreaded postseason curse reared its fangs and the rest is history.

Head coach Marvin Lewis addressed the Wild Card loss at a meeting Monday. The issue is to be filed away and buried.

“That’s the end of it,” safety George Iloka said. “That’s what he told us to tell y’all, that was the end of it. Honestly, anything that happened in the past has no bearing on what next year’s results will be.”

Iloka has admitted to moving on from the game. Other players have also vowed to make the 2016 season a fresh start. Now, those views have to translate into something great for Bengals fans.

[Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images]