It’s hard to think of one thing the Cleveland Browns do better than the Cincinnati Bengals. But this is the NFL, and even an undefeated team needs to worry about something. Like the amount of time they’ve had to come from behind in order to win games this season.
From their 7-0 record, two wins have come against division rivals. Both close wins: 28-24 over the Ravens, 16-10 against the Steelers. On both occasions the Bengals were behind in the second half (against the Ravens in the fourth quarter) before turning things around. The same thing happened in the 27-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks, but that was on a different level of incredible. One quarter to erase a 17-point deficit and then overtime to win the game on a field goal.
The Bengals are everything the Browns want to be and could have been. The teams play in similar colors. Come from the same state, and have a joint connections to their beginnings. And yet things have been so different for both teams for a very long time. Marvin Lewis has been the head coach of the Bengals since 2003, with only three losing seasons, and six playoff appearances (all of them losses). The Browns in that timeframe have been through seven coaches including the current one, Mike Pettine, who is 9-14 at the job. The Bengals never panic with Lewis, even during bad years. There’s a thought process and direction, which they don’t see a good enough reason to walk away from.
This year it seems to be the season Andy Dalton is moving away from the Dalton line that define mediocrity over the last four seasons. It’s not that he’s not making mistakes, but he’s coming up with huge plays in the final quarter, in crunch time. His abysmal record in the postseason (0-for-4) will be tested once again (it’s hard to believe the Bengals won’t make it after a 7-0 start), but this time he’ll be going in with more confidence, and more games to back up that confidence, than ever before.