The Cincinnati Bengals beating the Cleveland Browns 31-10 isn’t big news. The Bengals starting their season 8-0, looking like a slightly upgraded version of the year before each time, is a lot more meaningful.
Marvin Lewis has been with the Bengals since 2003, making the playoffs six times, and despite going 0-6 in the postseason, the ownership and management has stuck by him. They’ve made the decision that there’s no one better to handle this team, and Lewis has had difficult days with some troublesome players. To hear some players like Adam Pacman Jones speak about him, you might argue his decision making sometime, but it’s hard to argue about his ability to be a positive influence on his players.
Sticking with Andy Dalton, a quarterback ridiculed for his mediocrity and less than that in the playoffs, has meant a lot. Dalton might not be the kind of quarterback who wins games all on his own, but the Bengals don’t need him to be. He works well in the right kind of system, and the emergence of Tyler Eifert this year shows how good and relaxed Dalton can be. He caught three touchdown passes off of Dalton, who missed the perfect quarterback rating due to a few incompletions (21-for-27, 234 yards).
The Bengals made life difficult for Johnny Manziel, completing just 15-of-33 passes while getting sacked three times. He completed only 5-of-19 (26.3%) passes on throws that traveled at least 6 yards downfield. The Browns had a close game going on in the first half, down 14-10 with 181 offensive yards. They managed only 32 yards on offense in the second half, with the Bengals pressuring him on 24 of his 40 dropbacks, more than any quarterback has faced this season. He was 7-for-19 under duress.
With a dual headed monster in the backfield to run the ball, talent at the receiver/tight end corps and an offensive line that keeps Dalton on his feet, the Bengals, ever with a defense that might slightly behind where it was a year or two ago, seem like one of the more complete teams in the NFL. It’s not luck, it’s progress, consistency and patience, not breaking up things the moment it seems to go wrong. It’s a belief in a process and in certain personnel, that might finally be in the right kind of package to reap some postseason success, which they fully deserve.