I'm a regular poster on CincyJungle. Thought I'd head over here to post some thoughts.
There are a few extreme schools of thought. Among Bengals fans, some say the sky is falling and it was a horrible performance by them. Among Bears fans, some say that the Bears did not play very well and escaped due to the Bengals’ bonehead penalties and mental errors, a few commenters using the same old "Bungles" mantra.
They’re both wrong. It was simply two very good teams playing each other, with the Bears making the plays in the 4th quarter to win the game fair and square. The Bengals shooting themselves in the foot was certainly a factor, but it was the Bears making the plays that really mattered.
This was perhaps the most encouraging loss as a Bengals fan in a while. Those mental errors are fixable. They just need to get their enthusiasm and emotion in check. The 12-men-on-the-field penalties and being forced to use timeouts was a rare occurrence, only because Vontaze Burfict got injured and no one was sure whether he was playing or not. Bad communication, but very fixable and a one-time thing. Andy Dalton flat-out dominated for 3 quarters, 26-33 (79% comp, highest in the league this week), 282 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT that was not his fault at all (bounced off Green’s hands) and one that was primarily not his fault (wrong route by Green and great play by Tillman). Through 2 1/2 quarters, My Bengals had a 21-10 lead on a very, very good Bears team, with its full offensive talent on display, three completely dominant TD drives against a great defense. Think about that for a second. They just need to learn how to finish and keep the mental errors in check. They’ll be fine.
The Bears played a great game, obviously, they won. Other than the bad interception to Burfict, Cutler looked great. The TD passes to Bennett and Marshall were awesome, and he did a good job of moving around in the pocket and avoiding the Bengals D-line, even running if needed. He seems to get a lot more media criticism than he deserves. People are freaking out about the Bengals turnovers at CincyJungle, but we all know that it’s what the Bears defense does. The perfect pass bouncing off Green’s hands was obviously a fluke, but other than that it was just the Bears making plays to turn the ball over. People at CincyJungle are also freaking out about the Bengals D-line not getting a sack (though they did get some decent pressures). Again, that was due to an underrated Bears line, not just the rookies in Long and Mills but also what a job Bushrod did on Michael Johnson, as well as Cutler moving around in the pocket and releasing the ball quickly. Again, the Bengals D-line will be fine. The Bengals D-line had 43 sacks in 2012, higher than the TOTAL team sacks (not just D-lines) of 26 of 32 NFL teams, AND they added Margus Hunt and James Harrison to go with everyone they had last year. Not worried about that at all, just shows the Bears have an underappreciated O-line.
This is a very encouraging loss for my Bengals. 3 flat-out dominant TD drives (2 other promising ones ending by turnovers that weren’t Dalton’s fault), solid defense until near the end, 21-10 lead against a great team in the third quarter. They just need to finish and get the mental aspect down, which is fixable. These types of games happen for the losing team in the NFL, and you just have to move on. What isn’t fixable is talent, and they sure have that at every position, offense and defense, and young guys at that. What’s perhaps most encouraging for Bengals fans is Dalton. He had a 91.8/100 QBR with 2 TDs against a great Bears defense (the QBR, of course, taking into account that one if not both of the INT’s weren’t his fault), and completed about 80% of his passes. That’s awesome, especially considering he could have been discouraged after throwing 2 picks that weren’t really his fault. Dalton threw for 47 passing TD’s in his first two seasons, third all-time in NFL history only to Peyton Manning and Dan Marino, and many talking heads say he may not have the ability to be a starting NFL quarterback. Ridiculous.
The funny thing is, because the Ravens, Steelers, and Browns all lost to AFC teams, the Bengals are first place in the AFC North. Those other three AFCN teams played horribly in week 1, with the first two teams still reeling from serious personnel losses due to injury. The Patriots? They lost Hernandez, Welker, Woodhead, Lloyd, Chung, and others, and they didn’t look good in nearly losing to the Bills. Yes, those Buffalo Bills. The Bengals certainly played better than them, aside from the fixable mental stuff. The Colts? Had a cream-puff schedule last year, and nearly lost to the Raiders. Yes, the Raiders. The Texans are playing horribly against the Chargers tonight. Outside of Denver, the AFC field is incredibly weak and is worse than the NFC. The Bengals are still on track to be the #3, possibly #2 seed in the AFC (with New England likely being the 2 or 3). They just need to get rid of the stupid stuff, which is doable.
As for the Bears, they didn’t do poorly as some say. They did very well and won fair and square against a very good team, one of the most talented in the league, and no doubt the Bears are very talented too. They can easily take the NFC North, with the Vikings and Lions being about equal to each other (equally below the Bears) and the Packers having their offensive line issues and losing a few skill players from last season. The Bears are playoff-caliber, possibly Super-Bowl-caliber, no doubt.
See you in February, hopefully.