It wasn’t pretty….oh, wait, I’ve used that opening line about five time already this year. The Bengals came into Week 16 needing only a win over the 3-11 Kansas City Chiefs to wrap up the AFC North division title. Once again the team came out and played in conservative mode for the entire first half and the home crowd was getting restless. The Bengals and Chiefs traded punts for the first 28 minutes of the game until Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt had a snap sail over his head and the Bengals got the ball on the
Carson Palmer had 16 yards passing going into halftime. Bob Bratkowski’s ears had to be burning because him name was getting cursed all over the stadium (and it wasn’t just me). The conservative play calling was getting the crowd worried that the Chiefs might be thinking upset. It really is hard to imagine how a team the threw the ball so well against San Diego a week earlier could come out and look so timid against Kansas City.
I’m not sure what Marvin Lewis said to his team at halftime but it must have struck a nerve because the Bengals came out and took the opening drive straight down the field and retook the lead on a 10 yard Palmer touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles. The fans were feeling a little better until the Chiefs tied it up on the first play of the 4th quarter. With about 9 ½ minutes left in the game the Chiefs pinned the Bengals back on their own 2 yard line with a punt. It looked as if they were going to stay in conservative mode again with two short rushes (the first one for a 1 yard loss) but Brian Leonard converted on third down with an 8 yard reception and the Bengals never looked back. They skillfully marched 99 yards down the field in a 7 + minute drive to take the lead 17-10. Leon Hall sealed the game with an interception on the Chiefs following drive. The Bengals had clinched the AFC North division title for the second time in four years.
As painful as the game was to watch it was great day for the Bengals fans. There was plenty of rejoicing and high fiving going on in the stands. The Bengals did what they had to do to win the game. And to finish what I started to say at the beginning…It wasn’t pretty but it worked.
As we left the stadium the jumbo tron read AFC NORTH Division Champions. That’s when the snow started to fall. We expected the snow to come early in the morning as we started tailgating at 8:00 that day. The temperature never got up over 32 degrees but the wind wasn’t blowing too hard and it was bearable. We had a large kerosene heater going and plenty hot food to keep us warm. Last week I had promised to put together a small tribute to the late Chris Henry and it came together nicely as well. We hung a number 15 jersey over one of the speakers and played an audio tribute as well. Earlier in the year I had recorded some radio play by play calls of Bengals highlights with the Hard Knocks theme in the background. As the weeks went by I would add big plays to the track. This week I added Chad Ochocinco’s touchdown catch against the Chargers where he finished up by dropping to his knees and pointed to the sky in honor of Henry. I also added the call of Henry’s last touchdown catch. I let that fade into the second half of Ryan Parker’s song 3 Amigos where he describes Henry as a touchdown machine. It turned out really good and it was a bit touching.
With the snow coming down hard we went back to Longworth Hall and fired the tailgate up in order to celebrate the division title. I am sure that all of
But before we get to host the playoff game the Bengals have to go to
NBC decided earlier in the week to make this game the Sunday Night Game of the Week due to the playoff incentives. This will be the Bengals first nationally televised game of the season. But I’m not too sure the Bengals will be out to show the nation what they are made of just yet. The Bengals do not have a shot at a bye week and the only way they can move from a four seed to a three seed is if the Patriots lose and the Bengals win. I have a feeling they are going to be more concerned about keeping guys healthy than they are about playing for a seed. I expect to see the Bengals treat this as a preseason game with the backups playing most of the time. The Jets, however will be putting up a fight. Apparently the odds makers see it that way as well because they have the Jets listed as 10 ½ point favorites. I will actually go against my guys this week and say the Jets will win 24-14. (That doesn’t mean I think the Jets are better, I just think the starters need a rest before it counts)
On a funny note, though, I read that some Steelers players are expecting the Patriots and Bengals to lay down this week in order that the Steelers can not make the playoffs. I’m not too sure the Bengals, who have already beaten