Cincinnati Bengals Are A Monster Snarling At NFL, Defeating Narratives And League’s Best Teams

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — That Cincinnati Bengals team that was so nice and plucky while making its improbable run to the Super Bowl last season has morphed into something different.

The Bengals are a monster now.

And be very careful because the monster is awake.

And in a somewhat bad mood.

We saw that in all its glory this weekend as the Bengals brought their snarling attitude to Western New York and lined up the NFL, the Buffalo Bills, and every narrative about what’s supposed to happen. Then they took a heaping bite out of everyone and everything.

It all sounded harmless as fans in black and orange chanted “Who dey.” It all smelled as pleasant as that victory cigar cornerback Eli Apple was puffing in the locker room after a 27-10 victory over the Bills.

But what we were really witnessing is pain and revenge felt by a football team that has come into its own.

“We the best defense in the league,” Apple said as he puffed away in a corner of the visitor’s locker room at Highmark Stadium. “We just the greatest.”

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 22: James Cook #28 of the Buffalo Bills stiff arm Eli Apple #20 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 22, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Bengals Versus Everybody

Moments earlier quarterback Joe Burrow had been saying the Bengals are better now than a year ago and a few lockers over safety Jessie Bates was ripping oddsmakers in Las Vegas because they don’t understand the monster has arrived.

“Vegas can make the lines and all that (bleep),” Bates said, “but at the end of the day you have to line up and play four quarters of football. We are confident as hell. We don’t give a damn who is in the stands or where [the game’s] at.”

That is saying a lot. But it’s not really a complete statement about these Bengals.

Because to measure them merely on how their confidence has increased without accounting for how their ire is up does no justice to their mood.

This club, simply, has an edge about it. And that edge cuts and slashes.

You saw it if you watched Burrow’s postgame interview with CBS after the win.

“Better send those refunds,” he said cryptically.

He was speaking directly to the NFL. Many Bengals were after the game.

The NFL, you see, set up a neutral site game for the AFC Championship Game in Atlanta if the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills had both advanced over the weekend.

The league gleefully announced 50,000 tickets had already been sold for the game. That royally peeved the Bengals because it assumed two teams would be in that title game.

And Cincinnati wasn’t one of them.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 22: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills slides against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 22, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

‘Refund’ As A Battle Cry

“Refund those (bleeping) tickets,” tight end Hayden Hurst yelled at no one in particular as he walked into the Cincy locker room after the game.

“Better get those refunds,” another player blared.

It was a theme among players who weeks ago were also angry the NFL set up a potential coin toss between them and the Baltimore Ravens to decide home field advantage in their playoff game.

That was all necessary because the league cancelled the Jan. 2 game between the Bills and Bengals after Damar Hamlin collapsed. And with both teams playing only 16 instead of 17 games, a coin toss and a possible neutral site AFC title game was how the league made things even out for the parties involved.

Except the Bengals beat the Ravens in the season-finale to make the coin toss moot. Then beat Baltimore again in the Wild Card round. And just beat Buffalo to set the AFC Championship game for Kansas City instead of the neutral site.

josh-allen-bills-bengals-jessie-bates
Bengals secondary gets the better of Josh Allen.

Bengals Spoil NFL Plans

“We had our mind set to go play Kansas City and it is tough,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said, tongue planted in cheek. “They have to formulate the plans for a coin toss. They have to formulate the plans for neutral site games.

“We just keep screwing it up for everybody. And I hate that for the people that have to endure all those logistical issues. And we just keep screwing it up, so I’m sorry.”

Two years ago, Taylor was on the cusp of getting fired. Now he’s one of the league’s most successful coaches and peppering his press conference with a pinch of sarcasm about strategies devised in the league office.

So Taylor is the head of the Cincinnati monster.

The monster’s head, you must know, met with the rest of the beast Saturday night and explained that the Bills have a 13-1 home playoff record all-time. That is the highest home winning percentage of all NFL teams.

“I wanted to show that to the team because I knew what that would do to them,” Taylor said. “That wouldn’t put fear in them that, ‘Oh my God we’re walking into an environment that people don’t win in.’

“It was going to be the opposite for our guys and it was.”

Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws a pass during the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on January 30, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Bengals And Chiefs Rematch On The Way

It was the opposite and now the Bengals advance to play the Chiefs who are in their fifth consecutive AFC Championship Game.

And the monster is already eyeing that matchup, daring anyone to disrespect or doubt it in any way. Burrow lobbed the first grenade at any narrative suggesting the Bengals aren’t up to the task, comparing this team to last year’s title game.

“I think we’re a more complete team,” he said. “I think we’re a better team,

“I think our O-line’s better. I think our run game’s better. I think our defense is better. I just think our special teams is better. We’re just overall a much better team than we were last year.”

A much better team, for sure. The Bengals have grown into a monster.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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