Two seasons ago, the Seattle Seahawks shifted the paradigm, winning the Super Bowl after decades of mediocrity and fizzled playoff runs. The same can be said about the 2009 New Orleans Saints, the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 1999 St. Louis Rams. The New England Patriots managed to change the entire culture and perception of their franchise by capping the 2001 season with a Super Bowl win, and they’ve yet to regress.
The 2015 Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to be added to that list of franchises looking to finally get over the hump. Their incredible 27-24 overtime win over those Seahawks on Sunday was a huge step in the right direction.
The Seahawks came into Cincinnati desperate to prove that their 0-2 start was a fluke, one remedied by Monday night hero Kam Chancellor. For three quarters, it was quite apparent that Pete Carroll’s team was indeed going to be a heavy favorite for the NFC title once again. Despite the absence of Marshawn Lynch for the second straight week, Seattle led 24-7 going into the fourth quarter largely thanks to Lynch’s replacement, the undrafted free agent rookie Thomas Rawls.
Going into the final quarter, Rawls had 16 carries for 150 yards. He ended the day with 169 rushing yards, more than Lynch has ever had as a member of the Seahawks.
There was also plenty of praise left over for Seattle’s defense, which often caught Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill at or behind the line of scrimmage, and sacked Andy Dalton four times. In the third quarter, linebacker Bobby Wagner seemed to seal the victory when he scooped up a fumble by the Bengals’ Rex Burkhead and took it 23 yards for a score.
But Dalton had other plans – and the Seahawks seemed to have no plan at all once the fourth quarter hit.
Down 17 points with a little under 14 minutes remaining, Cincinnati quickly finished off a four-play drive that ended with Dalton completing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Eifert, his second of the day. Seattle followed with a short drive and punted back to the Bengals, who then went on an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a five-yard touchdown run by Dalton, which was basically a five-yard “QB sneak” in which no Seahawks defender opted to watch the QB.
Just like that, the Bengals were only down by three, but there was just 3:38 left in the game. All Russell Wilson and Co. had to do was gain a few first downs, run out the clock and go back to their fish-throwing corner of the country having snuck out a road win in Cincy. But they could not even muster one first down, and as they did on each of their last six drives of the game, Seattle punted.
That’s when it really became time for Dalton, and the entire Bengals franchise, to prove that their 4-0 start was no fluke. That they really are going to compete for the AFC title this season. And that the “Bengals” do not have to be synonymous with the “Bungles” anymore.
Cincinnati’s redheaded QB went 3-of-4 for 35 yards in the two-minute drill, plus a 27-yard pass interference penalty on Cary Williams that put them in Seattle territory. Bengals kicker Mike Nugent hit a 31-yard field goal to send them to overtime. And in the extra session, Dalton found Eifert again, hitting him for a 12-yard gain that put the Bengals in field goal range. Nugent nearly bungled the game-winning kick, but fate would finally be on Cincinnati’s side: The ball hit the upright and banged through.
(Well, it might’ve been fate, but according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, it might’ve also been the Coriolis effect. Which technically could be the same thing – like Earth saying, “You guys have suffered long enough.”)
The Bengals are 5-0 for the first time since 1988. That was also the last time they advanced past the divisional round, and ended with the most “Bengals moment” of all-time, a Joe Montana touchdown pass with 34 seconds left that gave the San Francisco 49ers their third Super Bowl championship. Cincinnati has been trying to recover from that moment ever since.
We won’t know for sure if they have until the postseason gets here. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, but after seeing everything go in their favor on Sunday, the idea of them actually getting back to the Super Bowl seems like a real possibility. Especially now that even the Earth is rotating in their favor.