KANSAS CITY — The last two weeks served as a litmus test for this young, emerging Bengals team.
Were they for real after a 4-1 start? Were they ready to show they belonged in the conversation of the true contenders in the AFC?
There was no need to speculate, we said, we would learn on the field.
Two weeks later, we know. Undeniably. They aren’t ready.
And judging by Sunday night’s 45-10 boat race, they are farther away than we thought.
While encouraging themes and a stack of winning plays were prevalent in the heartbreaking loss to the Steelers last week, this represented the type of big-game embarrassment that has fueled the frustration of the fan base repeatedly over the years.
Entering this Kansas City buzzsaw would be a heavy lift no matter how the Bengals played. Losing would be understandable. Few were chalking this up as a victory in the big picture of capturing a playoff spot anyway.
But to come out sloppy, undisciplined, overwhelmed and outclassed, missing nearly all of the flair that peppered the first five games of the season can only be considered highly discouraging.
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It represented a heaping dose of “same old Bengals” in a year they planted seeds of belief they wouldn’t be.
The Chiefs are living in an elite stratosphere in the NFL and look destined to rematch New England in the AFC title game.
The Bengals (4-3) are in the orbit of not ready for prime-time players with a ton of work to do.
That much, we now know for certain.
A.J. Green. The Bengals offense didn’t have much beyond Green on Sunday night. The Bengals had 139 total yards in the first half and 110 of those came via Green receptions. Even against the poor Chiefs defense, you can’t be that one-dimensional or else you are doomed. It was a major factor in Andy Daltons pick-6 in which he tried to force one in to Green early in the third. All that didn’t change how good Green was against pretty much any coverage the Chiefs threw at him. He finished with seven receptions for 117 yards on 14 targets. Nobody else on the team had more than five targets.
Play of the game
Kareem Hunt took advantage of some shaky Bengals tackling to put together one of the highlights and most athletic plays you’ll see.
LB Vontaze Burfict left the game in the third quarter with a hip injury and did not return.
TE Mason Schreck went off on a cart with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter as the Bengals’ tight end room continues it’s awful run of luck. If this ends up being serious, it might force the Bengals to have to make a trade for a tight end this week.
WR John Ross aggravated the groin injury that kept him out the last two weeks and left the game in the fourth quarter.
The Macarena. I hesitate to throw this into the ups category – dusting off this awful dance craze from the 90s – but kudos for the willingness to put yourself out there after a big moment. C.J. Uzomah’s touchdown on third-and-goal from the 4 seemed to be just that in the second quarter.
Andrew Billings. Hasn’t been as productive as his quality camp and preseason would have suggested this year, but he made a number of notable plays in the first half on Sunday night, including the first sack of his career, wrapping up Patrick Mahomes to force a third-and-long.
It’s over. There weren’t a ton of positives to take from this, the fact this game – the toughest on the schedule by far – is in the rearview mirror is a positive. A winnable home game against the Bucs is on deck, then a needed bye week.
Fake punt attempt. If you want to call it that. Clayton Fejedelem jumped in front of what appeared to be a regular punt snap as if he was going to make a run on the fake. When Clark Harris’ snap came out hot, he couldn’t handle it and set Kansas City up at a short field.
Tackling. Vontaze Burfict missed tackles on back-to-back plays that led to the second Kareem Hunt touchdown of the night. He missed another badly on Travis Kelce before halftime. He was far from alone. Everybody seemed to take their turn whiffing on Chiefs’ ball carriers.
End of half defense. Stop me if you heard this one before. For the 16th time in the last 23 games the Bengals gave up points in the final two minutes before half. This time it was an easy 17-yard touchdown strike from Mahomes to Demetrius Harris, then a double dip allowing an eight-play drive for a field goal with eight seconds to go.
Photo of the game
The cameras cut away to find a sad, masked Bengals fan after another Chiefs touchdown. And this screen shot followed and pretty much sums up the feelings displayed by fans throughout the night.
Four key numbers
Consecutive drives without forcing a punt by the Chiefs defense entering the game. Then they opened forcing punts on the first three possessions of the night against the Bengals offense.
Consecutive losses by the Bengals on Sunday Night Football. It dates back to 2005 and only three of those games were decided by one possession. They’ve lost and lost big.
This ended a run of eight consecutive games where the Bengals scored at least 21 points. That was tied for a franchise record.
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The Chiefs’ third-down conversation rate. That’s 75 percent and this continues to be one of the worst third-down defenses this franchise has ever fielded.
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