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The Quiet Confidence The AFC North-Leading Cincinnati Bengals And Joe Burrow Inspire Is A Beautiful Thing

As I mustered my most intense, internal psychological warfare on the transdimensional elves who determine whether or not fate works in my favor or if a Wi-Fi connection in an airport terminal functions, I saw the Cincinnati Bengals trailing 17-0. Already scrambling around like a madman trying to find a non-Fucking Dead Zone, I was also kind of embarrassed that my team was losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who've looked HORRIBLE for most of the season. 

Then my usual chain of reactions in such instances kicked in. They are as follows — all delivered with the calm, cool, collectedness Joe Burrow inspires:

  1. *Sits in silence trying to process why this team is ever losing*
  2. "Wait seriously though, what the fuck are we doing?" 
  3. "Alright let's just get a couple first downs, we'll get rolling."
  4. "OK we're still in it. Lou is gonna make his second-half adjustments, everything's gonna be fine."
  5. "Hahahaha we have JOEY B BAY-BEEE LET'S GOOOOOOOOO"

My initial outline and blog title was "A Postmortem Of The Bengals' Predictable Letdown Loss To The Bucs And Why It's All Gonna Be Just Fine". Because I truly believed it. This was a classic letdown spot for Cincinnati. Weeks of not quite playing the best game yet still finding ways to win. At any moment, all season, everyone's been waiting for the Bucs to flip a switch and reemerge as a legit NFC contender.

Sure looked like that's where shit was trending on Sunday in Tampa. You can't expect to play perfect ball every week in the NFL. That's just not how reality works. SURE, I'd love the Bengals to run the table but you have to be realistic. The other 31 teams' players get paid too.

So yeah, Sunday was happening, and I was kinda like, "Meh, okay." For whatever reason, it feels like we Bengals fans are playing with house money so much of the time. Everyone's waiting for us to shit the bed. Everyone's waiting for some "Super Bowl hangover" that'll never come.

People wanted to dunk on me for this piece once the Bengals started 0-2:

How's that working out for y'all?

Rather than Cincy's championship-tested roster going into the tank and looking ahead to next week on this fine Sunday late afternoon, what happened instead? How about THIRTY-FOUR UNANSWERED POINTS IN YOUR EYE, TAMPA!?!?

Second-Half Lou strikes again! The offense gets rolling. Joe throws TD passes to Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as the Bengals cash in on all three of the Bucs' consecutive turnovers. My favorite was the go-ahead strike to Boyd on third down:

A little history-making from Joe Brrr in the process by the way, not to mention how this marked yet another bizarrely large comeback around the NFL in Week 15:

PS: Cincy's D actually got a fourth straight takeaway courtesy of this excellent INT by Germaine Pratt on a tipped Tom Brady pass:

Boom there's your ballgame. I was a little unsettled that the Bengals abandoned their rushing attack since it's shown out so well amid this 10-2 hot stretch, yet that was more of a function of trailing by a lot early — and the Bucs' typically elite rush defense coming to play.

Shout out to TB12 getting a garbage-time touchdown to boost his passing numbers. I've been sweating out his over 4,550.5 passing yards for the season. Wildly inefficient given the amount of pass attempts he has, but Brady is still on pace to crack that, thanks in part to facing soft coverage on that final scoring drive. By then, it was way too little, way too late.

With how in-sync Lou Anarumo has the Bengals defensively, and how composed Joe Burrow is no matter what the scoreboard or situation reflects, I'm fairly certain the rest of the NFL should be scared of Cincinnati. They're not in pole position to host a playoff game. Give us at least one postseason matchup at Paycor Stadium to kick things off, and we'll just have to see who can rise up and wrest the crown from the defending AFC champs.

Talk all your shit, haters. I don't know what you have left to throw at Who Dey Nation. We're rolling, are far from playing our best ball and we're definitely not going anywhere.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok