This was originally published in The Athletic.
The saddest of all the sad things that happened at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday might be that little of what transpired was very surprising.
I mean, think about it. A 5-3 team entered a home game with legit playoff hopes, got absolutely housed and none of us are really that shocked. I’m not even mildly surprised.
On the NFL’s Salute To Service Weekend, the Bengals played with a defense more reminiscent of an inept platoon from a farcical military comedy than any unit with might while getting clubbed by the Saints, 51-14. If you weren’t around for the ’90s and want to know what it was like to watch the Bengals during that lost decade, Sunday’s effort was a pretty fair representation. Swap out Marvin Lewis for Dave Shula, and replace those forgotten players from two decades ago with the guys wearing uniforms today, and voila! It’s 1994. Or 1998. Or, when it comes to this defense, more of 2018.
If being a Bengals fan in the 1990s was defined by one thing, it was expected results week after week. That might not be the case with this year’s team as a whole – they remain, even after today’s drubbing, very much in the thick of a playoff race that I’m sure will continue to capture this city’s imagination. But we’ve gotten to such a point with a historically dreadful defense that most of us go into games expecting incompetence and fearing embarrassment.
Expectations were met and worst fears were realized against the Saints....
To read the entire piece, go to The Athletic.