Sports Today: Bengals give up the ghost

Today the sports world still turns in Southwest Ohio whether we want it to or not. 

As far as weekends go, this one could have gone better. 

I predicted the Bengals would lose to the Bears, though I did not think Cincinnati would look quite that bad

RELATED: 5 things to know from Chicago’s 33-7 win in Cincinnati

Marvin Lewis’ team obviously faced an uphill climb with so many defensive starters hurt, especially since this is a team with no leadership on offense. 

For not the first time this season, A.J. Green had to spend part of his Sunday afternoon explaining to reporters why he let the team down

That’s always problematic from your best player, but it’s worse with this team since the coach and the quarterback don’t provide the type of leadership typically expected from men who have been doing this as long as Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton. 

Lewis opened his postgame press conference by saying he didn’t know what happened. That was obvious. 

Andy Dalton said… who cares? He never says anything of substance before or after games, and he rarely if ever does anything during games to make his team better. 

Those two things may not be connected, but it’s his choice not to say anything or show any personality in interviews so I’m free to hold it against him when his team fails. 

We long ago reached the point where people decided just to take whatever they want from every Dalton performance — talk about his lack of support if you like him, nitpick his mistakes if you don’t, it’s all the same — but the conclusion I have reached with him is that at the end of the day, he has proven he can’t carry a team. 

As mentioned, the defense was behind the eight ball because of personnel. As such, that unit was gutted by a bad offense. 

If you get outscored in that situation, OK, stuff like that happens in the NFL. 

Seven points against a so-so defense with a veteran quarterback and a still-pretty-good cast of skill players (even without Joe Mixon) is not acceptable. 

And maybe Green wouldn’t have so much focus on him if he had a quarterback who held him accountable for his mistakes. 

And then maybe Green wouldn’t be so prone to clunkers, either. 

I said before this is not a lost season for the Bengals, and I still feel that way. 

We knew the offensive line would be bad. 

The defense, when healthy, has been better, and youngsters have a lot to do with that. 

Even without Tyler Eifert, the offense has proven to have lots of weapons, some of them young. 

The cupboard is far from bare. 

If they could block anyone, there’s more than enough skill talent around Dalton to get back to the playoffs and lose. 

This is now guaranteed to be a disappointing season. 

There’s definitely enough skill on this Bengals roster to win nine games. Instead, it looks like they’ll lose at least that many. 

I am not one who roots for tanking or against a team to get a coach fired, but that is where this is all headed anyway. 

At least things will get interesting once that change happens… 

Meanwhile, the Ravens and Steelers played a classic on Sunday night. 

That inevitably left me wondering what it must be like to follow a team that has enough respect to overcome adversity on a regular basis and not be hit with an overriding feeling of dread whenever anything bad happens. 

Lewis has moved the Bengals beyond any reason for concern the horrors of the 1990s will return, but under him the franchise is now squarely in a situation in which every setback is viewed as another reason to doubt they will ever deserve to be talked about with the great teams in the league. 

That’s not as bad as how he found it, but after this many years, it ain’t good… 

The Browns lost, too, and it was quite a work of art. 

They had the Packers on the ropes before a special teams gaffe opened the door to the game-tying touchdown. 

Cleveland got the ball to start overtime only to have DeShone Kizer throw an utterly baffling interception to set up Green Bay’s winning touchdown. 

I’m still bullish on Kizer’s potential, but calling that a rookie mistake seems too kind. 

I would think an 11-year-old would know not to simply throw the ball up for grabs in that situation… 

Also this weekend the Dayton Flyers absorbed a pretty bad loss to Penn. 

That is not a shot at the Quakers. 

They’re 8-4 with a KenPom rating just eight spots behind Dayton’s, but this is a game Anthony Grant’s team should win nine times out of 10. 

Playing at home, the Flyers should have had some sense of urgency given the troubles they’ve already faced, but the coach indicated that was not the case

What happened Saturday isn’t going to ruin the program or anything, but it’s a big setback if they want to have a solid year. I’m going to call 20 wins and a finish in the top half of the Atlantic 10 a solid year. Maybe that would be a good year given all the graduation losses, but we can argue about that later. 

Given this team’s athleticism, defense has bene a surprising problem for the Flyers so far. 

Penn, like Auburn, lit them up from the perimeter, thwarting comeback attempts. 

Less surprising was Grant’s statement that the offense struggled because of a lack of transition opportunities. That much could have been expected before the season started (that they would be better scoring in the open floor than the half-court). 

On the bright side, there is a lot of potential here. There are a lot of different parts for Grant to try to put together, and he’s probably not going to get the same performance out of some of those guys every night because so many of them are inexperienced. 

This one stings, but it’s also believable it will help them be better in the long run — whenever that happens to be… 

On the bright side, Wright State beat Kent State on Saturday at the Nutter Center

The Raiders haven’t exactly played a murderer’s row of college basketball teams, but they are two games over .500 at this point despite opening the season with some personnel problems. 

Second-year WSU coach Scott Nagy said he saw his team do all the things it has to in order to be successful this season. 

“Obviously, we’d like to be better on offense, and we’ll get there. I’m less concerned about that and more concerned about staying at this level that we were defensively — and the hustle plays. We saw kids on the floor making plays. I’m really pleased with the guys.” 

The Raiders play at Toledo on Saturday… 

Ohio State football hit the practice field again Friday to begin preparing for USC. 

If the Buckeyes who met with the media were still torn up about Alabama’s being picked over them for the playoff, they did a good job of hiding it

Everyone I heard asked about the lower back/spinal cord injury former Buckeye/current Steeler Ryan Shazier suffered last Monday night also had pretty much the same answer: They felt bad, but it doesn’t really affect them because they understand the risks of the game

It’s been interesting watching the disconnect between players and media on this… 

The Reds didn’t make any news over the weekend, but they were at least tangentially involved in its biggest story in baseball: The Yankees won the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes. 

That’s bad news if you’re a Small Market Defeatist who believes the decks are stacked against teams like the Reds (to be clear, they are, but not to the point Cincinnati can’t regularly compete with smart management), but it’s better than the alternative. 

The reigning National League MVP could have ended up in St. Louis, but he vetoed a trade to the Cardinals. 

(I guess Alan Trammell and Jack Morris being picked for the Hall of Fame could qualify as a bigger story, but I don’t think so.) 

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