The last time the Cincinnati Bengals were 5-2 or better was in 2015, a year in which they actually started 8-0. They win the AFC North that year, finishing 12-4, but without their starting quarterback, and some bad luck, they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the postseason in the Wildcard Round.
That is the last time they have finished a season with a non-losing record. But they appear to be well on their way to reversing that course this year, already 5-2 through the first seven games of the 2021 season, including victories over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and now, the Baltimore Ravens. But that means nothing right now
“We have no right to get complacent”, Bengals head coach Zach Taylor said after the game. There are so many things we can’t let slide, a guy coming late to a meeting, as an example. We’re not going to let that happen. And, again, that comes back to the coaches and the leaders on this team to make sure that doesn’t happen. And we’ve added the right pieces to make sure we don’t have guys that try stuff like that”.
He was responding to a question about whether or not a win like yesterday’s 41-17 takedown of the Ravens signals the completion of a cultural rebuild that he embarked on when he first got the job in 2019, but it could also apply to the team more broadly.
Yes, they are 5-2, and thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ravens, currently sit atop the AFC North standings; right now, they actually possess the number one seed due to tiebreakers over the similarly 5-2 Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans. But that record includes wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions, as well as an overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings. And they lost to the Chicago Bears.
And how much does it say that they beat the Steelers back in Week 3 if we’re really being honest? One can easily argue that this was their first quality win of the season. But they did take Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers into overtime, as well.
Regardless of whom they’ve played, you can see the improvements on the field. This is definitely a different team from years’ past, one with a good amount more talent, on both sides of the ball, and the tinkering with the coaching staff has been an asset as well, particularly in getting the running game stabilized.
And I can’t imagine that a team that has lost 25 games over a two-year span would suddenly get complacent because they won five games in the first half of the season. They just got a taste of success. They want more.