After starting the year 8-0, the Cincinnati Bengals dropped back-to-back games on prime time. They lost at home to Houston, 10-6, on Monday Night Football, and they lost on the road to Arizona, 34-31, six days later.
The loss to the Texans hurt. The loss to the Cardinals hurt even more.
“We lost to the Texans and we accepted that, but the Arizona game – I think it really hurt because we were right there,” Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I thought we could have pushed it into overtime and they drove right down the field and got a field goal. But it really taught us to keep our poise. We just got to learn how to finish and don’t have that slump in that third quarter. I think we lost that game in that third quarter.”
Carson Palmer threw for four touchdowns against his former team, including three in the third quarter, leading Arizona to victory.
For anyone wanting to blame Andy Dalton for the loss, well, don’t. Dalton threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals.
“A lot of people give Andy all the grief, but we as a team (didn’t) play good around him,” Green said. “That Houston game, we had no offense. We didn’t play well. The Arizona game, we played well in some spots (but not others). Those games you definitely can’t blame him because we haven’t been playing well around him.
The Bengals responded about as well as possible to the losses, beating the Rams, 31-7, at home this past Sunday. Green, who had six catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns, said the Bengals “just got back to having fun.”
“I think we got back to who we really are – playing hard and playing for each other,” Green said. “That’s what we did. We made plays whenever our number was called. That really helped us.”
The Bengals (9-2), who are currently the 2-seed in the AFC, play the Browns (2-9) in Cleveland this Sunday.
Green, who starred at the University of Georgia from 2008 to 2010, was also asked about the firing of Mark Richt, who was let go after 15 seasons in Athens.
“Oh man, it was tough,” Green said. “It was shocking. Coach Richt has been there for a long, long time. (He’s) all I know. It’s going to be tough to see him not on the sidelines next season or him coaching somewhere else. (It’s) just going to be weird, man.”
Richt, 55, won 145 games at Georgia, went 9-3 this year, and his winning percentage (74 percent) ranks fifth among active coaches with at least 130 wins. He trails only Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban and Gary Patterson in that department.
Doug Gottlieb likened Richt to Dalton in that Richt won a lot of games but sometimes struggled in high-profile match-ups against Alabama and Florida, among others.
“I guess, but a lot of people, you’re not grateful until it’s gone,” Green said. “He won a lot of games for us. He won a lot of games for you. You’re going to fire him? I don’t see another coach being better than him and doing a better job.”