For a team that started 0-3 – and failed to score a touchdown in their first two games – the Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) are on the rise. The Bengals won at Cleveland and against Buffalo in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively – this after losing to the Ravens, Texans, and Packers.
Cincinnati trails Pittsburgh (3-2) and Baltimore (3-2) by one game in the AFC North.
“I like what’s going,” Hall of Fame offensive lineman Anthony Munoz said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I go to all the home games, and I was there for the opening game and I was there for the Thursday night game. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, what is going on here? (Andy) Dalton is not only getting hit, but when he’s got time, he can’t find a receiver.’”
The Bengals lost 20-0 to Baltimore in Week 1 and 13-9 to Houston in Week 2. It was ugly.
In Week 3, though, the Bengals led the Packers 21-7 at halftime at Lambeau. Although the Bengals ultimately lost 27-24, the offense was much better. So were 2015 first- and second-round draft picks Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher.
“That’s why you get drafted (in the first and second round),” Munoz said of the offensive tackles. “(The Bengals) go up to Cleveland and just destroy Cleveland (31-7 in Week 4). Cleveland’s been in some good games, but they just destroyed Cleveland. And then they showed some grit against the Bills and hang in there and win (20-16). Two big wins. So I think things are coming along. I think with the young guys, with the schemes helping them out, you slide this way, you slide that way – that’s what you need with young linemen to build that confidence. I like what’s going on.”
The Bengals have a bye this week, which, frankly, many of them probably don’t want.
“After two wins, I wanted to keep going,” said Munoz, who played for the Bengals from 1980-92. “In Week 5, especially with the lack of hitting in camp, you should feel pretty good, so let’s keep (it) going. But they have an off week and then they go Pittsburgh. That’ll be another big test.”
If recent history is any indication, that Oct. 22 meeting at Heinz Field will be physical and closely contested.
“It doesn’t matter how either team is doing over the years,” Munoz said. “It’s Steeler Week, as we called it. If I continue to see that progress against the Steelers, (that will be good). But I do like what’s going on right now.”
While the offense is making strides, it would be considerably more dangerous with tight end Tyler Eifert, who may need season-ending back surgery. Eifert has played in just 10 games over the past two seasons, this after catching 13 touchdown passes in 13 games in 2015.
It has to be frustrating for the Bengals to be without him, no?
“It is very frustrating,” Munoz said. “You see the ability he has. Tyler Kroft is coming along with the absence of Tyler Eifert, but you need him on the field and he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. It’s been very frustrating, especially with this offensive line coming together.”
A.J. Green (32 catches, 504 yards, three touchdowns) has been his usual dynamic self this season, while Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard have contributed in both the running and passing game.
All, however, would have more room to roam if Eifert were on the field.
“(He) creates a lot of mismatches,” Munoz said, “but when you don’t have him there, it becomes very frustrating.”