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Taylor era starts bitter sweet

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By Conrad Clowers

Cincinnati Herald contributor

A new era in Bengals football was officially ushered in this past weekend. The city finally got to see the hype surrounding the Bengals’ new coach and his approach, hoping it will right some of the wrongs of the Marvin Lewis era. If you’re going to be challenged, you may as well get the party started at arguably the most difficult place to play against one of the NFL’s best.

Who knows how long Zack Taylor will be the coach of the Bengals? It could be years or maybe the next decade plus. One memory that will be etched in his yet-to-be-determined tenure is be his first game. The Bengals went all the way across the country to get the 2019 season kicked off against the Seattle Seahawks. The result was a likely one. Final score was Seahawks, 21, and Bengals, 20.

From the outset of the game you could tell this was a team with a different attitude and a new spirit. The same repetitive mistakes made over and over by the same players had vanished. This ‘new offense’ the Bengals did not reveal in the preseason that they were so anxious to unveil in the regular season was put on display. The bottom line was it was effective.

Bengal quarterback Andy Dalton had one of his best games as a pro. Dalton torched the Seahawks defense passing for 418 yards, while completing 35 passes in 51 tries. John Ross was a first- round draft pick. He has underachieved, and many thought his days in Cincinnati were numbered. Ross finally proved why he was worthy of the number one pick. One of the NFL’s fastest players gave Seahawk defensive back fits, toasting them for 158 yards on seven catches.

The biggest surprise for Cincinnati was not the offensive production. Cincinnati was the worst defense in the NFL in 2018. The primary 11 defenders on the field Sunday did not resemble anything close to a bad defense. The team took joy in flying to the ball, frustrating Seahawk QB Russell Wilson and containing one of the NFL’s most potent running games. Former Moeller standout Sam Hubbard led the defensive attack. Hubbard was relentless in finishing with six solo tackles, along with four assists. He put Russell Wilson on the ground with two sacks.

The one area in which Taylor’s “new” Bengals and Lewis’ “old” Bengals strongly resembled each other was when it was time to make a play late in the fourth quarter, nobody stepped up to do it. The Bengals had a chance at the end of the game to put together a game-winning drive for a field goal. The offensive line could not hold Seahawk defenders at bay. One came through stripping Dalton of the ball, causing a fumble to end the game. The result was the all too familiar loss.

“I am disappointed in the result, but not the effort,” said Taylor on the loss to the Seahawks.

Taylor and his new Bengals will have a chance to start his era out with a home win against an old nemesis this weekend. The San Francisco 49ers will come to Paul Brown Stadium for a chance for Cincinnati to settle the score. Outside of Baltimore, every team in the AFC North lost.

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