KANSAS CITY — The last two weeks served as a litmus test for this young, emerging Bengals team.
Were they for real after a 4-1 start? Were they ready to show they belonged in the conversation of the true contenders in the AFC?
There was no need to speculate, we said, we would learn on the field.
Two weeks later, we know. Undeniably. They aren't ready.
And judging by Sunday night's 45-10 boat race, they are farther away than we thought.
While encouraging themes and a stack of winning plays were prevalent in the heartbreaking loss to the Steelers last week, this represented the type of big-game embarrassment that has fueled the frustration of the fan base repeatedly over the years.
Entering this Kansas City buzzsaw would be a heavy lift no matter how the Bengals played. Losing would be understandable. Few were chalking this up as a victory in the big picture of capturing a playoff spot anyway.
But to come out sloppy, undisciplined, overwhelmed and outclassed, missing nearly all of the flair that peppered the first five games of the season can only be considered highly discouraging.
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It represented a heaping dose of "same old Bengals" in a year they planted seeds of belief they wouldn't be.
The Chiefs are living in an elite stratosphere in the NFL and look destined to rematch New England in the AFC title game.
The Bengals (4-3) are in the orbit of not ready for prime-time players with a ton of work to do.
That much, we now know for certain.
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