Welcome to reality, Cincinnati Bengals. The 4-1 start was nice but the last two weeks proved a humbling reminder of what the Bengals must do to enter the echelon of the league's elite teams.
First, there was the Antonio Brown 31-yard touchdown at the buzzer to send the Bengals to a 28-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
OK, crushing and disappointing enough but then came a nationally televised debacle in the form of a Sunday night 45-10 thrashing at Kansas City.
"There is a lot of season left and a lot of things out in front of us," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. "It is just one game. We have another one next week. As much as this one sucks, everything is still right there. We are in a great position. We have to go take advantage of it."
The game was flexed more for how good Patrick Mahomes is but to some extent it was also because of how well the Bengals began the season.
Then came the stark reality of a night when the Bengals produced 239 yards and scored one touchdown against the league's worst defense heading into Week 7.
It was a smorgasbord of things gone wrong: soft coverages, missed tackles and by the end of the night, the Bengals had 551 yards hung on them by Mahomes. It was the most since Derek Anderson had 554 for the Browns against the Bengals in 2007 and Mahomes could have easily exceeded the 595 Drew Brees put on them in 2006.
And that was just the defense and offense. Special teams were faulty as a miscommunication led to a fumbled punt and a 14-0 deficit.
So now that they have digested the film and cringed while reviewing the footage in practice, it's on to focusing on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and trying to head into the bye week with a winning record.
"It's bad. It's a bad look for the whole team to see this happen," middle linebacker Preston Brown said. "It's such a big score difference. You never want to go out there and get blown out on a Sunday night, (especially) when it's been something we've been waiting to show the whole league what we can do. And now, to put up a goose egg like that, it's not a good look. But, we've got to go learn from it and find ways to get better."
Finding a way involves returning the offense to its earlier levels as the downward trend is becoming noticeable.
Since beating Atlanta, the yardage dropped from 407 to 332 against Miami, 275 against Pittsburgh and 239 yards. First downs went from 30 to 17, and 15 while passing yards decreased from 308, 229, 213 and 178.
"We'll have a fire in our (butt)," tight end C.J. Uzomah said Monday after the offense and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor met to discuss Sunday's ugly showing. "It's a gut check where we have to really dig deep. This is the biggest game of the year. How we approach this game and how we approach this week going into this game is the key."
So is winning it as Tampa Bay has had its struggles defensively and recently sent defensive coordinator Mike Smith packing.
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular season meeting. Buccaneers lead series, 7-4. In the most recent meeting in 2014, the Bengals claimed a 14-13 win in Tampa Bay. Cincinnati has dropped its last four home meetings with the Buccaneers since a 56-24 win in 1989, alternating three-point losses with blowouts.