Bengals’ challenge: Get over yet another prime-time meltdown


CINCINNATI (AP) — Marvin Lewis went to sit in his chair and realized someone had lowered it. The chair didn’t cooperate as he struggled to get it to a comfortable level.

“I guess that’s what happens when you get beat up,” the Bengals coach joked.

Beat up, and then some.

The Bengals unraveled in prime time yet again, playing their worst game on the Sunday night stage. A 45-10 loss at Kansas City was the second-most-lopsided during Lewis’ 16 seasons in Cincinnati, surpassed only by a game in which they rested starters to get ready for the playoffs.

There was a lot at stake in this one: national recognition and first place in the AFC North. The game was flexed from an afternoon slot to Sunday night so fans nationwide could see a pair of up-and-coming teams in an offensive showdown.

Instead, the Bengals (4-3) were dominated in every respect as millions watched.

“That’s when your pride gets affected,” receiver Tyler Boyd said Monday. “That hurts more than anything.”

For the first time this season, the Bengals are looking up in the standings. Pittsburgh (3-2-1) leads the division by percentage points. Much of the Bengals’ momentum from a 4-1 start has been wasted by another last-second home loss to the Steelers and a blowout at Kansas City in consecutive weeks.

Cincinnati has lost nine straight on Sunday night, when it’s 3-16 overall. The Bengals’ last such win was over the Dolphins in 2004. They’re 6-15 in prime-time games since 2011, when Andy Dalton and A.J. Green arrived — 0-6 on Sunday night, 2-5 on Monday night, 4-3 on Thursday night and 0-1 on Saturday night.

Back on the big stage, they missed tackles , botched coverages, missed blocks, messed up a fake punt and had an interception returned for a touchdown . They struggled to get even the simple things done right.

“This one’s going to be hard to swallow just because it was in front of everyone,” safety Jessie Bates said. “Everyone was watching.”

The Bengals are trying to escape their history of meltdowns in big games. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of futility in NFL history. Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst mark for a head coach.

They had a chance to end that Sunday night streak. Instead, they gave viewers reason to tune out early in the third quarter.

For one night, it was a Bengals rerun.

“It’s a bad look for the whole team to see this happen,” 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.”

It was their sixth loss of at least 30 points during Lewis’ 16-year tenure. Their worst loss over that time was a 37-0 defeat against the Jets in 2009, when they rested regulars for the final regular-season game knowing they’d play the Jets again in the playoffs the following week. They lost that one, too.

They lost 37-3 at Kansas City in the final game of the 2005 season, when they had wrapped up the division title and were getting ready to play the Steelers in the first round.

The Bengals lost 35-3 at Indianapolis in 2008. They’ve had a pair of 31-point losses: 44-13 at Baltimore in the 2012 season opener and 34-3 against Baltimore in 2008.

They host Tampa Bay (3-3) on Sunday before heading into their bye week. Four of their next five games are at home.