CINCINNATI (AP) — Fans in Bengals jerseys hiding their heads under bags. Numb players talking about looking in the mirror. Coaches promising changes, knowing full well they have no magic bag of tricks to save the season.
It’s oh-so-familiar in Cincinnati.
A 27-17 loss to the Jaguars left the Bengals 0-7 and deeply mired in a season that looks, sounds and feels like so many others in the franchise’s futility since 1990. The Bengals were so bad on Sunday in front of a small crowd at Paul Brown Stadium that first-year coach Zac Taylor wound up talking about keeping the team from fragmenting.
“You have a choice: You either stand up and do the right thing and keep fighting for all the work we put in — players, coaches, everyone in this building — or you start quitting, start giving less effort, start pointing fingers, start complaining about everything that’s going on,” Taylor said. “Those are the only two choices we’ve got right now.
“I know a lot of guys I’m counting on in that locker room to pick the right one and keep building this thing and find our first win.”
What’s the best chance for that first win? Well, the schedule in December includes games against the Jets, the Browns and the also-winless Dolphins. So there’s hope, though it’s a very long way down the road.
For now, it’s about chronicling the depths. They’ve already put up one of the seven worst starts in club history. The Bengals have opened 0-7 six times since 1990, the last season they won a playoff game. One more loss would leave them 0-8 for the sixth time in club history.
Kevin Huber’s punting. He was Cincinnati’s MVP on Sunday, pinning the Jaguars on their 3-, 1- and 9-yard lines in the first half, allowing Cincinnati to lead 7-6 at the break.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The offensive line makes its weekly appearance in this category. The mess starts up front. Left tackle Cordy Glenn was suspended Sunday after missing the first six games with a concussion. Left tackle Andre Smith was sidelined by an ankle injury. The line got no push in the running game, and Dalton was repeatedly pressured. Until that part gets fixed, things aren’t going to get better.
Alex Erickson had a career day with eight catches for 137 yards, nearly half of the Bengals’ total of 291 yards.
Andy Dalton, with an enormous asterisk. The onus to move the offense has fallen on Dalton, who has no running game to rely on and little time to throw . With receiver A.J. Green injured, teams are able to focus on Tyler Boyd and force the rest of the receivers to make plays, which they haven’t done with any consistency. Also, the tight ends are used as blockers to help the line, reducing their availability — they caught three passes combined Sunday. The Bengals have thrown the ball on 69 percent of their plays, the most in the league. Until Dalton gets some help, it’s a hopeless situation.
“To drop back and throw it 41 times isn’t sustainable,” offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said Monday. “It’s not a winning formula by any metric you use to look at success rates.”
The Bengals were without cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III because of injuries, along with defensive end Carlos Dunlap. Taylor said there’s a chance some of them could return this week against the Rams. Green, who suffered a major ankle injury in camp, was held out of practice last week but is expected to return on at least a limited basis this week. Taylor said Green won’t play until he can make it through a full practice. The Bengals have a bye in two weeks, so Green most likely would be back for a home game against Baltimore on Nov. 10.
0 — Net yards by Bengals runners other than Dalton. Shocking, but true. The Bengals managed only 33 yards rushing against the Jaguars, all of them by Dalton. Another bad number: 4, the times Cincinnati has been held under 35 yards rushing this season. The Bengals are by far the worst rushing team in the league. Also, they have the worst rushing defense.
They take their quest for that elusive win to a different continent, playing Taylor’s former team in London.