Bengals reverting back to bad days of old

Published 2:38 am Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — The Bengals are stuck in the bad old days.

Some of their fans showed up wearing bags on their heads for a 23-17 loss at Indianapolis on Sunday, with “Bungles” scrawled on their brown paper disguises. The Bengals lived down to the distinction, turning the ball over five times.

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“That’s been our Achilles’ heel — finding a way to lose instead of finding a way to win,” receiver Terrell Owens said.

It’s been their way more often than not.

The defending AFC North champions (2-7) have lost six straight. It’s the 12th time in the past 20 years that they’ve dropped so many games in a row. Cincinnati has only two winning records in those 20 years, and two playoff appearances that resulted in losses.

They’re one loss away from ensuring yet another season without a winning record. The Bengals play at home on Sunday against Buffalo (1-8), which got its first win of the season against Detroit.

The Bengals have to patch the roster to get ready for that one.

Kicker Mike Nugent tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during an onside kick in the closing minutes, ending his season.

The Bengals hope to have a replacement signed by Wednesday. Cornerback Morgan Trent suffered a knee injury during practice last week and will be out for the rest of the season. Trent became the third cornerback when Adam “Pacman” Jones hurt his neck.

Last week, right tackle Andre Smith broke a bone in his left foot during practice, ending his season. Coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday that Smith will have surgery to repair the break.

The Bengals got a one-week exemption on Monday for defensive end Antwan Odom, who completed a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Odom was recovering from a sprained knee when he got suspended. The Bengals will have a week to watch him work out before deciding whether to add him to the 53-man roster.

There’s a much bigger problem than the injuries, one that the Bengals haven’t been able to cure. They’re one of the league’s most self-destructive teams, nullifying their good moments with others that defy explanation.

“I’m just frustrated at where we are right now,” said Carson Palmer, who threw three interceptions in Indianapolis. “It’s been a long time since we’ve won a game. It’s been a long time since we’ve played well for four quarters, played well as a team. That’s what’s frustrating.”

One of the recurring themes has been the receivers’ inability to end up in the right places.

The Bengals’ passing game has been much improved this season with the addition of Owens and rookies Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley. Cincinnati’s passing game has ranked in the league’s top 10 throughout the season, even as their record ranks near the bottom.

The problem: All those yards in catches are offset by poor route running at pivotal times.

Gresham’s wrong route resulted in one interception. Owens came out of a cut slowly and didn’t get to a pass at the Colts 28-yard line with 5:47 to go, resulting in another interception. Both took blame for the interceptions.

“That’s my fault,” Owens said. “When I came out of my break, I felt there was a linebacker there and I just didn’t come out of it full speed and I should have. So that’s my fault.”

Ten weeks into the season, the receivers are still not getting to the right spots. Lewis talked on Monday about trying to simplify some things to make it easier on the rookies to figure things out.

“We’re having a little error, and it’s hurting us a little bit,” Lewis said. “So we have to really help them out a little bit because I think we’re kind of assuming sometimes they’re a little ahead of their times, and it’s hurting us at some critical moments.”

After the loss, Owens apologized to Bengals fans in a tweet, followed by another tweet: “I will do all I can 2 win next week! I promise on everything I love! We will win sumhow, sum way!!”

They haven’t won since Sept. 26.