Bengals hope December brings better times

Published 3:32 am Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Even when the Cincinnati Bengals are really bad, they find ways to ruin someone else’s season in December.

Are they up to another frosty finish?

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A 26-10 loss to the Jets on Thanksgiving night left the Bengals (2-9) with an eight-game losing streak — their sixth one in the last 20 years. They have only two winning record during those two decades, one of the worst stretches of futility in NFL history.

There is one reason to think they have a few wins left in them: Cincinnati has a history of starting horribly and finishing decently.

Since 1991, the Bengals are 41-108 in August, September and October. In December and January, the record in regular-season games is 38-45, doing some damage to other teams’ playoff chances along the way.

There’s a chance to do that on Sunday at home against New Orleans (8-3), the defending Super Bowl champion which trails Atlanta by a game in the NFC South.

“I think late in the season, the general public would assume the Saints are having a really good season, the Bengals aren’t, so the Saints will have an easy time,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said on Monday. “Well, as a player, if you have pride in your team and the way you play, you don’t want them to have that opportunity.

“I want us to give them everything they don’t want.”

The Bengals had the weekend off to try to clear their heads from another self-destructive loss and get ready for a tough final push. They play the Saints, at Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego and at Baltimore to finish the season.

Already, there’s rampant speculation about coach Marvin Lewis, who is in the final season on his contract and has turned down an extension. Several fixtures in the lineup also can become free agents after one of the worst showings in team history.

“I don’t think you play for a coach or you play for a position, but I think guys have to play for jobs,” Whitworth said. “And the fact is that this isn’t a good season, so nobody’s safe. You’ve got to play well and prove your worth. That’s the bottom line.”

The list of potential free agents includes running back Cedric Benson, receiver Terrell Owens, cornerback Johnathan Joseph, middle linebacker Dhani Jones and safety Roy Williams. The Bengals also have an option for one more year on receiver Chad Ochocinco.

There could be a lot of change on a team that virtually kept itself intact after winning 10 games and the AFC North last season, thinking it had another title run in it.

Benson was the centerpiece of a run-based offense last season, setting a franchise record with six 100-yard games. He also ran for a club-record 169 yards in a playoff loss to the Jets. Benson finished with 1,251 yards, six touchdowns and a 4.2-yard average per carry.

This year, with the Bengals throwing the ball more, he’s not even close. Benson has only two 100-yard games, four touchdowns and 788 yards overall, averaging only 3.6 per carry. His motivation in the last five games — against some of the league’s toughest run defenses — is to get those numbers back up.

“I hate to fall short of any number or a yard less than a year ago,” Benson said on Monday. “Ultimately, I want to maximize every snap. I want to end with a bang.”

They’ve done it before.