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Bengals will try to end another streak against Colts

CINCINNATI (AP) — These Bengals have become quite adept at ending the franchise’s long losing streaks. Too bad they’re too young to appreciate any of it.

Two weeks ago, they beat Buffalo at home, snapping their 10-game losing streak against the Bills with a fourth-quarter comeback. A week later, they ended a seven-game losing streak in Jacksonville with another last-minute drive.

Pretty impressive, eh?

“I didn’t even know we broke a streak against Jacksonville, so …” rookie quarterback Andy Dalton said.

Don’t mind the Bengals (3-2). They’re too caught up in learning the pro game to keep up on things like losing streaks — such as the next one that’s on the line this week. Cincinnati has dropped seven straight against Indianapolis (0-5), a stretch of futility that dates to 1998, when Peyton Manning got it going as a rookie.

The Colts are 7-0 against the Bengals with Manning around. Without him, that streak is at risk. The Colts have imploded in a way rarely seen in their history while their franchise quarterback recovers from neck surgery. A loss on Sunday would leave the Colts 0-6 for only the fifth time in franchise history. Their other awful starts: 1997 (0-10), 1991 (0-9), 1986 (0-13) and 1982 (0-6).

“They’re a completely different team without Manning,” Bengals safety Chris Crocker said.

They can toss aside that recent history of beating the Bengals.

“It doesn’t matter at all,” Colts safety Joe Lefeged said. “It’s a new season, a new game. Last game doesn’t matter, last season doesn’t matter. It’s all about the Bengals right now, and they’re a good team.”

Good enough to pull out a couple games at the end.

Dalton has led the Bengals on game-winning drives in the closing minutes each of the last two weeks, showing poise under the heaviest pressure. Rookie receiver A.J. Green and second-year tight end Jermaine Gresham have made incredible catches during the comebacks, seeming to grow up a little bit more on each play.

“I think it just kind of gives us motivation to know that we can compete in these games and come back and win them,” Dalton said. “We have had a chance to win these games in the fourth quarter, and we’ve been able to do it. Obviously we’d rather make it a lot easier and not have to come back.”

Their defense has made it all possible. It’s ranked No. 1 in the NFL for the second straight week, giving up fewer yards than anyone else and keeping the score close so that Dalton and the offense don’t have to do too much. The only disappointment on the defense so far? The lack of interceptions.

The Bengals have one interception — by defensive end Michael Johnson — and are tied with Pittsburgh for fewest in the league. Their defensive backs haven’t given up many big catches, but haven’t picked off any passes, either.

“It’s unusual,” defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle said. “It’s hard to put a finger on it. It’s not like they’re catching a lot of balls on us. We’re not dropping a bunch of interceptions. We’ve had our hands on a few. I think it will turn around. Hopefully there will be some coming our way pretty soon.”

Manning’s fill-ins have been good about not throwing the ball away. The Colts have thrown only one interception — by Kerry Collins, who is recovering from a concussion. Curtis Painter has started the last two games and brought the Colts close to a win, but couldn’t get them the whole way.

In his two starts and part of another game, Painter has completed 33 of 68 passes for 618 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 100. Indianapolis has lost the last three games by three, seven and four points.

Painter senses that the Colts still have their resolve.

“You know, I think we’re good,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of veteran leaders on this team, guys that really know what it takes to win. And they’re doing a good job of keeping a lot of the young guys, including myself, on pace.

“We’re still positive. We feel we’ve been in the last few games, we’ve been close and had a chance in them and just haven’t quite finished. So we’re very positive around here. We’re just going out and trying to get our first win.”