Bengals back in first place after best game

Published 1:20 am Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals followed one of their worst performances in years with their best of the season and moved back into first place in the AFC North.

It’s that kind of year in the division, where all four teams are within one game of each other. And it’s been that kind of season in Cincinnati, with the Bengals (6-3-1) turning into one of the league’s most extreme teams.

Nobody knows what to expect out of them from week to week.

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“We knew we had a lot of doubters looking at us after how we played last week,” said running back Jeremy Hill, who had 152 yards on 27 carries.

Given the way they’ve played all season, they’re the definition of a week-to-week proposition. And until they put together a few solid showings in a row, there will be a lot of questions about whether they’re capable of getting to the playoffs again and finally winning one.

They get reminded of that overriding goal this week as they prepare to play in Houston (5-5), the scene of some of their worst games. They lost first-round playoff games there in 2011 and 2012, with quarterback Andy Dalton struggling to get anything going.

Dalton has been at his worst during three playoff losses and in prime time, including a 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 6. He finished that game with three interceptions, only 10 completions and a passer rating of 2.0.

Dalton followed that with one of his best showings on Sunday. He went 16 of 22 for 220 yards with three touchdowns during a 27-10 win at New Orleans, numbers that equate to a passer rating of 143.9.

“So that’s the way this league is: It’s so week-to-week,” Dalton said.

Nobody more than this team.

The Bengals opened the season 3-0 and were its last undefeated team. They got shredded in New England 43-17, starting that trend of following impressive showings with dreadful ones. They scored 37 points in a tie with Carolina, and then got shut out at Indianapolis. They piled up 27 points in a win over Baltimore, which hadn’t allowed so many points all season.

The loss to Cleveland temporarily knocked them out of first place and reinforced their identity as the NFL’s least-predictable team.

“You’re going to have weeks like we did last week (against Cleveland),” cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones said.

“We’ve got to keep playing our type of football so at the end of November and into December we’ll get into this race and play well, especially when we get everyone back and healthy.”

They got linebacker Rey Maualuga back in New Orleans and their defense improved significantly. He’d missed the last four games with a strained left hamstring. Coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday there’s a chance linebacker Vontaze Burfict will be back at practice this week after missing three games following knee surgery.

Running back Giovani Bernard also is expected back at practice this week after missing the last three games with an injured shoulder and hip.

The offense was significantly better on Sunday with A.J. Green looking closer to form. The receiver missed three games with an injured big right toe and wasn’t a factor in his first two games back, managing only six catches.

Green had six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown on Sunday in New Orleans, including a 38-yard reception down the sideline.

“I think you miss some time like he missed — three weeks almost — and everybody’s moving at a different speed when you come back,” Lewis said on Monday. “Yesterday he had some plays and I thought he had a good week of preparation and we just have to continue with that.”

Notes: Defensive end Margus Hunt wore a protective boot on his right foot Monday. He left the game on Sunday in the first half with an injured ankle. … Dalton grew up in the Houston suburb of Katy and is 0-2 in two playoff games in his hometown, throwing four interceptions with no touchdowns and a passer rating of 48.6. .. Hill rushed for 154 yards against Jacksonville and joins Paul Robinson as the only Bengals rookies to run for 150 yards twice in a season. Robinson did it in 1968, the franchise’s inaugural season.


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