Bengals survive another sloppy game
CINCINNATI — The Bengals stayed on the cusp of the playoffs by surviving their sloppiest game of the season, one that left them with plenty of concern heading into a weekend off.
They did a lot of things wrong during a 34-13 win in Philadelphia on Thursday night, but the Eagles were far worse, bailing out the Bengals by turning the ball over five times.
The Eagles lost four fumbles and had an interception off a severely underthrown pass, helping Cincinnati overcome a second-half deficit.
The ugly victory gave Cincinnati (8-6) a chance to make the playoffs by winning at Pittsburgh and at home against Baltimore in the next two weeks. The Bengals are 0-6 against those AFC North rivals during the past two seasons.
“After reviewing the tapes, it’s evident in a lot of areas we have a lot of coaching to do,” coach Marvin Lewis said Friday. “We have a lot of improvement we can still make.”
Although they’re in the postseason chase, the Bengals aren’t happy with how they’re playing at the most important time of the season. They struggled to win at San Diego, pulling it out with a fourth-quarter rally aided by the Chargers’ self-destruction. They then lost at home to Dallas, blowing a fourth-quarter lead.
In Philadelphia, they hit a low point — 11 penalties for 94 yards, a punt fielded at the 1-yard line, two fumbles by quarterback Andy Dalton, six sacks allowed. The Eagles’ turnovers made the difference and left the Bengals relieved yet unhappy.
They’ve talked all season about getting hot as the playoffs approach. Their performances are getting worse, especially on offense. They know that if they want to consider themselves playoff-worthy, they’ve got to play a lot better in the next two games.
“Anytime you win on the road, I don’t care how you do it, it’s exciting,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said on Friday, taking a break from watching tape of a Baltimore-Pittsburgh game. “We are 8-6 right now, and we still have everything in reach that we want to reach for. We just have to play better, and we know that.
“We know that the other team is not going to fumble and give us that field position all the time. We are going to have to grind some yards, protect the football. We gave two turnovers in their end of the field, and that can’t happen against teams with Ben Roethlisberger and (Joe) Flacco and Peyton Manning like that.”
The offense was totally ineffective in the second quarter and the early part of the third before the Eagles started turning it over. Cincinnati had the ball seven times and lost 4 yards overall, done in by penalties and Dalton’s two fumbles.
In the first half, A.J. Green was the only receiver to catch a pass, getting 41 yards on four receptions. Tight end Jermaine Gresham had three catches for 28 yards, running back Brian Leonard one catch for 7 yards.
Dalton was under heavy pressure most of the game. He finished 13 of 27 for 127 yards and a below-average passer rating of 74.2.
“It was very un-Andy-like last night,” Gruden said. “He missed some throws that he should make, he didn’t throw some throws that he should throw, could have run for yards and tried to throw across his body and was almost intercepted. He made some plays that just weren’t up to par.”
The second-year quarterback become frustrated as the offense bogged down, slamming down a binder on the sideline at one point.
“Everything you do, you have to continue to do it with more poise than you did it the last time,” Lewis said. “That’s all we ask any of our players all of the time: every opportunity, every chance you get, do it better than you did it the last time.”