Bengals eye another streak

The Bengals.com media forum couldn't have got on cable news this week. There's no debate.

With the NFL's No. 1 defense staring at the winless Colts instead of Peyton Manning, they're giving the home team the edge in Sunday's Paul Brown Stadium game (1 p.m.-WLW 700 and ESPN 1530) when the Bengals try to reach into the last century to end a losing streak for the third straight game.

Two weeks ago it was 10 games and 22 years against the Bills. Last week it was seven games and 16 years in Jacksonville. This week it is another unlucky seven and 14 years against the Colts. Which is how long it is between Kelly Holcomb and Curtis Painter.

"Edge to the Bengals because of their competitive nature in always playing 60 minutes," Bengals radio network analyst Artrell Hawkins says. "They're winning the fourth quarter (53-27) when the Colts are getting outscored (40-21). They can't finish games and the Bengals can."

In honor of his rookie season, which turned out to be the same rookie year as one Peyton Manning, we let Hawkins lead it off. Hawkins, the Bengals second-round pick in 1998, played in Manning's first game against the Bengals that began the streak. Just to keep him company we brought in another former Bengals defensive back, Solomon Wilcots, the CBS analyst for Sunday's game with play-by-play man Kevin Harlan.

"The Bengals defensive line ought to destroy the Colts offensive line," Wilcots says. "I said, 'ought.' We'll see. Curtis Painter is better than you think. He can make every throw. I love the Bengals rotation on the defensive line."

Phillip B. Wilson of The Indianapolis Star says it's only a matter of time.

"I just can't see the Colts beating the Bengals and their defense," Wilson says. "Teams are holding the ball on them an average of 35:29. They can't get off the field."

Paul Kuharsky, who saw plenty of Colts games while covering the Titans for The Tennessean before he took over the AFC South blog for ESPN.com, sees it in much the same way.

"I don't think I'm giving the edge to the Colts until maybe Nov. 13 when they play the Jaguars at home," Kuharsky says. "Maybe."

Let's go around the room:

HAWKINS

"The Bengals have some challenges. I think they'll need to give right tackle Andre Smith help on pass rusher Robert Mathis. Andre's been blocking the run well and I think he's coming along, but quick speed guys are giving him trouble and the Colts are built on speed rushing. They may have to help on the other side, too. I mean, look at what these guys have done to good teams like the Steelers and Buccaneers.

"And this is the best group of receivers they've seen by far this year.

"But the Bengals are on a roll. They're playing with confidence late in games and the Colts have lost the last three games in the fourth and I think that's what wins this one. I give the edge to their quarterback, too. I don't go by experience as much as I go by reality. People talk about it and use it as pros and cons. But Andy has played enough and done enough that Painter is twice the rookie that Dalton is."

THE EDGE: Bengals with the second-half intangibles  

WILCOTS

"The deal with the Colts is they are (27th) in offense in third down efficiency and 32nd in defensive third down efficiency. When they can't rush the passer and can't get off the field, they're worn down defensively, and in the last two weeks they've given up over 190 yards rushing to the Chiefs and Buccaneers.

"If the Bengals want to get back on track running the ball, this is the week to do it. If they want to be more balanced, this is the week to do it. I think Cedric Benson can do a better job reading his cuts. There have been times he bounced it outside when he should have gone underneath the kick-out block, but I think he's getting a better feel for this running scheme on certain plays to the edge.

"When I saw them at training camp, I liked the Bengals. I thought they could surprise people because the defense would carry them and they have early on. I love their rotation on the defensive line. It's the best and deepest I can ever remember this franchise having. And the linebackers play fast and run to the ball well, but if they don't have Rey Maualuga it will be interesting to see how they react to that.

"You can't get behind the Colts with the defensive ends they have. They can put some pressure on the rookie quarterback. It looks like Joseph Addai won't play at running back for them, but don't sleep on Delone Carter. He's pretty good. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon has lit up the last two teams (146 and 125 yards). Curtis Painter is better than you think. He can make every throw. He's got a great arm and he doesn't panic.

"I love Andy Dalton. To take TCU from where he did and to do what he did to Wisconsin in that bowl game, you know the guy's a winner and you can't beat his experience of starting every game and taking every rep and every snap in practice. I love those guys that play all four years."

THE EDGE: Bengals, because the Colts are going to have a tough time protecting Painter with that defensive front and the Bengals have a chance to wear them down in the running game like the Bucs and Chiefs did. If they don't turn it over and give up the big play, they can win.

WILSON

"I just don't see the Colts winning on the road with their injuries. Addai says he's a longshot to play and he's an important guy because he can run and catch. But Carter is a rookie learning the protections and Donald Brown has struggled since he got drafted in the first round in 2009.

"I don't think their best corner is going to play, either, Jerraud Powers (hamstring). They're hurting back there in the secondary. No one knows why they cut Justin Tryon and they've got an undrafted guy in Jacob Lacey back there and a rookie sixth-rounder (Chris Rucker) who got beat for the winner (last week). With a guy like A.J. Green playing wide receiver for the Bengals, you're going to see a lot of zone with the Colts playing six, seven, eight yards off the ball. They're afraid they're going to get run by.

"Painter has looked good in spots, but they're playing the No. 1 defense and if you go back to that 14-0 year, he didn't play very well against good defenses from the Bills and Jets. He is completing less than 50 percent (48.5) of his passes."

THE EDGE: Bengals, 27-17.  A lot of three and outs.

KUHARSKY

"The Colts are really struggling on defense. It probably all started when they wouldn't pay cornerback Kelvin Hayden $6 million and now they're shuffling back there. When they cut Tryon (on Sept. 28), that seemed to set them back. It's a bunch of kids. And except for linebacker Pat Angerer, they're not great tacklers.

"They seem to be paying the price of ignoring the offensive line in the draft. It's either that, or they get hurt. Center Jeff Saturday is their most dependable guy and he's getting up there in age. He's 36.

"They've been doing a pretty good job of keeping their defensive ends fresh by taking them off the field on obvious running downs, but there are lot of other holes.

THE EDGE: Bengals. The Colts have had some great efforts the last couple of weeks, but I think it's going to be tough to duplicate it Sunday.

THE BOTTOM LINE: You have to believe the Bengals can run the ball as well as Kansas City and Tampa Bay, which have just smoked the Colts the past two weeks with more than 190 yards rushing.

Of course, it seems like every time the Bengals play the Colts, the matchup is the same and the Bengals should dominate them in the running game. But they can't. Somehow the 26th-worst run defense held Benson to 24 yards on 14 carries last season.

Yet the Bengals are a lot better on offense now and are more committed to the run even if they are inconsistent doing it. But running it is the best way to help right tackle Andre Smith in his mega matchup with Pro Bowl pass rusher Robert Mathis.

The loss of middle linebacker Rey Maualuga robs the Bengals of one of their top defenders. The big question is going to be how the backers respond in pass coverage since the thinking is that Dan Skuta, Maualuga's replacement, is seen as a solid run player. But coordinator Mike Zimmer is at his best when he's tinkering.

Besides, you've got to figure that Zimmer is going to get the upper hand in a showdown with his defense that leads the NFL with 33 three-and-outs and is eighth on third-down efficiency and is working against a quarterback that is hitting 48 percent of his third-down passes.

Every Bengals fan sees a game like this and thinks back to the beautiful sunny days at home the Bengals were supposed to roll and they came out and delivered the dreaded Egg Game in a crucial part of the season. Miami in 2010. Houston in 2009. Arizona in 2007. Atlanta in 2006.

But this team doesn't seem to have an Egg Game in them.

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