BENGALS GAMEDAY: Photos, analysis, video highlights, stats, quotes* * *
Posted: 5:40 a.m.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Carson Palmer said the Bengals have been at "rock bottom" for a few weeks now.
But Sunday's 33-21 loss to the Bills has to be the statistical ground zero of just how disappointing this 2-6 season has been. After giving up 479 yards and 33 points to one of the NFL's worst offenses, the Bengals are on pace at the halfway point to allow the most points (488) and yards (6,354) in club history.
And two weeks after getting their running game in gear, the Bengals rushed for just 28 yards against a defense ranked 24th against the rush, the lowest total in the 73 games under head coach Marvin Lewis.
Yes, the offense could muster only 22 yards and one first down on its first three series in the fourth quarter. And wide receiver Chad Johnson had another huge third-down drop early in the fourth quarter with the Bengals leading, 21-19, that may have been a touchdown instead of a punt. And running back Rudi Johnson looked nowhere near himself in gaining just 11 yards on nine carries in his first full-time duty since injuring his hamstring six weeks ago.
"We're not a very good football team, it's frustrating. There's nothing more you can say about it, it's just frustrating," said Palmer, whose offense could manage just 14 points despite his 93 passer rating.
But the defense has to bear the brunt of this one after allowing quarterback J.P. Losman, in his first start in five games, to convert 62 percent of his third downs and engineer three touchdown drives after the Bills offense had scored just six touchdowns all season.
The 488 points would be the third most surrendered all time in the NFL, a stunning turnaround for Lewis after he coordinated a Baltimore defense that allowed the fewest points in the modern era in 2000.
Not only did rookie running back Marshawn Lynch have the first 100-yard day of his career with 153 yards, but he threw the Bills' second touchdown pass of the game on a halfback option to give Buffalo the lead for good with 5:51 left in the game after the Bills had thrown just two touchdown passes the entire season.
As Bengals defensive end Bryan Robinson said, Lynch's 56-yard touchdown run out of linebacker Rashad Jeanty's missed tackle in the backfield with 2:22 left in the game "summed up the day for us."
"They made a hell of a play at the end," Robinson said. "We're just not a very good football team right now."
This was a game the Bengals thought they were going to get. The defensive line, in particular, was confident all week and felt the Bengals were going to end the five-game losing streak on the road. The sense was that the Bills weren't a good team and if the Bengals lost to them, then they weren't good, either.
"We had a great week of practice," Robinson said. "All the plays we ran we saw today. We knew that stuff."
Yet despite the preparation, the Bills finished off the Bengals with four plays of least 25 yards after Buffalo came in with just four of those all season, the fewest amount in the NFL.
The Bengals watched a defense with few big names and without its second-round draft pick (linebacker Paul Posluszny) do what the Bengals haven't been able to do: Not give up the big play, string together some emotion and fire and stops, and adjust.
After allowing a 24-yard pass to Chad Johnson and a 43-yard screen pass to running back Kenny Watson, on two of the Bengals' first four snaps, the Bills didn't allow a play longer than 17 yards the rest of the way.
"First off, we wanted to take away the run we know that they have two outstanding receivers on the outside," said Bills safety Donte Whitner. "We knew that they wanted to give those guys the ball, those guys are going to make plays. Against the run, they had 28 yards rushing, or something like that and we wanted to take that away and make it one-dimensional, which we did and we came out victorious."
Meanwhile, the Bengals continue to have a patent on big plays. Last week it was Hall struggling early against the Steelers. This week it was cornerback Johnathan Joseph giving up three huge plays to wide receiver Lee Evans in that tone-setting first drive. Evans caught many of his nine balls for 165 yards against Joseph, including a huge third-and-four that kept alive a field-goal drive on the Bills' first series of the second half.
On the game's second snap, Joseph tried to bump-and-run with Evans, but Evans streaked by him for a 38-yard play.
"You re-route him and he's still getting upfield," Joseph said. "Anytime he goes upfield, he's on your shoulder. You're behind him. A great play on their part."
Lewis said that Joseph is still a starting corner even though Hall played well with four tackles, a red-zone pick, and a pass defensed. But like Joseph said, "it's not one thing ... whatever they're calling, we have to play it, and we're not doing it."
The Bengals got absolutely zero pass rush with no sacks. With their effort to throw the ball downfield, the Bills kept either a tight end or running back in to block rush ends Robert Geathers and Justin Smith on passing downs.
"Yeah, they chipped and had two guys on me and they kept people in to block us," Geathers said. "But we still have to find a way to get through."
Geathers was particularly upset about Lynch's run when asked why the Bengals have allowed five 100-yard rushers in the past six games.
"Not tackling, man," Geathers said. "It's like what happened on the last run. We had him and he got loose in the backfield. That should never have happened."
Jeanty, playing only his third game since coming back from a broken leg, looks like he's still trying to find his way.
"Bottom line," Jeanty said, "I missed an opportunity for us."
Defensive end Justin Smith said the defense's problem is the inability to get off the field.
"It's killing us. We can't get the ball back for the offense," Smith said. "If you give a team eight minutes to make plays, they're going to make plays. And on the flip side, for whatever reason, we're not making any plays."
But there was equal opportunity angst in the locker room.
Lewis said the Bengals' inability to run was "a significant part of the game," but no one had any reason why. The Bills didn't play a heavy diet of eight-man fronts. Instead, they played a lot of "two high," where the safeties were back, an alignment that should have enabled the run.
"It seemed like there were 12 guys," said running back Kenny Watson.
Lewis noted that "guys slipped off blocks," and center Eric Ghiaciuc said the Bengals paid the price for inattention to detail.
Although Rudi Johnson looked sluggish in his first game back and there was some second-guessing in the media why Watson only carried four times after two big games, both Johnson and Lewis said his hamstring injury wasn't a reason for the lack of yardage.
"I don't think you can blame that," Johnson said.
On the next two third downs after Chad Johnson's drop, the Bills took away Palmer's top two options, Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and he threw incompletions to Glenn Holt with 10 minutes and four minutes left in the game, respectively.
"They double-teamed them on one and they played a lot of two high," Palmer said. "There's no reason we can't convert those third downs and keep the offense on the field. They did a good job defensively. It just kind of seemed like we couldn't get it going all day long.
"I don't have the words to describe the way we feel in this locker room about this game, about this past season. It's just frustrating."
He didn't need words.
The numbers said it all.