Updated: 11/18/10, 12:20 a.m.
At the moment, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is engaged with trying to marry the sputtering Bengals passing game with the once-feared running game.
The Ocho refused to confirm a TMZ.com report that he is engaged to fellow reality TV star Evelyn Lozada with a 10-carat ring and the only place his finger was pointing Wednesday was at the locker of running back Clint Boling.
"We've got to get the guy to my right going; we've got to get him going," The Ocho said. "It would make our job at the receiver position, Carson (Palmer)'s job, that much easier. Super easy."
The Ocho blew off the engagement report with ease ("We're in a football locker room, right? Got a game Sunday," he said) but how to fix the split between the offense and consistency was a lot harder. The Ocho caught seven balls for 76 yards last Sunday, nearly doubling his numbers from the previous two weeks.
"It's all based on the defensive scheme. Like Marvin (Lewis) said, the coverage dictates where the ball goes," Ochocinco said. "I don't necessarily agree with that. If you've got a certain individual that can beat whatever you put out there, you know? Not to be cocky, arrogant, whatever. But that's the way it is. When they allow us to be able to throw and pick zones and holes and we're able to deliver the ball…
"The teams that make it much more difficult, like the Pittsburghs and the teams within the division that know us extremely well, they make it difficult. But I would like to be the aggressor. You're not going to tell me what we're going to do. Every time we play these individuals that know us well, it's like, 'They're going to do this, so we'll just…' No. I don't want to say anything wrong. I think that's a good attitude to have, right? Let's be the aggressor for a change? That's my thought."
But The Ocho says he's stopped short of making the suggestion to offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski because "it's not my place." Bratkowski wants him to pick his places to outrun double coverage.
"Sometimes that's OK. Coverage says that over there, then throw it over there," Bratkowski said. "If you look at it only in your own perspective of throw me the ball, you can force some things into it. He can (beat double-teams) and he has. There's times we'll go at that double."
The Ocho has gone from trash-talking to recycled recall. While he has high regard for the Bills secondary, he thinks their physical style should allow him to show off his ability to get off the line, which he has always said is his best attribute.
"I'm looking to have some fun, this week watching film of Buffalo," he said. "Man to man across the board. In the face. Hands on. Try to get physical. That's my strength. I Iike that. Man-to-man. So I'm hoping. It should be fun. It should be an interesting game."
Much of Wednesday's talk centered on the lack of chemistry in the passing game. It has spawned Michael Johnson's 11 interceptions after he threw just 13 all last year.
"I don't know; I'm not sure," The Ocho said. "Besides the Tampa Bay game where I couldn't get to the ball and it went off my fingers, him and I haven't had any issues. With us, it's everybody getting familiar with each other for the chemistry."
One theory for the lack of snaps downfield is that Palmer didn't practice with his first group of receivers until training camp with The Ocho spending the spring at Dancing With The Stars. Terrell Owens was a free agent, and Jordan Shipley a rookie running second team.
"It hasn't helped," said Bratkowski of the Ocho's absence. "I don't think it's been a major hindrance, but it's not the optimal situation."
Neither is 2-7, but Ochocinco says he's still excited.
"I'm not just playing for me, but playing for everybody in here, playing for Coach Lew, you know how that is," he said. "Playing for Cincinnati, playing for everybody."
CED STRUGGLES:Benson's struggles have been well documented. He has stopped wondering publicly about why the Bengals have gone away from the running game. Now the numbers just show it. After nine games last season he had carried it 205 times for 859 yards at 4.2 yards per pop. This year it is 175 for 623 at 3.6. Bratkowski points to the five games the Bengals have had double-digit deficits and had to ditch the run early.
"That certainly has an effect on the number of times you do run it," he said. "We did try to stick with it early. It just gets to certain points you have so many possessions left. We're at our best when we're generating 120-130 yards per game (on the ground."
He thought it was particularly damaging last week when the Bengals were playing a small, quick Colts defense ranked 29th in run defense that they never got a chance to wear down because they fell behind, 17-0, in the first 16 minutes.
"We didn't execute the run game real well. They're a stunting team. They're a smaller group. They can't afford to just sit there and play their gap defense," Bratkowski said. "They're always on the move. Looping guys and generally you bank on they're going to get you some and you'll get them. We didn't get them and probably the biggest reason is we weren't able to run the ball as much you'd like to have run it over the course of four quarters."
One of the reasons the Bengals fell behind so early is because Benson suffered his fourth fumble after fumbling just three times combined in '08 and and '09 and just once last year out of 318 touches.
Most have been killing and early. Benson fumbled late in the first quarter on his own 28 in the opener the Patriots led, 10-0, but the Pats missed the field goal. He fumbled in a scoreless game in Cleveland in the first quarter at the Browns 47 and the Browns cashed for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. Early in the fourth quarter with the Bengals trailing, 32-25, Benson fumbled at the Falcons 39 and Atlanta turned it into the winning touchdown. Then Sunday's drop.
"This year's been different," Benson said. "It's been tough sledding at times. Different looks, a lot of stunts a lot of guys up front at the line. A majority of it is me and myself venturing outside of myself and being able to do under normal circumstances. You feel challenge and the pressure of things and want to make plays. We just can't fall behind. We had a couple turnovers, which turned into scores for those guys, which shot us in the foot with the run game."
Lewis said he spoke to Benson on Sunday's bus ride home from Indianapolis and urged him not to press.
"He's had three critical fumbles. I don't know if he had three last year or three since he's been here," Lewis said. "They have come probably when he's pressing a little bit because of the situation in the game, and that's the thing he can't allow, whether it is lack of carries like the Atlanta game or something else. We talked about that on the bus ride home, that he can't let those things affect him. We can't beat anyone without the football, because we're not going to score without it."
When it rains it pours. When the Bengals finally had a chance to run the ball on their last series Sunday, rookie tight Jermaine Gresham fumbled.
"When you have those possession changes it fouls you up a little bit and gets you unable to do the things you set out to do in the game," Lewis said. "Last week, we didn't do a great job of blocking the things we saw in the running game and that led to some things having to change until we got back in the six-point game. When Jermaine laid the ball on the ground, we were looking to run it a little bit there because we still had two timeouts and the two-minute warning. So we still had the chance to run it inside their 30-yard line."
Benson raised an eyebrow when he heard the Bengals play a Buffalo team ranked last against the rush.
"We do? That's good. I wouldn't hang my hat on that though," Benson said. "We know they're going to come in and play hard. The Colts played hard and they were ranked pretty low in their run defense. Hopefully we won't stub ourselves in the foot and get behind and stick with it."
Bratkowski still plans to give it to Benson despite the fumbles.
"I'm not overly concerned. He hasn't had that history what I've seen of him," Bratkowski said. "It's a little bit of Murphy's Law going on. The worst possible thing that can happen will happen to us right now. And as soon as we get out of that, and I know we will, we will obviously catch stride."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Right end Antwan Odom is back from his four-game suspension for banned substances and doesn't count against the roster this week, but he said Wednesday he has had surgery on his broken wrist and doesn't expect to be ready for a couple of more weeks. Odom and defensive lineman Jon Fanene (hamstring) have been ruled out for Sunday's game against Buffalo.
Palmer (throwing shoulder) was limited Wedneday, which is what he was Friday before he played the Colts. All looks well since he appeared at his news conference before practice.
Safety Chris Crocker (thigh) returned to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday's game in Indianapolis and was limited. Defensive tackle Tank Johnson (knee), who has missed the last two games, did not work. Ochocinco says he can't lift his sore left shoulder all the way over his head, but he was out there Wednesday and was limited. Benson (foot) was not working.
Also not available were cornerback Johnathan Joseph (neck), SAM linebacker Vincent Rey (thigh), defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (knee) and safety Chinedum Ndukwe (thigh).
Cornerback Brandon Ghee (groin) was limited.
» For the Bills, running back C.J. Spiller, who ripped the Bengals in the preseason, won't play with an injured hamstring. It doesn't look good, either, for new linebacker Shawne Merriman (calf/Achilles) after he didn't practice Wednesday.
» Steelers kicker Jeff Reed cleared waivers Wednesday and it would make sense that the Bengals made an inquiry. Reed has decided not return this week. According to Len Pasquarelli of The Sports XChange via ProFootballTalk.com, Reed was contacted by three teams.
» Owens did confirm his tweet from Monday night asking how the Redskins could justify their contract extension for quarterback Donovan McNabb during his struggles against the Eagles. He wondered why he caught heat for doing what many fans do and spout their opinions via tweets.
"It was not a knock at McNabb; it was more so at management," Owens said. "How do they justify that money? They just benched the guy. Supposedly, I didn't put enough effort into that play. I guess I should expect a big pay day. When I watch the game, I look at it from a fan's standpoint. I tweet my friends and fans on Twitter … there's freedom of speech. Why can't I express my opinion? Guys take shots at us all day every day."
» Owens said he heard via Twitter that people were saying he didn't go all out on Palmer's throw across the middle with less than six minutes left Sunday that resulted in a pick. Lewis and Palmer responded Wednesday that Owens didn't give up on the ball and Owens said, "Anybody that says I didn't give effort can go pound salt. Whoever said that doesn't know me very well. Yeah, I take offense to it. That's not how I play. That's not my style."
One of those who did make the charge was CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf, a Hall of Fame defensive tackle.
"It bothers me. If we have Dan Dierdorf the next time around, I would ask him why," Lewis said. "They're sitting up there; half of them don't know the game much anymore. It's a difficult thing to do. A guy sat in our interview room and tried to question it, too, after the game. Come on, please."
» Like he did postgame, Owens took the blame for the interception, saying he didn't think Palmer would throw it into the coverage. And it appeared that the two rookies, Shipley and Gresham, were at fault on the other two picks. Shipley apparently didn't adjust to cornerback Kelvin Hayden's missed alignment and Hayden ended getting up a pick-six. On the other one that almost was a pick-six, Gresham apparently ran a route designed for man-to-man coverage instead of zone.
» The Bengals have a $6 million option for Ochocinco next year and with everything so up in the air from the potential lockout to Lewis' contract situation, he was asked if he thought he'd be back for an 11th season.
"I hope so," he said. "I've made it this far."