Andrew Whitworth says the Bengals can't panic in a league that ebbs and flows every week.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was here one year when the Bengals played with their backup quarterback most of the season, another year when they lost three games in three weeks by a total of nine points, and another year when they lost 10 straight.
Domata Peko has been here when a cornerback started Thursday after signing Monday and when the defense gave up 42 points in the second half to blow a 28-7 half-time lead and missed the playoffs by a game.
They are the de facto offensive and defensive captains, both drafted in 2006. So they've been around. They've seen a lot worse than a 0-2-1 stretch that has them half game out of first place as they prep to play AFC North leader Baltimore in a 1 p.m. Sunday game at Paul Brown Stadium.
"It's not the end of the world guys, we'll be all right," Peko told Monday's assembled death-watch media. "It's a three-game little rut but I have a lot of faith in my team, I have a lot of faith in our group here and we'll be okay."
Because the free-fall from 3-0 to 3-2-1 has been so swift and complete, it seems like they are 3-6.
"Yeah, that's what it feels like sometimes, you know? That's what I'm saying," Peko said. "I told a lot of guys 'come on, we'll be all right.' It's not the end of the world. We've got 10 games left. Let's just take it one game at a time… The NFL, it's a crazy league, man. I remember when Dallas lost their first game and everybody was 'Hey, get (Tony) Romo out of there' and now look at them. They're winning game after game. I think this is a little stumbling block for us. It's early in the year. We've just got to pick ourselves up and stay positive and grind and work and work and get better."
Whitworth remembers how 'the '09 AFC North champs recovered from a horrific Opening Day loss against Denver in the last 11 seconds and even the Green-Dalton vets can think back to 2011 and the 1-4 stretch in November and December before they clinched a Wild Card.
"Every playoff stretch we've had so far, there's been a lull somewhere in the season and we've had to regroup and find a way to win," Whitworth said Monday. "This will be no different. We want to go to the playoffs. We've had a little bad stretch so we've got to go on a good one. We've got to win three, four or five in a row."
It sounds like there will no no-holds-barred-players-only meeting chaired by Brandon Marshall. Peko said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther spelled it out pretty well Monday.
"Paulie put it best," Peko said. " We're not playing with that fire and confidence we were playing with the first three weeks. That's something we have to get back to. So this week we're just going to get back to our Ps and Qs, get back to our fundamentals and get back to playing fast. I think sometimes we guess too much and guys are trying to do other people's jobs. That's the type of stuff that gets you beat."
The Bengals haven't gone much for the Players Only gig under head coach Marvin Lewis and Whitworth says it's not on the agenda.
" It's not needed. What we need to do is be who we are and not doubt the guy next to us and not doubting anybody in the locker room or a new guy in this position. We have to do what you're supposed to do," Whitworth said. "I think too much is made of guys standing up in a meeting. A lot of time to me I think that comes more off as one guy entitling himself like he's not the problem. It's more about us putting away whether we think we play good or don't play good and say how can I make the entire team better. Whatever we can do to find a way to make us all better that's all we need. That's why I say it's important for all the leadership to find a way to lead this team to better places than we are right now."
Whitworth said on Monday that various players were talking to each other informally in an effort to get it figured out.
"Every one of them is saying what can we do? Offense, defense. 'Hey, what can we can do to make you better? Do you need more reps in practice from one of us? Because one of the starters can get in there and show you a look.' Anything we can do to make us better," Whitworth said.
"It's just finding a way. How can we make the looks better? How can we be more precise? How can we play at a faster tempo at everything we do? And execute. That's the really what the game came down to yesterday. We just didn't execute plays. It wasn't that the plays couldn't work, we just didn't execute them."
It's a little early to ask about players jumping ship. After all, they still have a winning record and they still haven't lost at PBS in 12 games, a stretch that includes two victories over the Ravens. A win Sunday and they've got the tiebreaker over Baltimore as well as the division lead. So that makes Sunday absolutely huge.
"I think we'll be all right if we keep that mentality going and keep that energy going throughout the whole game we should be a tough team to beat," Peko said. "Plus we're back in the Jungle, man, and we're still undefeated in the Jungle. Let's keep that going. I know our crowd will be behind us and we've just got to keep rolling."
So, it will be a week of fundamentals.
"We've just got to get back to what we did before. That's playing fast, playing like your hair is on fire and playing every snap like it's your last," Peko said. "This week at practice we're going to all get back to doing that. That gets to fundamentals. Getting back to striking your hands on offensive linemen, getting off blocks and then making tackles."
Peko and Whitworth have been to the playoffs four times in the last five years, so they know what a run looks, smells, and tastes like.
"If you are playing NFL football and you are panicking then you are not going to be in this league for very long," Whitworth said. "If you are not ready then you are going to miss it and you won't be around long. This team has to find ways to get ready for this next opportunity, this next run. That's what this league is about. It's about going on runs, it's about making plays. We need to be prepared to do that."