With Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' NFL-leading 18 touchdown passes staring at a battered Cincinnati secondary, the Bengals signed up former Kansas City draft pick KeiVarae Russell from the practice squad after Thursday's practice and released rookie wide receiver Auden Tate to make room.
With slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard sidelined by a shoulder injury, the Bengals were down to four cornerbacks for Sunday's game in Kansas City (8:20 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5). Two of them (slot corner Tony McRae with 70 NFL snaps and rookie Darius Phillips with five) have little pro experience as they prep for the Chiefs' explosive passing attack led by wide receiver Tyreek Hill's NFL-leading six touchdown catches and the league's fourth-most receiving yards.
Russell, a 2016 third-round pick of the Chiefs, has played 13 games with the Bengals since they claimed him the day after Kansas City cut him following the '16 opener. On his first NFL snap late in that season he recorded his only pro interception and he blocked a field goal last season in Denver during one of his eight games in 2017 when he played 46 snaps on defense and 90 on special teams.
Tate is a 6-5, 228-pound possession receiver out of Florida State who impressed with a training camp he caught pretty much everything headed his way. He finished with three catches in the preseason and his 33-yard touchdown off a bomb from back-up quarterback Jeff Driskel with 2:04 left gave them a 30-27 victory over the Bears in the pre-season opener.
But Tate couldn't get in front of third-year wide receiver Cody Core on special teams.
GOAL SCORING: As the Bengals defense attempts to shore up matters before facing a Kansas City team that has the second most points in the league, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has only one goal in mind.
"You got to score. You got to score. It's the NFL in 2018. Everybody is scoring," said Lazor after Thursday's practice, indicating he has zero plans to slow the game down. "We just try to score. That's it. If we do a 15-play drive, great. If we do a one-play drive, we'll take it. If we turn the ball back over to them without scoring, then a potent team can give you trouble. The thing you would hate to have happen is you get into a one-sided thing where you have to throw it every play. No one likes that. We just got to play our best game. That's the deal."
Lazor reflected on an experience at the collegiate level.
"Long time ago played a triple option team in college. We decided we'd keep the ball away from them," Lazor said. "We had about 25 plays and hadn't scored yet. They ended up with over 400 yards rushing that day because they got the lead and we couldn't come back. We just have to play our best game. We have to score. Everyone enjoys the long drives, sometimes they happen fast. We can't worry about that too much."
That was pretty much his thinking on the last drive last Sunday against Pittsburgh, when Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton went 75 yards in 2:14 to give the Bengals a 21-20 lead and then they took heat for leaving 78 seconds on the clock when the Steelers scored a TD with 10 seconds left to win it.
"There are times when you need a field goal at the end, the clock becomes a real issue. Even in our last drive I think Andy did a good job because we were on the ball, all of a sudden bang we got far down, " Lazor said. "Andy took the clock down. Even though we didn't huddle. He knows what he's doing. He took the clock down to under 10 seconds before he snapped it. What are you going to do? We called a run from the four and we scored. If we wouldn't' have got it, it may have been different. But we scored. And we were excited at the time. We were."
They took the 'L,' but it was the third straight game Dalton took the offense at least nine plays and 62 yards to score the go-ahead points with 3:30 or less to go in the game. Lazor is still trying to think of a word to describe their late-game heroics.
"I don't know. I'd like them to do it at the beginning of the game. We started the game with the three-and-out and we had two three-and-outs at the beginning of the second half," Lazor said of last Sunday. "The easy (word) is poise. Then there is something else, I'm trying to put my finger on it. I really don't know. There's something else about the group when they are out there. Maybe if we had a microphone in the huddle we'd know what they are talking about. But they are staying loose."