ATLANTA - Even when the Bengals were 2-1, they were hounded by the specter brought by the signing of Terrell Owens. They better be good because if they're not, the CW said, they are going to implode with the dynamite duo of Owens and Chad Ochocinco.
Of course, Owens helped that along by saying if the Bengals weren't winning he'd have plenty of say. Now with a two-game losing streak and a road game Sunday against the Falcons, everyone assumes the fire stats down here about 4:10 p.m. with another loss. It would be Cincinnati's first three-game losing streak since the final belches of the 4-11-1 season of 2008 with blowout losses to the Steelers, Ravens and Colts from Nov. 20-Dec. 7.
But it's been pretty mellow so far considering the rocky start. The Ocho seems more concerned about setting up his Saturday road dinners with 85 fans rather than stirring the pot. And Owens has saved his most explosive comments for outside the facility, wondering why the Bengals offensive minds don't listen to him for suggestions.
It will be interesting to see what Owens offers to CBS's Shannon Sharpe on the NFL Today pregame show Sunday, but running back Cedric Benson tried to set the tone a few weeks ago when he backed off his public questioning of the playcalling. He said this week with the cloud looming from the media drumbeat of impending implosion that there isn't quite the bickering portrayed or predicted.
"The media is good at what they do. They could be trying to stir up something. There was once upon a time where that assumption, accusation was truer. But now it's even less true," Benson said. "Only because I backed away from it. I don't pay attention to it. But I don't think it will get to that point. I think things will work out and guys will get enough balls. I could see how it could, but I don't see it happening."
Benson admitted he hurt his game with what he called the distraction of trying to be a coach, too, and he took to heart the advice of his good friend Brian Peters, his former baseball agent.
"A wise man told me I'm only Employee No. 32," Benson said. "And he was absolutely right. I was focusing on things that didn't matter to me. Once I backed away, things started going smoothly. There was a question earlier in the season because guys were hungry to get off to a great start. I think in the beginning, there are times everybody feels they can be a better coach. But being a player, that's not your position. I'm Employee No. 32 and I take on the task presented before me and I make the best of it. Anytime you question things that aren't directed to your job, or it doesn't have anything to do with what you're really here for, you scratch it."
Now the question is if that becomes majority rule no matter which way the season goes.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» The Buccaneers cut fullback Chris Pressley over the weekend, ending the give-and-take between them and the Bengals since Fui Vakapuna got hurt early in training camp.
The Bengals originally signed Pressley as a free agent out of Wisconsin after the 2009 draft and kept an eye on him even after they cut him and the Bucs signed him at the start of last season. But Pressley may not be headed to Cincinnati just yet.
The Buccaneers have been trying to trade him to the Bengals for the last six weeks or so, but Cincinnati anticipated they'd cut him and held off. The Bengals still don't have a fullback on the roster, but given the way the coaches have been talking about their comfort level with using tight ends that know the system in the fullback spot, it doesn't look like it would be a lightning transaction. But it would make sense if the Bengals bring Pressley in for a workout Tuesday.
» The Bengals on Sunday get Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, the guy that trails Owens with the NFL's most active catches. But they're going to keep coming. In two weeks the Bengals get No. 4 Hines Ward of Pittsburgh and they end the season with No. 5 Derrick Mason of Baltimore.
» The Bengals have already played Mason and No. 3 Randy Moss when he was in New England. Those two didn't have field days against the Bengals, but they both had a big play. Moss caught five balls for just 59 yards, but one was a 32-yarder off cornerback Johnathan Joseph's missed tackle. The next week Joseph and Leon Hall combined to hold Mason to one catch. The one play on which he did get loose he ran by Joseph for a 31-yard touchdown catch.