HOUSTON - So it has come to this.
Former Bengals receiver Kevin Walter doing a Chad-like dance in the end zone after his second touchdown of the brutal second half during the Texans' 35-6 win Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
"Skateboarding," he called it and the Bengals treaded water at 0-8 for the first time since 1994 while the Texans won their third straight for the first time in club history.
"I would never have thought we would be in this position, that after eight games we'd have no wins, and statistically have probably the worst offense in the league," wide reciever T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "Call it shocking, call it embarrassing, call it what you want."
The Bengals had no answer for Houston's Andre Johnson (11 catches, 143 yards). (Getty Images)
"That's him, that's the guy from CBS. He wasn't out there playing," Joseph said. "I thought he was down. If I didn't think he was I would have jumped on him. I thought I had him."
CBS analyst Boomer Esiason said after the game that the Bengals were lackadaisical and lacked effort Sunday.
"It's there, it's there (but) I'm not watching everybody," wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said of the effort. "I'm making sure that I'm doing my assignment and my stuff 110 percent."
Asked if the 110 percent effort will be there throughout the remainder of the season, Ocho Cinco said, "It will be there. We don't have the type of individuals to just lay down. And they're not going to allow us to lay down."
Added quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: "To tell you the truth we've had good practices. It's hard because if you look at it we really struggle in the second half. Some of it has to be because of effort you would think, but just from the attitude of the guys in the locker room, everybody's still fighting. Everybody wants to win."
In the second half the Bengals began dropping. Defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene (hamstring), safety Corey Lynch (knee) and wide receiver Glenn Holt (shoulder) all suffered injuries. Meanwhile, linebacker Rashad Jeanty left for good with a foot injury.
Once upon a time the Bengals could pass at will but on Sunday their secondary turned up absolutely befuddled against Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson as the Texans extended the Bengals' misery with a second-half barrage.
"Carson and I were talking about this today," Houshmandzadeh said. "Our offense was like people were afraid to play us and now it's definitely not like that."
It didn't take Johnson long to log his fourth 100-yard game of the season. Like the first drive of the third quarter in which he accounted for 65 of the TD drive's 86 yards. He finished with 143 yards on 11 receptions.
The Bengals were going in the absolute different direction. On their first drive of the second half, which began with linebacker Abdul Hodge's illegal block in the back and ended with right tackle Stacy Andrews' second penalty of the day (a hold) and a fumble on a third-and-18 shovel pass.
Fittingly, Johnson ended the third quarter with another third-down conversion as he beat cornerback David Jones for an eight-yard catch on the sideline.
The Bengals defense did a decent job against the Texans running game. Houston finished with 110 yards rushing with 60 of those coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. Included was running back Steve Slaton's 20-yard touchdown run with 9:54 left after making safety Dexter Jackson miss and then carrying Joseph and end Robert Geathers into the end zone to cap off the Houston scoring.
But the Bengals were already buried in the passing game. They couldn't get near Schaub (although they did pick up a meaningless John Thornton sack late in the final period) and he looked like a combo of Warren Moon and Sam Houston shooting up the defense with 24 completions in 28 attempts for 280 yards.
The 384 yards of total offense by the Texans were the second-most the Bengals have allowed this season.
The Bengals and left tackle Levi Jones did a good job of keeping AFC sack leader Mario Williams away from Fitzpatrick until late in the third quarter and the Bengals in the red zone. Jones let Williams get by him and Fitzpatrick suffered his fourth sack and lost fumble in as many starts. That was Sunday's first sack but not the last with the Texans able to rush every snap.
Texans go up early
The Bengals wasted no time digging a hole when they started the game with another three-and-out and then gave up a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by the Texans' Jacoby Jones just 2:18 into things.
It was Jones' second punt return of the season for a touchdown and came behind a host of big blocks that took out linebackers Brandon Johnson and Jeanty as well as long-snapper Brad St. Louis right after Jones made his first move upfield and broke it up the middle.
After that, it was the same bad movie in the first half. After the Bengals let the Texans off the hook with a 15-play, 91-yard touchdown drive to fall behind 14-3 late in the first half, the Bengals' own drive stalled and they needed Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal to cut it to 14-6 with less than a minute to play.
The Bengals were much better on third down and running the ball Sunday and their 77 first-half rushing yards were more than they had in three of the last four games. They finished with a season-high 105 yards rushing. Running back Cedric Benson finished with 49 yards on 13 carries, a better total by a Bengals back in three games.
After Fitzpatrick set the Bengals up at the Houston 22 with 1:03 left in the half with a nifty 11-yard scramble and an eight-yard pass to Houshmandzadeh, they couldn't convert the second-and-two or the third-and-two. Fitzpatrick and Ocho Cinco just missed hooking up on a touchdown on second down when The Ocho beat cornerback Eugene Wilson to the back pylon but the ball didn't have enough air for him to take it off his fingertips.
"It's been 'almost' all year," Ocho Cinco said. "Almost isn't good enough. Stuff just like that. It's been inches away all year."
Then Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson almost picked off a dump pass to Houshmandzadeh over the middle and Graham was called.
Schaub then found wide receiver David Anderson all alone in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown on a third-down pass to cap the 15-play drive and with 3:23 left in the first half, Houston had a 14-3 lead.
The Texans lined up with three wides on the left side and the Bengals picked their poison. Johnson chewed them for four catches on the drive and had five catches all told for 61 yards in the half, so Anderson was wide open. After all, he had just six yards on two catches coming into the game.
But Schaub also went to Anderson on the biggest play of the drive, a 22-yarder on third-and-five from the Houston 14 under what looked to be a zone with cornerback Leon Hall coming across the field. The Texans also had success hitting Johnson with slants in front of Hall.
"What was disappointing was the third downs," Hall said. "They did a good job running slants but we've got to make those plays on those balls."
The Bengals responded to the punt return with their most vibrant first-quarter drive in weeks with a 13-play drive that produced Graham's 43-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 with 6:24 left in the quarter.
Then Fitzpatrick went to his go-to-guy twice on third down when he hit Houshmandzadeh over the middle for throws of 11 and eight yards, and Benson picked up a third-and-short even though the Texans had penetration and he leaned to get the first down for two yards.
The 11-yarder was huge, coming on third-and-nine after running back Kenny Watson's false start. Benson also shot off tackle for a 12-yard gain, but the drive stalled when Fitzpatrick couldn't get the ball to an open Ocho Cinco on the sideline as he felt pressure up the middle.
Ocho Cinco false-started to make it third-and-18, but Fitzpatrick got eight of it back on a throw to tight end Reggie Kelly. That allowed Graham to get his first attempt since he missed the last two games with a groin problem.
When the Texans finally did get the ball, they gouged the Bengals on play-action on their first three snaps. Their first play of the game sucked everybody in the moddle and Schaub hit Johnson for 27 yards. Johnson was hit hard by Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe right after the catch but Johnson hung on.
"A lesser receiver would have coughed it up," Ndukwe said
But the Bengals ended up forcing a punt when right end Antwan Odom dropped running back Steve Slaton for a four-yard loss on third-and-three.
Trailing 7-3, Fitzpatrick converted a third down when he rolled out right and hit Ocho Cinco for a 14-yard gain on the sideline at the Bengals 42, and Fitzpatrick (20-of-32 for 155 yards on the day) picked one up when he again felt pressure in the pocket and scrambled eight yards up the middle.
But the drive stalled on Cincinnati's second false-start penalty in the game's first 17 minutes, this one on right tackle Stacy Andrews.
Fitzpatrick tried to heave a third-down bailout to wide receiver Antonio Chatman inside the 5, but it was broken up by cornerback Eugene Wilson when Fitzpatrick had to deal with Williams coming inside.
Houshmandzadeh had eight catches for 54 yards and Ocho Cinco added five for 44 on the day.
"We've got the 24-hour rule; we've got to flush this bad boy because I don't think much good came out of this game in the second half," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "We don't have many options. Nobody is going to ride in here and save us. It's not like you've got anybody to ride in here and save you. We're going with the best guys we've got. We're going to have to find a way to get these players in the right holes and the right gaps."
PREGAME NOTES: As the Bengals warmed up for Sunday's game against the Texans here at Reliant Stadium, there was some surprise expressed about Friday's ESPN report saying that Carson Palmer is likely going to miss the rest of the year with a frayed elbow ligament that could require Tommy John surgery.
Through Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan, Palmer said that no decision has been made regarding his status for the rest of the year and that he has made no call on surgery yet.
Head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't elaborate, but as he stood in the end zone he was standing by his own Friday statement in which he said there was a scenario in which Palmer could play this year.
For the third straight game Palmer was inactive and the No. 3 quarterback. Other injured players down Sunday were the two rookie receivers Jerome Simpson (ankle) and Andre Caldwell (foot) as well as tight end Ben Utecht (chest), cornerback Jamar Fletcher (hamstring), and linebacker Corey Mays (ankle). Also inactive, like he has all season, was rookie defensive tackle Jason Shirley as was offensive lineman Andrew Crummey, just added to the club a few days ago.
After three years of waiting it looked like defensive end/linebacker Eric Henderson prepared to make his NFL debut since he was dressed. After spending his rookie year of 2006 on the practice squad and suffering a season-ending broken wrist in the preseason in 2007, he spent the first seven games of this season on the practice squad.
Henderson played 8-10 snaps at SAM linebacker when Jeanty went out with his foot injury.
With just five sacks this season, the Bengals look to be ready to give Henderson some snaps on the edge on passing downs. He came out of Georgia Tech with 25 sacks, fourth on the school's list.
The Bengals emerged to play on grass for the first time this year in their white jerseys and black pants, an ensemble that has netted them a 7-8 record. Not in house to document the stat was assistant public relations director P.J. Combs, missing his first game since he joined the club in 1995 to be with his ill mother in Cincinnati. Making his NFL road debut was PR intern Stetson Moon.
Wide receiver Glenn Holt was the special teams captain and got to stand back there for the opening kick when the Bengals won the toss and chose to receive after the Bengals introduced their defense as a unit.