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Two-minute drill

A two-minute drill of notes and quotes on a Sunday the Bengals have an off day before the final five games:

2:00: There are nine reasons why the Bengals are on pace to score the third-fewest points in their history, which is the number on Carson Palmer's jersey. He may start throwing some time next month to see if he needs offseason surgery for his inflamed throwing elbow, but no one expects him to play again this year after playing in just four games.

The Bengals are on pace to score 215 points, a truly numbing number. It would be fewer than the 279 points the 2-14 club scored in 2002 and the same number they scored in the 14-game expansion season of 1968.

But to blame the offense's historic problems is to ignore the slide that began early last season with a healthy Palmer coming off a season in which he was named the Pro Bowl's best player. The Bengals scored two touchdowns or less in 12 of the 16 games. This season it has happened in 10 of the 11.

In Ryan Fitzpatrick's seven starts this season, the Bengals have scored more than two touchdowns once. In Palmer's last seven starts dating back to '07, the Bengals have scored more than two touchdowns just once. **

1:53:** So the speculation still has more than a month to go with the season finale looming Dec. 28 at Paul Brown Stadium against the Chiefs. How much of the offense gets blown up? With Chad Ocho Cinco's deactivation on Thursday night for what looks to be insubordination and T.J. Houshmandzadeh's impending free agency, one school of thought is that the Bengals start over with a fleet of young receivers next season.

Houshmandzadeh, whose goal is to be a general manager after his playing days, doesn't think the Bengals are going to put the franchise tag on him at the end of the season. It's a number that is looking to be about $9 million, the average salary of the top five paid wide receivers in the NFL.

"It's a lot of money; it's heavy on the cap," said Houshmandzadeh the day after the Steelers game. "There are a lot of guys that are free agents and we need a lot of help at a lot of positions. So I don't think it would be smart. I don't think it would be done, so I really havent thought about it."

1:48: The Ocho essentially has three years left on his deal, but after what happened Wednesday night there has to be some question on how that's going to unfold. Charles Collins, the Bengals first-year offensive assistant coach who has worked with Ocho Cinco since his junior college days, has talked with him a few times since the incident. Collins won't talk about what happened, which appears to center around Ocho Cinco's demeanor in the Wednesday night meeting.

But Collins believes he understands it had to be done.

"He knows what happened came out of frustration and he wants to get back and finish the season strong," Collins said.

Collins has never been shy about what he has been trying to emphasize to Ocho Cinco.

"He has to decide if he's going to be one of the best players in the league or one of its best showmen," Collins said. "He has to get back to the details that got him to be where he is. He has to get back to the focus, and he has to finish off plays. I think he's at a key point right now in his career."

After the gun sounds Dec. 28, there is no question it is pointed right at the Bengals when it comes to the receiver issue. **

1:33:** Houshmandzadeh and head coach Marvin Lewis have debated publicly the last few years about how tough Lewis is during the season with the practice schedule and how long he keeps the team on the field. On Thursday night's NFL Network telecast, the debate spilled on to the airwaves when Deion Sanders called Lewis out for having the Bengals on the field nearly two hours the day before the Steelers game.

Another electronic and cyberspace debate is whether Lewis waited too long to discipline Ocho Cinco for what some insiders have called a pattern of behavior. On Friday, Houshmandzadeh said, "I didn't think it was that big of a deal," and "Marvin has someone he has to answer to, too." **

1:17:** The inability to run the ball after an offseason of committing to it behind a massive offensive line is about as perplexing as any problem the Bengals have. But one of the factors that nobody talks about is the loss of fullback Jeremi Johnson. He went on injured reserve with a knee problem the week of the opener, and the decision to replace him with a converted second-year tight end in Daniel Coats just hasn't paid any dividends. Not when the average yards per rush is 3.4.

1:00: Just how much might the Bengals offense be rebuilding come next year if you take both the receivers and running backs into consideration? The starting back, Cedric Benson, is working on a one-year deal and the Chris Perry run looks to be over going purely by playing time. It appears Benson has shown enough to get some other teams interested, but has he shown enough that the Bengals are going to pay him as their No. 1 back? And, if they draft a back pretty high, in the second or third round, do they risk a Chicago situation in reverse?

00:48: One guy who figures not to be back is veteran defensive tackle John Thornton, truly one of the good guys of the game and a guy that has gone out of his way to mentor the rookie that has replaced him in the starting lineup, Pat Sims.

But that hasn't stopped Thornton from doing what he can and on Thursday night the football gods beckoned him in the second half. After watching two defensive ends go down in the first half in Frostee Rucker (hamstring) and Robert Geathers (knee), the Bengals had only Jonathan Fanene left at end because Antwan Odom was already inactive with a shoulder problem.

So Thornton went to end and was able to joke about it after the game.

"It shows the genius of me getting Pat in there inside and I've been able to work on the outside a little bit," said Thornton, who said he has been taking some snaps at end lately. **

00:37:Even before the glut of injuries on the edge, the pass rush has continued to be non-existent. The Bengals have only 11 sacks this season, an amazing one per game. It would tie the franchise low set in 1969 and be the fewest since they had 21 in 1991 when, yes, nose tackle Tim Krumrie led the way with four. Lewis has indicated Odom might be able to return soon, but he didn't sound optimistic about Rucker.

00:25:Sacks and interceptions don't always correspond, but they sure do this year. No player has more than one interception and with eight the Bengals are on pace to finish with 10. And that's a stunning number, too, given that they came into this season among the NFL leaders in generating turnovers the past five seasons. When they had just nine interceptions in 2002, cornerback Artrell Hawkins and safety Kevin Kaesviharn were the leaders with two each.

00:13:With 77 catches, Houshmandzadeh is on pace to tie his club record of 112 set last season. With just four catches Thursday night he had his skein of five games with at least seven broken. He started the '07 season with five games of at least eight catches.

00:00:** With three of the last five games at home, the Bengals are 15-8-1 under Lewis at Paul Brown Stadium in November and December.

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