Now they’re trying to get back to where they were before succumbing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21 on the final play of the game and taking a 45-10 beating from the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday night.
The Bengals (4-3) return home Sunday after falling out of the AFC North lead to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3).
“There is a lot of season left and a lot of things out in front of us,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. “It is just one game. We have another one next week. As much as this one sucks, everything is still right there. We are in a great position. We have to go take advantage of it.”
The Bengals struggled against the Chiefs, managing just 239 total yards and one touchdown on offense and giving up 551 yards on defense, the most yards the team had allowed since 2007.
“It’s bad. It’s a bad look for the whole team to see this happen,” Bengals middle linebacker Preston Brown said. “It’s such a big score difference. You never want to go out there and get blown out on a Sunday night, (especially) when it’s been something we’ve been waiting to show the whole league what we can do.
“And now, to put up a goose egg like that, it’s not a good look. But we’ve got to go learn from it and find ways to get better.”
Offensively, the Bengals’ production has declined from 407 total yards two games ago to the meager output against the Chiefs. Part of that could be attributed to the loss of tight end Tyler Eifert to a season-ending knee injury and running back Giovani Bernard, who likely will miss a fourth straight game with a knee injury.
Wide receivers Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green were relatively quiet against Kansas City. Wideout John Ross also may be out for several more weeks with a groin injury.
“We’ll have a fire in our (butt),” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “It’s a gut check where we have to really dig deep. This is the biggest game of the year. How we approach this game and how we approach this week going into this game is the key.”
The defense also has let the Bengals down. Injuries have had an impact, but missed tackles seem to be a problem. They’re averaging 9.5 whiffs per game, with linebacker Vontaze Burfict accounting for seven in two games since he returned from his PED suspension.
“You have to go and you have to tackle,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “You have to do a better job. I wish there was a magic word or button to press, but there isn’t.”
The Bucs were stuck in a three-game losing streak before their 26-23 overtime win over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. Chandler Catanzaro kicked the winning field goal from 59 yards after he missed from 40 yards on the final play of regulation.
Tampa Bay’s offense could present a challenge for Cincinnati to stop. The Buccaneers lead the NFL in total yards with 449.5 and in passing at 376.8 yards per game.
Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has returned to the lineup. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble last week but still managed to lead the team to a win. Winston also benefits from a collection of receivers, five of whom have collected 20 or more catches this year.
“On the run game and the pass game, we’ve got to attack the ball,” Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mark Duffner said. “We had a heck of a week, I thought, in terms of practice last week, doing that. And frankly, thank God, it turned out when a conscious effort by Lavonte David to get the ball off the quarterback when he was scrambling after a pressure.
“The ball in the air, we’ve got to catch the ones that are thrown to us. We’ve got to attack the ball in flight. We had a number of pass breakups; I’d like us to come back down with the ball. We’re working hard at that.”