Here’s the reality: Bengals offense getting uglier

Somehow, the Cincinnati Bengals offense keeps getting uglier.

And there’s no clear-cut reason why.

The Bengals struggled to take advantage of Carolina’s many

mistakes during a 20-7 win Sunday that improved their record to 2-1

but did little to calm concerns about a veteran-laden offense that

can’t find its way much of the time.

Already, it’s becoming old.

”Not too many teams have to make excuses for winning like that,

but I guess we do,” an annoyed coach Marvin Lewis said Monday.

”So we’ll just move forward and I’ll say little, our players will

say less, and that’s the way it will be.”

The statistics pretty much say it all.

Carson Palmer threw two first-half interceptions and could have

had several more picked off. His passer rating is 71.3, which ranks

22nd in the league and is below his 83.6 rating for all last

season.

The Bengals put a lot of money and draft picks into upgrading

the passing game in the offseason, signing receivers Antonio Bryant

(later released) and Terrell Owens and drafting tight end Jermaine

Gresham and receiver Jordan Shipley.

So far, they haven’t gotten much bang for the more than 10

million bucks.

”We had a couple of things that were just a little bit off,”

said Palmer, who was 19 of 37 for 195 yards, his longest completion

going 27 yards. ”I missed a couple of passes that were just a

little bit off.”

Reality show hosts Chad Ochocinco and Owens aren’t making much

of an impact – they combined for only 76 yards. The T-Ocho combo

has 389 yards and one touchdown. By comparison, Pittsburgh’s Mike

Wallace and Hines Ward have combined for 338 yards and three

touchdowns even though the Steelers haven’t had their top two

quarterbacks.

So far, so grim.

”I think it’s really close,” offensive lineman Andrew

Whitworth said. ”We have the weapons, which is a good thing, and

we also have a quarterback that gets the ball where it needs to

be.”

Palmer is becoming the focus of fans’ discontent, given the high

expectations that accompanied Owens’ arrival. Playing in the rain

in Carolina, Palmer was repeatedly off-target. The Bengals held the

ball for more than 21 minutes in the first half but scored only 10

points because of the turnovers. They had a 16-play drive that went

only 56 yards and ended with a punt.

”It wasn’t one of his better games,” offensive coordinator Bob

Bratkowski said of Palmer. ”But I don’t think that’s of great

concern. Obviously, I think he’ll bounce back and play better this

week. But like any quarterback, he needs help from the other

guys.”

Lewis repeatedly defended Palmer on Monday, suggesting that his

supporting cast is more to blame for not following the script.

”I think he does a good job of directing us,” Lewis said.

”He’s been a good leader.

”It goes back to we’ve got to go from the meeting room to the

practice field to out there on the game tape and see the same

things and not leave our quarterback out there wondering, `What’s

going on now?”’

Lewis also absolved his quarterback of blame for poor clock

management at the end of the first half that prevented the Bengals

from getting a field goal attempt.

The Bengals had the ball at the Carolina 10 with 15 seconds left

and no timeouts. Palmer completed a pass to Gresham at the 5, where

he was tackled. The Bengals couldn’t line up in time to spike the

ball – right tackle Dennis Roland appeared to be shaken up and slow

to line up.

”I was greedy, and I shouldn’t be greedy,” Lewis said. ”So a

couple different things I’d do differently in those situations and

direct the quarterback a little differently.

”But I wanted to kind of have an opportunity to break the game

open and get the touchdown, and we didn’t. We didn’t get anything.

But it’s good. We didn’t have it bite us in the tail yesterday. We

lived through it. And it’s a good learning experience for us.”