CINCINNATI (AP) — Safety Reggie Nelson overheard a Bengals teammate trying to provide some insight about how it all went so wrong in Foxborough. He decided that maybe Patriots coach Bill Belichick had the best idea.
When everything goes wrong, just move on.
"I’m on to the next team," Nelson said, channeling the hoodie-clad coach.
Given how soundly the Bengals were beaten, it was tempting to just forget about the whole thing. Every phase of the team fell apart at times during a 43-17 loss on Sunday night that left no teams in the NFL unbeaten.
The Bengals (3-1) played their worst game in years with everyone watching to see if they’re for real. It’s not the first time that’s happened.
"We won’t have another chance to right this wrong in terms of primetime until our next primetime game," safety George Iloka said on Monday. "Like I said last week, I feel we haven’t showed up in the big games in terms of primetime or the playoffs or whatever."
Something about the high-stakes games makes Cincinnati fold.
The Bengals fell to 3-13 on Sunday night and have a poor record in night games overall. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, going 0-5 with first-round losses each of the last three seasons.
And now this.
"Sometimes you can allow all the talk of the primetime thing to become, `We all need to do something different, or we all need to do this or that,’" left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "The truth is, we’ve got a very good team so there’s no reason for us not to show up and play well."
The Patriots dominated from the opening drive, piling up 505 net yards on a defense that was ranked No. 3 in the league last year. It’s the first time the Bengals allowed 500 yards in a game since a 51-45 loss at Cleveland on Sept. 16, 2007, when they allowed 554 net yards, according to STATS.
It was so bad that when the Patriots went to an up-tempo approach, the Bengals had trouble getting lined up in time to defend.
"By the time we got the call, they were already lined up so guys were like scattering trying to get lined up and that contributed to a few of the blown coverages," Iloka said.
The offense wasn’t much better. Tight end Jermaine Gresham dropped a pass in the end zone, one of several drops in the game. Andy Dalton overthrew open receivers on deep sideline routes. And the Bengals had three fumbles, including one on a kickoff that was returned for a touchdown.
"A lot of things to correct," coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday.
The Patriots were coming off a 41-14 loss at Kansas City that raised questions about whether they were good enough to contend for a title this season. They responded by dominating from the opening play.
"It’s kind of one of those things — you can feel it from the first snap almost," Whitworth said. "It was their day and it was going to be that way."
The Bengals get to settle into the favorable part of their schedule. They host Carolina (3-2) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. Four of their next five games are at home, with the only road game at nearby Indianapolis.
They’ll have two more night games during the regular season. They host the Browns in a Thursday night game on Nov. 6 and Denver in a Monday night game on Dec. 22.
The dismal showing on Sunday night reinforced perceptions that the Bengals aren’t yet ready to take the next step and win high-profile games, stalling Cincinnati’s bandwagon.
"Let `em jump off," Iloka said. "I mean, we start winning, they can jump back on or not. I’m not worried about the people who jump off. We don’t want them as fans anyway.
"So we just look to the Patriots, how they came out and lost on Monday night in primetime, all their fair-weather fans jumped off the bandwagon and they’re probably back on after they beat us. So we look to them and see how they came out and we hope to do the same things on Sunday and beat the Panthers."