Buccaneers-Bengals Preview

The Cincinnati Bengals found their offensive rhythm in Week 4,

but the final result was less than ideal.

A complete effort would be a welcome relief Sunday when the

Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit Paul Brown Stadium in the teams’ first

meeting since 2006.

Cincinnati (2-2) amassed 413 total yards in a 23-20 loss to

Cleveland last weekend after averaging 279.0 in consecutive

victories. Terrell Owens moved into second place behind Jerry Rice

on the all-time list with his 222-yard performance, giving him

15,325 receiving yards, and Carson Palmer threw for 371 yards and

two touchdowns.

Coach Marvin Lewis, though, wasn’t impressed.

“We have to do what it takes to win the game,” Lewis said. “I

don’t care if a guy throws for seven zillion yards. If we don’t win

the game, it doesn’t count for anything. That’s the important part.

We want to win football games. That’s our goal. It doesn’t matter

about yardage.”

Cincinnati trailed for all but 3:30 against Cleveland and Palmer

fumbled twice, putting an end to potential scoring drives.

“We’re frustrated,” Owens said. “I don’t think personally I’m

frustrated. From the standpoint of us knowing we have offensive

weapons and we’re not moving the ball like we’re capable of moving

it – that’s where the frustration comes in. It’s a team

effort.”

That means the running game may have to step up, too.

Cedric Benson is averaging almost a full yard per carry less

from last season – 3.3 compared to 4.2 – and the Bengals rank 27th

in the NFL with 92.0 rushing yards per game.

With a bye week looming and the potential to fall further behind

division leaders Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North, Palmer

stressed the importance of beating Tampa Bay.

“This is a must win, absolutely,” Palmer said. “Coming off a bye

week off of a win two weeks ago is a big deal. We’re acting like

our backs are against the wall because they are.”

It’s a comparison Tampa Bay (2-1) knows well.

The Buccaneers spent their bye week analyzing a 38-13 loss to

Pittsburgh in Week 3 in which they allowed former fourth-string

quarterback Charlie Batch to complete 70.6 percent of his passes

and throw for three touchdowns.

Facing the vaunted Bengals passing game led by Palmer, Owens and

Chad Ochocinco, coach Raheem Morris knows his team faces a tough

test.

“These guys will take what you give them,” Morris said. “You’ve

got to be able to put some pressure in Carson Palmer’s face. You’ve

got to be able to get to him, which we need to get better at, which

you can see from the first three-game review.”

The responsibility of stopping Owens and Ochocinco could fall on

defensive backs Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber and Cody Grimm with safety

Tanard Jackson suspended for the season after violating the NFL’s

substance abuse policy.

“They’re a passing team,” Grimm said. “It’s a lot different than

the Steelers but it will be exciting. It’s definitely different

than most teams but I’m sure Coach Morris will dial up something

nice and we’ll have a good gameplan.”

Shutting down the Bengals’ offense is only half the battle. The

Buccaneers average 16.7 points per game, which ranks 25th in the

NFL.

Josh Freeman has accounted for 70 percent of Tampa Bay’s

offense, averaging 181.3 yards passing and another 30.7 on the

ground. Running back Cadillac Williams – expected to be a key

contributor – has been ineffective with a 2.5 yards-per-carry

average and no touchdowns.

With their running game struggling, the Buccaneers may rely

heavily on rookie wide receiver Mike Williams and veteran tight end

Kellen Winslow to be targets for Freeman.

“You go out there and he tells you to calm down and bring your

route and he has you,” Williams said of Freeman before the

Pittsburgh game. “You here that from a quarterback and you’re like,

‘Dang, all I have to do is just catch the ball.'”

Tampa Bay has beaten Cincinnati five straight times dating to

1995, winning 14-13 in the last meeting on a TD pass with 35

seconds remaining.