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
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
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
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
“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
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