Bengals keep coming up just short of win

BY foxsports • November 21, 2011

Seven yards away from tying the game in the closing seconds, the young Bengals fizzled.

They've done that twice in a row now, costing them a spot at the top of the AFC North. A 31-24 loss in Baltimore on Sunday dropped them to third, a game behind the Ravens and Steelers.

They're not going down easily.

They had a chance to tie Pittsburgh in the closing minutes a week earlier, but William Gay intercepted Andy Dalton's pass inside the 20-yard line to secure a 24-17 win. On Sunday in Baltimore, the Bengals (6-4) had a first-and-goal from the 7-yard line with 50 seconds left and couldn't score.

In three of their four losses, they've been in position to tie or take the lead in the closing minutes but come up short.

''We've got heart,'' tight end Jermaine Gresham said. ''That's with everybody.''

The Bengals had a chance to get in range for a tying field goal in Denver during the second game of the season, but Dalton was sacked and the Bengals lost 24-22. Their four losses have been by 2, 5, 7 and 7 points.

The Bengals opened the season with the youngest roster in the AFC and an average of 3.6 years of experience, second only to Cleveland in the conference. They complete their intrastate series on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

A team that had low expectations with a rookie quarterback and such a young cast is showing a lot of promise. All that seems to be missing is the experience.

''I think it's the level of ability on the football team,'' coach Marvin Lewis said Monday. ''I think that's the fun part of it. It's the level of ability to make that play to win that game, as opposed to you've got no chance to make that play.

''We've got a chance to make the play and win every game we play. And I think that's the fun of where we are, to continually take those steps and not regress with that. We've got to keep pushing the envelope with it.''

Their inexperience has showed in the last two games.

They fell behind Pittsburgh 14-0, then rallied behind Dalton. He threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter that doomed the comeback.

The second-round draft pick from TCU had three more interceptions on Sunday. The last two led to touchdowns that helped the Ravens pull ahead 31-14 early in the fourth quarter.

The Bengals went to a no-huddle offense and nearly caught up. Dalton's 43-yard pass to Jerome Simpson put the ball at the 7-yard line with 50 seconds left. That's when the inexperience showed.

Dalton threw an incompletion, then was called for grounding when he threw the ball away while getting sacked. He threw another incompletion, then was sacked on fourth down. Dalton finished 24 of 45 for 373 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions.

Even though Dalton came up short, he was impressive under pressure.

''He's playing beyond his years,'' Gresham said.

NOTES: Lewis was optimistic that rookie WR A.J. Green can return against the Browns after missing the game in Baltimore with a bruised right knee. Green wasn't on the field because of the injury when Dalton threw those five interceptions in the last five quarters. ... Lewis doesn't think there was conclusive evidence to overturn Gresham's 9-yard touchdown catch with 5:35 left. After watching the replay, referee Ron Winter said the tight end didn't hold onto the ball after stretching to get it in the end zone, rendering it an incompletion. Lewis thought it was a touchdown. The Bengals settled for a field goal that cut it to 31-24.

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