Sports

Now what? Bengals headed toward worst finish in 6 years

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) holds his head as he walks along the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) holds his head as he walks along the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton's most important passes didn't even make it past the line of scrimmage. Mike Nugent missed another extra point.

And the Bengals lost yet another game in throwback fashion, making every sort of mistake.

Heading into December, it's clear they've bungled their season away, too.

A 19-14 loss in Baltimore on Sunday left the Bengals (3-7-1) pretty much finished for 2016.

They're 2 1/2 games behind Baltimore (6-5) and Pittsburgh (6-5) with only five left.

The defending AFC North champs would have to run the table, and the Ravens and Steelers both would have to have meltdowns for the Bengals to reach the playoffs.

They know the odds of that happening aren't good at all. The Bengals have reached the playoffs a club-record five consecutive seasons, and that streak is about to get snapped.

"We know some things have to break our way now," coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday .

Also, they know they haven't played well enough at any point this season to consider themselves playoff-worthy.

That was the case again on Sunday in Baltimore, where they played well enough to stay in the game but no more.

Dalton has been under constant pressure during the season, getting sacked 32 times — fourth most in the NFL.

Even when they're not getting to Dalton, defenders are making it tough on him. Four of Dalton's last eight passes were batted down at the line as the Ravens set their defence to take away the downfield throw and focused on knocking down the short ones.

Four of eight passes knocked down? Mind-boggling.

"Those things happen very, very rarely," offensive co-ordinator Ken Zampese said on Monday. "I mean, this was the first time that came up, it came up in a big way, and it ended up hurting us, so here we are talking about it."

The game in Baltimore was in some ways their worst yet at protecting the quarterback.

Dalton had four fumbles, losing two of them. The most costly came on a play from the Baltimore 16-yard line in the first half. Dalton was changing the play at the line of scrimmage when centre Russell Bodine snapped the ball, causing the turnover.

The Bengals switched from Bodine to backup centre T.J Johnson for a couple of series in the third quarter.

"To calm the troops a little bit," Lewis said.

Three times in the second half, Dalton was sacked and fumbled. The last one came when the Bengals were driving for a potential tying touchdown in the closing minutes. Dalton was sacked by Elvis Dumervil and fumbled, allowing the Ravens to close it out with a safety that ran out the clock.

And it wasn't only the passing game that involved struggles by Bengals blockers. Cincinnati rushed for only 64 yards — 14 by Dalton — as the latest chapter in a season-long problem. With no running game to worry them, the Ravens were able to get after Dalton.

When they scored their only touchdown, Nugent missed the extra point wide right, the fourth time he's missed a point-after-touchdown try in four games. Lewis reiterated on Monday that the Bengals have no plans to bring in another kicker for a tryout.

"Missed PATs, those are things that affect the football team, affect us and our opportunity," Lewis said. "But you know, we are where we are."

NOTES: The Bengals host Philadelphia (5-5) on Sunday . The previous time the Eagles played at Paul Brown Stadium was Nov. 16, 2008, when they finished in a 13-13 tie. They last met in Philadelphia in 2012, with the Eagles winning 34-13. ... The Bengals are only 4-5 in their past nine games at Paul Brown Stadium, including a first-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh last season. They were technically the home team when they played Washington to a tie in London this season. ... The Bengals put CB Chykie Brown on injured reserve. He suffered a knee injury at Baltimore. The Bengals re-signed DT DeShawn Williams, who was on the roster for the first 10 games and was waived last week.

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