Injuries to Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey forced the Bengals to go out and sign former Chicago Bears first-round pick Cedric Benson to a one-year contract last week and Benson showed in his first game that he has the potential to help the offense.
He had just 30 yards on 10 carries in Sunday's 31-22 loss at Dallas but 25 of those yards came on his first series when the Bengals handed him the ball on six consecutive plays.
Benson had not played since Nov. 25 of last season when he suffered an ankle injury against Denver while playing for the Bears. He missed the final five games of last season and the Bears then released Benson in the offseason following his arrest on two alcohol-related charges in the state of Texas. The charges have since been dismissed.
"I feel like I haven't missed a day at all," said Benson after Sunday's game. "For a while, there was a little cold butterflies. But I got out there on the first series, and there was no problem. Maybe I was a little too fast or a little too quick."
The Bengals have attempted to commit to the run more on offense this season but haven't been consistently effective in moving the ball that way.
Perry is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, with 239 yards on 85 attempts. He has two rushing touchdowns – a possible third one touchdown was wiped out Sunday when T.J. Houshmandzadeh was called for holding to negate a 17-yard run – but his biggest problem has been holding on to the football.
Perry has fumbled five times already this season, three of which have been recovered by opposing defenses. His lost fumble in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys led to a 57-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Terrell Owens just two plays later, a score that gave Dallas a 24-16 lead.
"We can't have three lost fumbles and five fumbles in five games," said head coach Marvin Lewis on Monday. "We have to do a better job in practice, making sure we are going for the ball all the time.
Perry had just 31 yards on 13 carries against Dallas, with a long run of 10 yards.
"I thought (Benson) ran with great pad level," said Lewis. "I thought he was pretty decisive in his cuts, in his movement, which is important right now where we are, I think, offensively, that we go ahead and we let the guys up front work and kind of ride the wave a little bit.
"That's the one thing that we continue to coach Chris on very hard, of go ahead and take the ball, take it vertically, and then let things happen. When Chris is taking the ball vertically, good things are happening. He had a fine run on the touchdown that was called back."
Dorsey was placed on injured reserve last week with a hamstring injury. Watson did not play in Week 4 against Cleveland due to a hamstring injury, and the Bengals released last Friday in a move intended to free open a roster spot for linebacker Abdul Hodge. Watson was not going to be healthy enough to play against Dallas but Lewis said on Monday that the running back would be re-signed this week.
PALMER'S ELBOW OK – Lewis reported no ill effects for Carson Palmer and his right elbow on Monday. Palmer made the start after not playing against Cleveland due to inflammation in his throwing elbow. He completed 23 of 39 passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 80.8. Both of Palmer's touchdowns went to Houshmandzadeh but he also missed connecting on a few throws that appeared just off the mark. Perry couldn't bring in one throw in the end zone on a one-handed attempt after beating linebacker Greg Ellis, and Palmer wildly overthrew the running back on another pass when Perry was wide open in the flat. "He was on the move, and I'm sure he wishes he had it back, but we didn't make a good connection there," said Lewis.
NO HOT SEAT HERE – Two NFL teams have already fired their head coaches this season but don't look for the Bengals to become No. 3. Despite the team's 0-5 start this season, Marvin Lewis expects to remain at the helm of the team.
"I am very committed to doing the right thing here," said Lewis. "I honestly don't think anything has ever changed here. The commitment that I made five years ago here and three years ago, two years ago, whenever, is that we'd see this thing all the way through and get us back to where we were. We've taken some lumps this year, and that doesn't change how I approach what I do."
Lewis signed a contract extension on Feb. 16, 2006, that runs his deal through the 2010 season. Sunday's loss pushed his career record to one-game under .500 at 42-43. It is the first time since Week 16 of the 2004 season that Lewis' record has been below .500.
"I'm excited about our football team. I actually like our football team, other than being 0-5," said Lewis. "I like our guys. I like what we're doing. We're working very, very hard. We're not creating enough plays. Our margin for error is very, very slim. But they come here and they come to work."
The Bengals trailed the Cowboys 17-0 after the first 18 minutes of the game but scored the next 16 points to get back into the contest.
"We dug a bad hole (Sunday); I mean, we dug a huge hole," said Lewis. "And to play on the road, a tough place to play against a good football team, and we were able to dig out of it by creating some plays and making some plays and making some things happen. It wasn't all pretty, but it all wasn't totally bad. We fought the thing down and we had a chance to make some plays at the end of the football game that mattered."