The biggest disappointment of the new season for the Bengals, among several in their 0-3 start, has been the play of the offensive line -- regarded for years as a team strength.
There was a measure of redemption reached Sunday at Giants Stadium in the 26-23 overtime loss to New York. But problems persist in a mixed-bag performance.
The Bengals gained 24 first downs, more than the 19 they had compiled in the first two games combined. The offense scored 23 points, compared to just 10 in the first two games.
And, at times, against a strong run defense, the Bengals opened up big holes for tailback Chris Perry. He ran 20 times for 74 yards and went 25 yards for a first-half touchdown. Perry's touchdown run was the longest for the Bengals since Rudi Johnson ran 36 yards for a score Oct. 25, 2004 against Denver on Monday night.
At the same time, the Bengals rushed 27 times for 102 yards -- and their second-leading rusher was quarterback Carson Palmer, who scrambled three times for 23 yards. The line was inconsistent, at best, looking sharp on one series than a shambles the next.
Still, a problem evident since the preseason, pass protection, hit a new low. The Bengals allowed six sacks, and Palmer had a big bruise across his brow after the game. Add that bruise to the list of physical evidence that includes a broken nose and sprained ankle. The nose, broken in the third preseason game, also bled again during the Giants game.
The Bengals have allowed nine sacks in three games after giving up a single-season franchise-low 17 in all of 2007. Palmer said the game plan Sunday consisted of pass plays designed for him to throw the ball quickly.
Right guard Bobbie Williams remains optimistic.
"There's nothing but upside," he said of he and his fellow linemen. "We're just going to keep learning from what we're doing and gaining momentum -- just got to keep trying to get better."
--QB Carson Palmer raised his passer rating for the season to 63.8. He still has just one touchdown pass and three interceptions and has been sacked nine times and hit hard on several more plays.
--RB Chris Perry had his second career rushing touchdown, 25 yards, against the Giants, to go with his 13-yard scoring run the week before against Tennessee. With just a 3.0-yard average on 60 carries, Perry, though, is making better decisions on his cuts and working more cohesively with his offensive line in terms of timing.
--TE Ben Utecht sustained a chest injury on the first play of the Tennessee game and missed the Giants game. His absence is hurting the Bengals offense. With pass protection poor and Carson Palmer looking to get rid of the ball quickly, Utecht would be a big plus. He might be back for the Browns Sunday.
--WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh had 12 receptions against the Giants, the third time in his career he has made that many catches in a game.
--WR Chad Ocho Cinco has just eight receptions for an 11.0-yard average through three games. His missed time in the preseason and training camp is showing in the ill-timing with Carson Palmer. Plus the offensive line and protection is breaking down quickly and not giving Palmer and Ocho Cinco the time they need to complete deeper routes. Defenses are double-teaming Ocho Cinco and rolling coverage to his side of the field.
--DE Antwan Odom has the Bengals' only sack through three games. The pathetic pass rush is putting a lot of pressure on a young secondary, which is being asked to cover receivers too long.
--LB Keith Rivers, the rookie, had just two tackles against the Giants -- after getting 18 in the first two games.
--DE Frostee Rucker played aggressively again, this time as a backup against the Giants. He is showing why the Bengals drafted him in the third round of the 2006 draft from Southern Cal. He has been productive when he has been on the field, a rarity in his first two pro seasons because of assorted injuries and sub-standard offseason training habits.
--CB Johnathan Joseph, who missed the Giants game because of a sprained ankle, is expected back for the Browns on Sunday in Cincinnati.
--WR Glenn Holt has a 24.9-yard average on 13 kickoff returns. He has come close to breaking three returns for more than his 44-yard long.
--WR Antonio Chatman, who averaged 18.3 yards on four punt returns in the preseason and won the job over Deltha O'Neal, has rebounded from a poor Week 1 showing to post strong games in Weeks 2 and 3. He has a 10.5-yard average on eight returns. He also had his best offensive showing as a Bengal against the Giants, grabbing six passes for 70 yards.
--The Bengals signed free-agent CB Jamar Fletcher to a one-year contract. He is an eighth-year NFL player with 94 games played and 10 starts. He played with the Texans last year. He was a former first-round pick of Miami in 2001 from Wisconsin.
--The Bengals waived CB Geoffrey Pope, a first-year player from Howard who played on special teams in the loss Sunday at the Giants.
--The club also released rookie WR Maurice Purify from its practice squad.