Bengals not forgotten

Last year, the Tennessee Titans lost at home to the hapless Bengals, 23-21, a come-from-behind win that sent the Titans to a losing 7-9 season. The Titans know they can't afford to overlook them again.

Photo by Mike Strasinger
Jon Kitna and Corey Dillon are two offensive weapons the Titans know can be problematic for the defense.

How does a team prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals?

The Bengals are 0-6 and have had at least a six-game losing skid in each of the past five seasons. They are well on their way to a 12th consecutive losing season.

Among the problems the Bengals have already endured this season include:

  1. Having been called "an embarrassment" and the "laughingstock of the league" by former Tennessee Titan Lorenzo Neal, who went off after the Bengals' 34-7 home loss to Pittsburgh;
  2. Being threatened with a lawsuit from the city of Cincinnati for violating a "competitive clause" that helped get Paul Brown Stadium built;
  3. The talk of how much longer coach Dick LeBeau will be around has already started;
  4. The team has already played three quarterbacks this season and recently added a fourth, Joe Germaine, to the roster. Still, no one has gotten the job done as Cincinnati has just two touchdown passes compared to 13 interceptions thus far this season. The aggregate passer rating of Jon Kitna, Akili Smith and Gus Frerotte is a very telling 48.5;
  5. And finally, no matter how you slice and dice it, the Bengals are simply awful statistically. In 17 offensive categories kept by the NFL, Cincinnati ranks 29th or worse in 12 of them. No wonder that, except for a 21-point effort at Indianapolis, Cincy has not scored more than seven points in any game this season.

With all that going against them, it would appear to the naked eye that Sunday's date in Cincinnati would be the most winnable of road games for the Titans. But the Titans aren't buying into that. They expect a rested and prepared Bengals to put up a fight on Sunday.

"They've always had talent, regardless of what their record was," running back Eddie George said. "This is the NFL. There are no bad teams. They have some talent. I'm not buying into, ‘They're a bad team and we're going to go up there and pound them.' It's going to be a hard-fought battle."

Still fresh in the Titans' mind was the 2001 season finale where the Bengals, behind Sunday's starter Kitna, thrashed the Tennessee defense for 340 passing yards and a 23-21 come-from-behind victory.

"We can't [take them for granted]," defensive tackle John Thornton said. "We looked at the film of what they did to us last year, and they've got the same personnel."

Wide receiver Kevin Dyson remembered that game vividly, as it was his first loss ever to Cincinnati after seven straight wins over the Bengals from the time he joined the Titans in 1998.

"[We're] definitely not [looking past them], because of what happened last year at the end of the season," Dyson said. "We had a chance to end the season on a good note, to 8-8 and things like that. But they came in and played a really good game."

Besides, the Titans themselves are just one game removed from their own four-game losing streak. Plus, three of those losses came to teams that now have losing records, so the Titans must be careful not to lose focus against Cincinnati.

"We're only 2-4 so we can't look past them," Thornton said. "We know what we've got to do, and I think we'll be ready." Added George: "It doesn't matter if it's the Bengals, the Bills or whoever, they're going to be competitive, so we've got to come out and put our best foot forward, if we're going to get better."

But what of the talk of LeBeau's impending firing or of their former teammate Neal's outburst after the shellacking by the Steelers? Doesn't that, plus the Bengals' record, suggest a team in disarray?

The Titans say it simply showed that Neal cares enough to be concerned and show his passion for trying to help the Bengals turn the corner.

"We say things like that sometimes [after a loss], but you don't mean it," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "When you give it your all and you come up short, it hurts. I think he was just frustrated."

The Titans got a taste of that frustration during their September skid, and know they cannot give the Bengals any breaks on Sunday. Cincinnati might have zero wins and zero luck, but they do not have zero talent, says George.

"They haven't had any breaks. They have the talent there," George said. "They're not as bad as people are making them out to be. Actually, they're pretty damn good. They just haven't had the chance to get on a roll."

On the surface at least, the Bengals say they still have hope of putting something positive together and getting on that very roll.

"We have to believe we can win all 10 games or there's no reason to be here," Kitna told the Bengals' team Web site.

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