Not only are the Cincinnati Bengals bad, they’re becoming historically bad.
The defending AFC North champions have lost nine in a row, the third time in the past 20 years that they’ve dropped so many consecutive games in one season. No other NFL team has more than two such streaks of futility during that time.
A 34-30 loss to New Orleans on Sunday left the Bengals (2-10) winless since Sept. 26. They play in Pittsburgh on Sunday, when they’ll have a chance to match the franchise record for most consecutive losses in one season. The 1993 Bengals under Dave Shula lost their first 10 games on their way to a 3-13 finish.
With this franchise, the losing sets them apart.
In the past 20 years, there have been 19 streaks of nine or more losses in the NFL, according to STATS LLC. The Lions, Rams, Colts and Chargers each have had two such streaks. The Bengals have done them one better.
The Bengals are tied with Buffalo and Detroit at 2-10, in position for one of the top picks in next year’s draft. Carolina has the league’s worst record at 1-11.
It’s not just how many the Bengals are losing, it’s how they’re losing them. They do things seldom seen around the league to fritter away games, doing a Wile E. Coyote imitation when everything’s at stake. The anvil always lands on their heads.
“They do expect to win,” coach Marvin Lewis said Monday. “And they expect to make the plays at the end of the football game to win the football game. And I don’t sense there is a lack of confidence that way at all.”
On Sunday, the anvil came in the form of an offside.
The Bengals seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough when Clint Stitser’s field goal put them ahead 30-27 with 4:25 to go. All they had to do was stop the Saints one time, then run out the clock. They couldn’t do it. Drew Brees led New Orleans to a fourth-and-2 at the Cincinnati 7-yard line with 34 seconds left.
The Saints called timeout and decided to use one of their ploys called “No-Brainer Freeze.” They’d line up and try to draw the Bengals offside. The Bengals knew it was coming — Lewis had showed the team the play earlier in the week.
Didn’t matter. Pat Sims jumped. The Saints got a new set of downs. Brees threw a 3-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
“Hey, people make mistakes,” Sims said Monday. “I jumped offsides. Something drew me off, but it was my fault.”