Bengals embarrassed by collapse

November 14th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Bengals embarrassed by collapse


Associated Press

CINCINNATI - Defensive lineman John Thornton tried to be inconspicuous at a restaurant on Monday, hoping to avoid a rehash of the Cincinnati Bengals' mammoth collapse.
Not a chance. Not after that 42-point half.
"I went out to eat breakfast with my dad this morning, and the waitress said: Did you see the Bengals game?" Thornton said. "She started going off on us, man. And then, she found out who I was. She kind of got red-faced."
Just like the Bengals defense.
After putting themselves in position to resurrect their playoff aspirations, the Bengals played some of the worst football in franchise history on Sunday. San Diego scored 42 second-half points on its way to a 49-41 win that left the Bengals (4-5) a long shot for the playoffs.
"We picked a bad time to have a bad half of football," Thornton said. "Nobody's ever been a part of that, playing or coaching, where somebody scored 42 points in a half. But it happened, and now we've got to deal with it."
First, they had to try to make sense out of an incomprehensible collapse.
The offense finally found its stride on Sunday, rolling out to a 28-7 halftime lead that left the Chargers in disbelief. The defense had them right where they wanted them - first-year quarterback Philip Rivers would have to throw.
Stunningly, they let him do just that.
The Chargers rolled up 314 yards in the second half - 314! - against a defense that knew exactly what was coming. San Diego went 8-of-9 on third-down conversions, and Rivers was 16-of-22 for 229 yards and three touchdowns during a comeback that equaled the largest in Chargers history.
For the Bengals, it matched the second-biggest collapse in team history. They blew a 24-point lead during a 30-27 loss to Houston in 1979. No Bengals team had ever given up 42 points in a half.
The NFL record for most points in a half is 49, by Green Bay and Chicago. San Francisco pulled off the biggest comeback in league history, rallying from 28 points down to a 38-35 overtime victory over New Orleans in 1980.
Given the stakes, this one will become the Bengals' reference point for meltdowns.
"There's no way they should be able to score 42 points in a half," defensive end Justin Smith said. "Being part of that defense, it's embarrassing for all of us."
A victory would have kept the Bengals in the middle of the pack of playoff contenders. Instead, they now have to get on a roll during the toughest part of their schedule - highly unlikely, given their mental state.
For weeks, players have been second-guessing the play calling and grousing about their roles. After the latest loss, safety Dexter Jackson said some of his teammates quit in the second half.
Coach Marvin Lewis strongly disagreed with Jackson on Monday, saying the defense didn't stop playing, it just played badly.
"I didn't fault the effort," Lewis said. "I don't fault the effort."
The defense has been one of the biggest problems - along with player arrests and suspensions - during Lewis' four seasons in Cincinnati. He was coordinator of the Baltimore defense that set records and won a Super Bowl during the 2000 season.
To watch his defense give up 42 points had to be galling for Lewis, even though he tried to be upbeat a day later.
"After going through the tape a few times today - after replaying it a million times - it's disappointing to get off to a great start, to make plays in all three phases, and then to kind of play like we've got three thumbs there for the last 30 minutes," Lewis said.
He defended defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, saying it's up to the players to do their jobs. He agreed that the defending AFC North champions aren't playing up to expectations.
"I've underachieved as a football coach," Lewis said.
Fixing this mess won't be easy. When a defense gives up 42 points in a half, the problems go well beyond the playbook.
"When something like that happens, you start to feel the pressure," Thornton said. "It's a choke job, like when one of those great players misses a free throw when they've made them all game. We choked in the second half."

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