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Cincinnati Bengals nearly eliminated from playoff competition

By The Sports Xchange
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) calls an audible against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of their NFL game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, November 27, 2016. Baltimore won 19-14. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
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CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals are in uncharted territory, at least for the majority of players on the current roster. After reaching the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, Marvin Lewis' team is on the brink of elimination. The end is coming swiftly and suddenly for a team thought to be playoff-caliber at the outset of the season.
Coming off a 12-win season and with the roster largely intact, albeit with a handful of new coaches, the Bengals are sitting at 3-7-1 following Sunday's 19-14 loss at Baltimore. Without running back Gio Bernard and five-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green due to injuries, the writing is on the wall.
"Things have to break our way now," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "The players are professionals. They have to go and play. They can't worry about what they can't affect. Everybody has to perform, that's why it's (called) professional sports."
Cincinnati badly needed a win against the Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium but did little to deserve one. The Bengals have one win since September and that was on October 23, against the winless Cleveland Browns.
The Bengals have scored one fourth-quarter touchdown in the past six games. The past four games were decided by a combined 10 points, including a 27-27 tie with the Redskins in London.
Cincinnati threatened late in Sunday's game but a sack/fumble by quarterback Andy Dalton prevented a shot at the go-ahead touchdown.
"We need a better finish from our group and that would go a long way in handling our situation, where it's at right now," said offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. "Whatever it is, we haven't been as good there and we need to be better."
The Bengals have lost three straight. With the Steelers and Ravens tied atop the AFC North division at 6-5, Cincinnati essentially would need to win its remaining five games and still would need help to reach the playoffs.
"Our entire goal now is to win this week's game (against Philadelphia)," Dalton said. "Good teams find a way to make things happen, and we have to find a way to do that."
And, the Bengals must do it without Bernard and possibly Green, whose status for Sunday against the Eagles was dubbed "partly cloudy" by Lewis. Green has a strained right hamstring. Bernard is out for the year with a torn ACL.
On Sunday, the Bengals managed only 64 yards rushing. Dalton was sacked three times and had several passes batted down on the crucial final drive. The defense has shown improvement in recent weeks. But, the red zone offense and even extra-point attempts have been an adventure for the Bengals in recent weeks.
Time's running out to right the ship, or it'll be a difficult winter in Cincinnati.
"We're not happy," said tight end Tyler Eifert. "We're not going to get down or feel sorry for ourselves or blame each other, point fingers. We're going to keep working hard and hope to get a little bit of help here down the stretch and win the rest of our games."
--The pressure keeps mounting on Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent, who extended his streak of missed extra-point attempts to three on Sunday. Nugent did make good on field goal attempts of 23 and 36 yards, but it was his fourth missed PAT this season.
Earlier this month, during their bye week, the Cincinnati Bengals brought in a couple of kickers for workouts, but neither Randy Bullock nor Kai Forbath made the cut. Nugent, a 12-year veteran, is 18-for-23 on field goal attempts this season, and just 19-of-23 on PATs. He missed a PAT and a 51-yard field-goal attempt in the 27-27 tie with the Washington Redskins in London.
To this point, head coach Marvin Lewis has remained committed to Nugent.
"No, we're not," said Lewis when asked if they were bringing in other kickers. "Missed PATs are things that affect the football team, but we are where we are."

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