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Sunday, October 24, 2010
Bengals too sloppy to be contenders

By James Walker

The Bengals have plenty of talent on the roster but are missing a winning ingredient.
ATLANTA -- The Cincinnati Bengals have plenty of talent. They also showed heart and character by not folding after a terrible first half Sunday in their mind-numbing 39-32 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

But the Bengals lack a major ingredient and it could cost them their season: attention to detail.

Coming off their bye week, the Bengals (2-4) quickly fell behind by three touchdowns and committed silly mistakes throughout against Atlanta. Cincinnati had two weeks to prepare for this important game but often looked as though it skipped practice and merely showed up at the Georgia Dome. The Bengals made a run in the second half, outscoring Atlanta 29-15, but didn't have enough to overcome their sloppiness.

"It hurts," Bengals safety Chris Crocker said. "All year we've kind of hurt ourselves more than the other team. Going forward, that's what we will look at. You can't afford to beat yourself and beat the other team. That's too hard; teams are too good."

Here's a partial list of Sunday's painful errors:
The Bengals also didn't win enough one-on-one matchups, particularly on defense. Each detail is minor until it snowballs, and that's when it becomes a major issue.

The Bengals have been dealing with these problems for more than a year, but this season it's costing them games. With the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) and Baltimore Ravens (5-2) running away in the AFC North division, the Bengals can't afford more losses. For Cincinnati to go 10-6 with a good shot at the postseason, it must go 8-2 the rest of the way against a tough first-place schedule. In Weeks 8 and 9, the Bengals play host to the Miami Dolphins (3-3) and Steelers.

"I know a lot of people around us, if they haven't given up yet, they're about to give up on us," Palmer said. "We're not going to do that. ... We expect to be written off, but we're not going to write ourselves off."

Cincinnati, one of the league's biggest disappointments, has playoff-caliber talent but too often executes like a five-win team. So who do you blame and how do you fix it? Is it the fault of the coaching staff? Are penalties and lack of execution on the players or a combination of both?

"I have no idea," said Ochocinco, one of many players in a sullen locker room who didn't have answers.

Cincinnati, just 3-8 in its past 11 games, hasn't had back-to-back winning seasons in 28 years. Barring a sudden turnaround, that streak will continue ... all because the Bengals don't take care of the little things.