Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Bengals must overcome 0-32 to finish 5-11

Club hasn't beaten winning team on road since '90

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Bengals, if the past 11 years are any guide, have virtually no chance to beat Philadelphia in Sunday's season finale.

        Since 1990, the Bengals are 0-32 in road games vs. teams with winning records. That is the predicament they will face at Philadelphia (10-5), which could clinch a home playoff game by beating the Bengals (4-11).

  Since beating a 6-5 Pittsburgh team at Three Rivers Stadium on Dec.2, 1990, the Bengals are 0-32 on the road vs. winning teams. Add in a 1990 playoff loss at the then-L.A. Raiders, and it's 0-33. The list:
  • 1990: Dec.16 at L.A. Raiders (9-4): 24-7 loss
  Jan.13, 1991 (playoffs), at L.A. Raiders (12-4): L 20-10
  • 1991: Oct.13 at Dallas (4-2): L 35-23
  Oct.21 at Buffalo (6-1): L 35-16
  Oct.27 at Houston (6-1): L 35-3
  Dec.9 at Miami (7-6): L 37-13
  • 1992: Oct.19 at Pittsburgh (3-2): L 20-0
  Oct.25 at Houston (4-2): L 26-10
  Dec.13 at San Diego (8-5): L 27-10
  • 1993: Oct.10 at Kansas City (3-1): L 17-15
  Nov.21 at NY Jets (5-4): L 17-12
  Dec.5 at San Francisco (8-3): L 21-8
  • 1994: Sept.11 at San Diego (1-0): L 27-10
  Oct.16 at Pittsburgh (3-2): L 14-10
  Oct.23 at Cleveland (5-1): L 37-13
  • 1995: Oct.8 at Tampa Bay (3-2): L 19-16
  Dec.3 at Green Bay (8-4): L 24-10
  • 1996: Sept.8 at San Diego (1-0): L 27-14
  Oct.13 at Pittsburgh (4-1): L 20-10
  Oct.20 at San Francisco (4-2): L 28-21
  Nov.17 at Buffalo (7-3): L 31-17
  • 1997: Sept.21 at Denver (3-0): L 38-20
  Oct.5 at Jacksonville (3-1): L 21-13
  Oct.26 at NY Giants (5-3): L 29-27
  Nov.16 at Pittsburgh (7-3): L 20-3
  • 1998: Oct.25 at Oakland (5-2): L 27-10
  Nov.8 at Jacksonville (6-2): L 24-11
  Nov.15 at Minnesota (8-1): L 24-3
  • 1999: Oct.24 at Indianapolis (3-2): L 31-10
  Nov.7 at Seattle (5-2): L 37-20
  Jan.2, 2000, at Jacksonville (13-2): L 24-7
  • 2000: Sept.24 at Baltimore (2-1): L 37-0
  Dec.10 at Tennessee (10-3): L 35-3
        The Bengals' last road win over a team with a winning record — meaning, over .500 entering the game — was Dec.2, 1990. That day, the Bengals and Pittsburgh both carried 6-5 records into Three Rivers Stadium, and the Bengals won 16-12.

        That was the Bengals' last playoff season. And if you add the playoff loss to the then-L.A. Raiders (Jan.13, 1991, at L.A. Coliseum), the road streak vs. winning teams is 0-33.

        “The road is tough anyway, period,” said Bengals defensive end Michael Bank ston, a nine-year NFL veteran. “With a winning team, they have the mentality that they can win by just stepping on the field.”

        Bad teams tend to quit earlier. Good teams figure they'll find a way to win.

        “Our team needs to become that way,” Bankston said.

        The Bengals haven't been that way for some time.

        Not only have they lost road games to winning teams, they also tend to lose to losing teams. Since 1990, the Bengals are an NFL-worst 19-68 overall on the road (.218 winning percentage). The closest in such futility is Arizona, 21-66 in that span.

        Since 1990, NFL teams annually have won at least 55 percent of their home games. Playoff-caliber teams are closer to 60 percent, so it's no surprise that a team such as the Bengals never beats a winning team on the road.

        How does the other half live?

        Tennessee (12-3), which has the NFL's best record this season, is 3-0 in road games vs. teams with winning records. Baltimore (11-4) is 2-0 in such games.

        The other 11-4 teams have showed it's not that easy: Oakland is 2-1, while Minnesota and the New York Giants are both 1-1 in road games vs. winning clubs.

        Somewhere, wouldn't the Bengals accidentally grab such a victory? Especially in 11 years?

        Well, no. But what about that memorable 27-9 upset at Pittsburgh in that Thursday night game in 1995? Didn't the Steelers go to the Super Bowl that year?

        Yes. But they were only 3-3 entering that game vs. the Bengals, who were 2-4.

        This year, the Bengals have been dominated in their two road trips vs. teams with winning records, losing 37-0 at Baltimore and 35-3 at Tennessee.

        “We expect to win every game we play, whether we're on the road or at home,” Bengals safety Tremain Mack said. “But it hasn't been that way. Either way, it doesn't bother me where we're playing.”

        Conventional reasoning is that, when a struggling team such as the Bengals falls behind on the road, it's harder to come back. The home team gets energized by the crowd and the underdog visitor sometimes rolls over.

        Could that happen this week, especially with the game on Christmas Eve? Bengals players say no, because they are eager to preserve coach Dick LeBeau's job.

        “What I don't want,” LeBeau said, “is for us to look at (Jacksonville) as the final game of the season. We've got one more game, and we've got to finish positively.”

        Bankston said some players indeed will be thinking of their postgame airline reservations, with most heading home for the holidays.

        “That's not anything new at this time of year,” he said. “What you have to do is ask yourself: "Can I make a difference? Can I help us go out with a two-game winning streak?' That can carry you through the offseason, believe it or not.”

        The last time the Bengals beat a winning team on the road, Peter Warrick was 13 years old. Paul Brown was still alive. The Bengals were just two years removed from the Super Bowl. The Persian Gulf War was six weeks away.

        In other words, it's been a while.


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