Friday, October 18, 2002

Nobody beats Bengals for bad starts

Seven 0-6 beginnings easily the most in NFL history

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Arizona might be the losingest franchise in NFL history, but the Bengals are in a league of their own when it comes to 0-6 starts. Among the 32 pro teams, the Bengals have seven 0-6 starts - more than any other club.

        When the Bengals lose their first six games, look for them to keep losing. This season marks their third 0-6 start; they went 0-8 three times (1994, '91, '78) and 0-10 once (1993). Each Cincinnati losing streak has come since 1978, when the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule.

        The Indianapolis Colts have five 0-6 launches, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions each own four. Eight teams - Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Baltimore, Minnesota and Seattle - have never posted a 0-6 start.

        Somehow, the Bengals manage to convey optimism despite their latest loss, a 34-7 shellacking at home by the Steelers.

        "We're just starting to fight," Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said Monday. "I know we can play football a lot better than what happened (against Pittsburgh). It doesn't excuse what happened. My belief is that we will play better than that, and we have to find a way to get that done."

        The Bengals are two losses from their 12th consecutive non-winning season. They have scored 51 points and allowed 181 this season, and at that pace will score the fewest points in club history (136) and allow the most (483). No Bengals team has ever scored fewer than 185 points in a season.

        The 0-14 Tampa Bay club of 1976 is often referred to as the NFL's worst. The Buccaneers were shut out three times in their first six games and scored 36 points. But their defense allowed 133 points, 48 fewer than the Bengals have surrendered this season.

        Since their streak of non-winning seasons began in 1991, the Bengals have scored an average 14.9 points and allowed 24.9 in their first six games.

        That's worse than the Bucs, who had a 14 losing seasons from 1983-1996. Tampa Bay averaged 16.9 points for and 21.8 points against in its first six games.

        The New Orleans Saints scored 17.2 points and gave up 23.2 in the first six games of their 1994-99 losing seasons.

        Even Arizona, which has lost 594 games since 1920, played better than the Bengals during its 13 losing seasons. From 1985-97, the Cardinals scored an average of 17.5 points in their first six games and gave up 23.2.

        "We feel pretty bad about things right now," Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna said. "It's been a very frustrating start to the season. Hopefully, the thing we need is to have a week off to get refreshed and refocused and come back to play like we have played in spurts."


        The Bengals have been outscored cumulatively in every quarter this season, most notably the second (83-10). Their offense has engineered five touchdowns in six games. They're an NFL-worst in scoring average (8.5 points per game) and tied with the Minnesota Vikings last in turnover differential (minus-10). The Bengals have 16 giveaways (13 interceptions and three fumbles) and managed six takeaways (five interceptions and one fumble).

        Bengals defensive tackle Oliver Gibson said no player is immune to the losses. Gibson said he was so disenchanted with Indianapolis' 28-21 victory over the Bengals on Oct..6, he attacked concrete.

        "The frustration just set in and I started punching the wall," Gibson said. "Coach LeBeau was like, 'Don't break your hand over it.'

        "It isn't like anybody doesn't want to do things better. It sucks getting embarrassed at home. It sucks getting embarrassed, period."

        Sunday's bye will give the Bengals a chance to recuperate before hosting the Tennessee Titans on Oct. .27. If the Bengals lose again, it won't ruin their reputation. From 1992-2001, they posted the league's lowest winning percentage (.313).

        "I went through this kind of thing my first year here," third-year Bengals receiver Ron Dugans said. "It's hard, but we just need a first win. Then everything will feed off of that."


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