Monday was moving day at Paul Brown Stadium.
Moving on, after all, is really all the Cincinnati Bengals can do after suffering back-to-back overtime losses to fall to 6-4, making the AFC North Division race interesting again.
What was once a commanding lead when the Bengals were standing 6-2 at the midpoint of the season has been whittled to a one-game advantage in the loss column ahead of Baltimore (4-5) and Cleveland (4-5), with the Browns coming to town this week eyeing a season sweep.
“We pushed things forward very positively, now we’ve dug a little bit of a hole,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We’ve got to climb out and play better this week against the Browns.”
Climbing out of holes is something the Bengals have done well this season. Staying out has been the bigger issue.
Three times this season the Bengals have erased double-digit deficits in the second half, but they’ve only turned one of those comebacks into a victory, overcoming a 16-point spread against Green Bay for a 34-30 victory in Week 3.
They trailed Miami 17-3 two weeks ago, stormed back to take a 20-17 lead and eventually lost in overtime 22-20 when Andy Dalton was sacked in the end zone for a safety.
Sunday they were down 17-0 in Baltimore before tying the game on a 51-yard Hail Mary to A.J. Green on the final play of regulation. But the rally was negated in overtime again as the Ravens won 20-17 on a Justin Tucker 46-yard field goal.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in our room that no matter how far we get down believes that we’re done,” Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “I think our guys continue to battle back and we always have a belief that we’re going to win. We’ve proven we can come back from deficits and take leads and have a chance and put ourselves in position to win.
“We did that again (Sunday),” Gruden said. “Unfortunately you don’t get any bonus points for that. You still get the loss. But it is good to know that going into games next week and the week after and the week after that if we do get down, we will have the ability and perseverance to keep working and get ourselves back in the game without pointing fingers and hanging our heads and giving up.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth agreed, saying there is some inspiration diluting all of the the frustration of back-to-back overtime losses.
“We had a really bad day, but we were able to fight and make them have to earn every inch of it,” he said. “Penalties probably didn’t go our way, a couple of calls didn’t go our way and still we made teams go into overtime to beat us. That’s the kind of fight you want out of your team.
“Are you frustrated? Heck yeah,” he continued. “But understanding this team is going to make a team go to the wire to beat us every time we step on the field, to me that’s a great positive.”
The Bengals are only the 16th team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games in overtime, and they are just the second squad to do it while sitting in first place.
The 2002 Denver Broncos were the other team, falling in Weeks 12 and 13, and it cost them the division lead and eventually a playoff berth.
The Bengals remain confident — adamant, really — that they will move on and not meet a similar fate.
“It’s our division to lose,” safety George Iloka said. “We control our own destiny. If we do what we have to do, we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the year.”