Answers, much like victories, seem to be hard to come by these days for the Cincinnati Bengals.
A number of questions arose Sunday as the Bengals (3-7-1) were extending their winless streak to four games with a 19-14 loss at Baltimore, but head coach Marvin Lewis and offensive coordinator Ken Zampese ranged from vague to evasive when asked about various topics Monday afternoon.
Talking about the decision to replace starting center Russell Bodine, whose premature snap resulted in the first of two lost fumbles in the red zone, with T.J. Johnson, Zampese said, “(Johnson) did a nice job. It’s good to have an experienced guy to go to when you need him.”
Does the phrase “need him” mean Bodine was injured or benched?
“T.J played, and he played good,” Zampese answered.
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Johnson’s first action came on the 11-play touchdown drive in the third quarter. He also was in for the following series before Bodine went back in for the final two drives.
Lewis’ explanation for the change was curious.
“It was to calm the troops a little bit,” he said. “I think he did a good job of that. We felt good about what he did.”
Also puzzling is the status of kicker Mike Nugent, who missed his third consecutive extra point and fourth in his last eight attempts, after Lewis attempted to address the situation.
“A missed PAT, those are things that affect the football team and affect us and our opportunity, but now we are where we are,” Lewis said.
He was much more assertive in his support last week following the two misses against Buffalo, saying definitively that team was moving forward with Nugent as the kicker.
Lewis did say the Bengals will not be bringing in any kickers for tryouts Tuesday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the team is still intent on sticking with Nugent.
Four weeks ago after the 27-27 tie against Washington, in which Nugent missed an extra point and a field goal, the Bengals tried out Kai Forbath, Zach Hocker and Randy Bullock before electing to stick with Nugent.
The Vikings signed Forbath on Nov. 16, but Bullock and Hocker, who was with the Bengals during training camp but didn’t get a chance to compete against Nugent due to a tendon injury in his plant foot, are still available and the Bengals don’t need another tryout to make a decision.
The Bengals also are searching for the answer why the defense continues to struggle early, allowing opening drive touchdowns in six of the last eight games. And why offense falls apart late, with just one fourth-quarter touchdown in the last four games.
“They are areas that need to get done, Lewis said. “It’s important to win that fourth quarter scoring, and we haven’t been able to do that. We can move the ball, but haven’t come away with points. We had two turnovers in the red zone yesterday. We had turnovers other times in the season too, and those are huge. Defensively, we just have to settle down and play. We’re too excitable, or whatever it may be. We have some error, and we have to eliminate that.”
One thing both Lewis and Zampese were eager to clear up was why the Bengals called a timeout that enabled Baltimore more time to look at replays and eventually challenge the spot of a third-down reception by James Wright that initially was ruled a first down.
After the review, the officials overturned the call, ruling Wright was a half yard shy of the marker, and the Bengals had to punt.
“They didn’t re-start the (play) clock,” Zampese said. “It was questionable whether we got the first down or not. They’re deciding on it. Now all of a sudden the clock keeps going. And they didn’t push the clock.”
The 40-second clock started within seconds of Wright hitting the ground. The officials didn’t signal first down until there were 31 seconds remaining. By the time the Bengals broke the huddle, there were only eight seconds left, forcing Dalton to call the timeout.
“I have to make sure we get a new clock in that situation, so I had to burn a timeout there,” Lewis said. “They should see it. I shouldn’t have to. We were down on time and so Andy didn’t have an opportunity to get the play off. I was headed that way. We didn’t get a new clock. Right now those things aren’t working in our favor. We’re not getting those breaks.”
Roster moves: The Bengals re-signed defensive tackle DeShawn Williams on Monday and placed cornerback Chykie Brown on season-ending Injured Reserve.
Williams rejoins the team after he was waived Saturday when the Bengals brought long-snapper Tyler Ott off the practice squad to replace the injured Clark Harris.
An undrafted college free agent out of Clemson, Williams spent 2015 on the Bengals practice squad and was inactive for the first 10 games this season.
Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury in second quarter while covering a punt. He appeared in five games this season with one tackle on defense one on special teams.