The Cincinnati Bengals were about a minute away from being 5-1 and creating some distance in the AFC North standings.
Instead, they find themselves trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss as they head into a Sunday Night Football matchup on the road against a Kansas City Chiefs team that until this week was considered to be the best in the league.
Cincinnati (4-2) took a one-point lead over division rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday but gave up a touchdown with 10 seconds left and fell 28-21 at home.
“It’s frustrating to lose games at home, especially division games,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “… We just have to rebound. We don’t get the chance to whine about it or whatever, we just have to get ready to go. That’s what we have to do as a football team. It’s unfortunate we lost the game, but we have another one (Sunday) night in Kansas City, and we have to get ready for that one.”
»REPORT CARD: Grading Sunday’s loss to the Steelers
The Chiefs stormed out of the gate to a 5-0 start and had a chance to be one of two teams without a loss before falling 43-40 to New England Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday night. They trailed by 15 at halftime and were down seven with under four minutes left but tied the game up at 40 before losing on a field goal.
Cincinnati hasn’t faced an opponent as strong as Kansas City and could be staring at 4-3 going into Tampa Bay the following week at home.
“We’ve got a really good Chiefs team that we’ve got to go to their house, an AFC opponent,” linebacker Vinny Rey said. “These games are going to matter in the end, so we have to regroup and get going.”
Regroup and heal up.
The Bengals defense lost three players to injury Sunday and had several other players banged up. Safety Shawn Williams went out with a concussion, linebacker Nick Vigil limped off with a left knee injury that put him on crutches and nickel cornerback Darqueze Dennard hurt his right shoulder and was wearing a sling after the game.
William Jackson, who had been questionable to play as of Friday because of a knee injury, had to come off the field in the fourth quarter to get checked out, and although he returned to play, he might not be 100 percent.
Offensively, the Bengals have been missing John Ross’ deep presence taking attention away from A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd but he was questionable Friday and could be ready to return this week. Lewis had thought Giovani Bernard (knee) was getting better early last week but seemed to have spoken too soon, as Bernard did not practice all week.
»RELATED: View 66 photos from Sunday’s game
“We practice with different groups all the time, so communication was fine, but it’s just not making the plays,” backup safety Clayton Fejedelem said when asked about the difficulties of getting on the same page with so many changes in personnel. “It’s never good to see someone go down because first and foremost, that’s your teammate, that’s your friend. You don’t want him to be injured. It sucks. But besides that, too, there are guys who are out there who are not starters (and starters) do have more time, more reps (and are used to) more time working together.”
Aside from injuries and a quality opponent, the Bengals have to overcome another obstacle in Week 7 – playing in prime time. The Bengals are 1-12 on Sunday Night Football under Lewis and 0-10 in those games since 2006, but did win on Thursday night earlier this season against Baltimore.
Sunday night’s game is one that got flexed last week when the Bengals were 4-1 and favored to beat the Steelers and the Chiefs rolling at 5-0. Cincinnati is 15-13 against the Chiefs with wins in the last four dating back to 2008, but the Chiefs were a combined 8-40 during three of those seasons and in 2015 they got off to a 1-6 start that included the Bengals game before making a turnaround for an 11-win season.
“It was a tough game (Sunday),” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “We’ll be back next weekend. We’re going to get the win.”
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