After the Cincinnati Bengals suffered their fifth loss in as many games, coach Zac Taylor went around the locker room individually speaking with players and providing an encouraging pat on the back or handshake.
The Bengals came back to tie their Week 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals with two minutes left only to fall 26-23 on a field goal as time expired Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. They have now lost 12 of their last 13 games and are one of four NFL teams that remain winless this season.
»REPORT CARD: Grading Bengals’ performance vs. Cardinals
Players say Taylor’s message remains to “keep fighting,” but it’s not going to get any easier than the last two against teams (Pittsburgh, Arizona) who wouldn’t have a win otherwise. The Bengals travel to play Baltimore (3-2) in an AFC North division game Sunday.
“We are going to keep fighting, man,” cornerback B.W. Webb said. “There’s no let down. Whoever our next opponent is going to have to see us. No matter our record, we are going to come in ready to fight and get some wins.”
Taylor knows at 0-5 his message is in jeopardy of falling on deaf ears. He’s been preaching “culture” since he arrived for his introductory press conference in February when the Bengals named him Marvin Lewis’ successor, and Taylor maintains that foundation is what will help pull them out of this slump.
“That’s the emphasis right now,” Taylor said during his Monday press conference. “We always say, ‘It’s about us.’ That’s from Day 1, let’s listen to what’s going on inside this building. Rightfully so, we’re 0-5 so we’re going to take a lot of shots right now. That comes with the territory. We have to make sure that doesn’t seep into the minds of people in this building. Let’s close it off, listen to each other and know we can each do a better job. That’s what it’s going to take right now.”
»TOM ARCHDEACON: Boos come early, often for Bengals
After a Monday Night Football loss at Pittsburgh a week earlier, Taylor told reporters “to be quite honest, it starts with me,” but no one is just pointing a finger at the new coaches.
Miles away in the nation’s capital, the Washington Redskins fired coach Jay Gruden after his 0-5 start. There hasn’t been any notion that could happen for Taylor so soon into a rebuild, and players say they stand by their coaches.
“We believe in Coach Taylor and what we’re trying to do,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “We didn’t expect it to be where we turn it around overnight. That’s not how it goes.”
Said Tyler Boyd, “We all know we are a better team than this, but our record says otherwise, so it’s going to be hard to convince the crowd, the critics, everybody else we are as good as we say we are. It’s on the players. It’s not on the coaches. It’s not on anyone but us. We have to go and score in the redzone. We have to be way better. If we score in the redzone, we won’t put our defense under stress.”
The Bengals went 120 minutes before getting another touchdown following a Week 3 loss at Buffalo. The defense has allowed a total of 2,059 yards, which is a franchise worst through five games.
»ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from Sunday’s loss to Cardinals
Taylor is working with a large portion of last year’s roster, but is now without A.J. Green (ankle), John Ross (sternoclavicular) and Cordy Glenn (concussion) among key positions. The Bengals are a part of several national reports on moves that might make sense with the trade deadline looming later this month.
According to national reports, several teams would be interested in trading first-round picks for Green. Taylor did not address those reports Monday but was asked about talks with Green’s agent regarding a new contract, as his expires this season.
“That’s something that happens with a lot of players as we go, to be quite honest to you,” Taylor said. “He obviously means a lot to this organization, so it’s something we continue to talk through.”
Green is still not practicing with the team after suffering an ankle injury the first day of training camp, but he continues to work on the rehab fields and is “making good progress,” according to Taylor. Green won’t play Sunday but Taylor said he would be able to play soon after practicing, and if he’s not part of a trade, he can’t come back soon enough.
“I would like to see him at least once,” Taylor said. “Each player is different, depending on what the injury is, coming off. I watch him every day at the rehab field, so I see him do some good things, and there will be some things we ease him into. You don’t just go out full-blown practice the first day after being off for two months. There will be a time we start working him into individual work and then easing him into practice. We are encouraged where he’s at.”
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.