INDIANAPOLIS -- The Bengals told a few more jokes Sunday. They slipped on a few more banana peels. They're not any good, but by golly they're entertaining.
Owner Mike Brown must love this team more than any he has ever had, because Brown clearly loves a good joke. He is, after all, the guy with the wacky idea of putting Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco on the same roster -- and leaving pushover Marvin Lewis in charge of that roster.
The latest knee-slapper was the Bengals' 23-17 loss Sunday at Indianapolis, where Cincinnati had three interceptions and two fumbles to lose to a watered-down, injured Colts team that mailed in the final three quarters and still won more convincingly than the six-point spread would suggest.
The Colts scored 17 points in the first 15½ minutes, then called off the dogs. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning stopped throwing the ball. The Colts' defense stopped blitzing. The Colts went from rainbow sherbet to vanilla, just like that, and it was enough to overwhelm the undeveloped palate of the silly Bengals.
And they're silly, all right. Harmless. Pathetic. The Bengals aren't going to beat many teams this season, but it's OK because they're just so darned cute. One of the most earnest, professional players in the locker room, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, met the media afterward and summed up the hopeless situation that faces a hapless team looking at six consecutive losses.
"The key," Whitworth said, "is getting guys to play with confidence -- even if we don't have anything to be confident about."
Adorable. And true. The Bengals are entering Dave Shula territory, losing in new and ridiculous ways. Quarterback Carson Palmer had two interceptions returned for touchdowns -- although the second pick-six, by Colts linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, was generously overturned by a replay review. The interception stood, but after further review Hagler was ruled down at the 10 yard line. By then the damage already had been done. The Bengals faced a 17-0 deficit early in large part because Palmer's passer rating after one quarter was 2.8. Even Rex Grossman thinks that's lousy.
|More on Bengals-Colts|
It wasn't just Palmer, of course. Running back Cedric Benson, who had lost three fumbles in the previous four years, lost his third fumble of the season Sunday because of Colts linebacker Kavell Conner's back. Benson brushed against the No. 53 on Conner's jersey and the ball popped loose. Conner never saw what happened. Still, he was credited with a forced fumble.
But enough anecdotal humor. We should hand someone the microphone. Here, let's give it to Ochocinco, who played his heart out -- sincerely. Ochocinco made diving plays all over the field, leaped for passes over the middle without hesitation and even returned for the fourth quarter after landing on his shoulder earlier and leaving the game in obvious pain.
Ochocinco seems convinced the Bengals can salvage their season -- even at 2-7, last in the AFC North.
"We'll get it figured out," he said.
Hahahaha. Oh, sorry. He's not done talking. He wants to tell us why the Bengals will get it figured out. We're all ears, Och'.
"We have enough leaders in this locker room," he said. "Myself, Terrell ..."
|The Bengals played well at times but couldn't put together a complete game effort. Too many mistakes (three interceptions and two fumbles) doomed Cincinnati to its seventh loss of the season.|
|It wasn't pretty by any means, but the Colts continue to find ways to win games despite a long injury list. Indy 's defense picked off QB Carson Palmer three times, returning one for a TD, and forced two fumbles.|
|By Tom James|
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Hysterical. A leader in the locker room, Ochocinco?
Terrell is Terrell Owens, who leads not with words but by example. For example, Owens alligator-armed one long pass, letting a potential 50-yard reception land at his feet because, I suppose, a man can get a rug burn sliding for a ball at his feet. And for example, there was Palmer's third interception of the game, a poorly conceived pass over the middle, in the vicinity of Owens, that he let float past him and into the arms of Colts safety Aaron Francisco. Owens could have made an effort on the ball -- it didn't appear to be out of his reach -- but that would have meant getting hit. Terrell Owens is a leader, but let's not go overboard.
Afterward, Palmer came as close as he ever will to calling out a teammate -- declining to attack or defend Owens' effort on the play, saying instead, "I'm going to have to look at it on film."
Do us a favor, Carson, and make sure Marvin Lewis is watching the film too. Because Lewis said he had no issue with Owens' effort on the Francisco interception.
"I've not seen T.O. give up on any plays," Lewis said.
What about that 50-yarder earlier in the game, I asked Lewis? The one that fell at his feet? The one he didn't dive or slide or even lean over to try to catch?
Lewis giggled at me. Told me, "You need a new line of questioning."
Me: "You mean, easier questions?"
Lewis: "Or someone smarter than me to answer them."
Not a bad idea, now that he mentions it. Someone, please show that quote to Mike Brown. But first, tell the Bengals' joke of an owner that the world isn't laughing with him.
We're laughing at him.