The first boos came on Cincinnati’s second possession of the game.
The Bengals went three and out after running back Joe Mixon lost a yard and quarterback Andy Dalton threw a 4-yard pass and an incompletion. That’s when the Paul Brown Stadium crowd — at 46,012, the fourth smallest in the past six years — vented its frustration for the first of many times Sunday.
“I didn’t hear any boos,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said curtly after the Bengals had fallen to the previously winless Arizona Cardinals 26-23 .
The loss dropped Cincinnati to 0-5.
While Kirkpatrick had selective hearing, receiver Tyler Boyd had no problem picking up on the displeasure.
“At the end of the day we’re playing, they’re not,” he said of the fans. “It’s way different being inside the circle. We’re the ones who control what goes on on the field. The coaches don’t. Nobody on the outside does.
“We’re the ones who bring the juice. We’re the ones who have to score the points, who have to move the chains. It’s on us – the players. Nobody else. It’s on us.”
Sunday’s loss was especially exasperating after the Bengals offense – ineffective for most of the game, just as it had been six days earlier in Pittsburgh – suddenly became unstoppable.
Cincinnati scored two touchdowns in just over two minutes late in the fourth quarter to tie the score 23-23.
“Me and B.W. (cornerback B.W. Webb) were on the sideline talking then and we felt good,” Kirkpatrick said. “I was like, ‘B.W., me and you got to stop ‘em now. We got to get a turnover.’ I felt really good right then.”
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That feeling quickly evaporated when Arizona drove straight down the field on five plays. Kyler Murray, the Cardinals always-elusive rookie quarterback, was once again too much for the Cincinnati defense. He and running back David Johnson hooked up for a 24-yard pass and two plays later Murray scrambled up the middle for another 24 yards.
That enabled Zane Gonzalez to make the winning 31-yard field goal on the final play of the game.
Afterward Zac Taylor – whose hiring as the Bengals new head coach was met by excitement just two months ago – admitted he and his team are hurting now:
“It’s a hard locker room right now. But the guys are still banding together, still pulling together.”
He repeated that sticking together theme again later in his postgame session with the media and you sensed he knew it was a precarious time for his team.
»PHOTOS: Bengals vs. Cardinals
There are several reasons for the Bengals failure this season. They are decimated by injuries and Sunday two more veterans left the game.
Left tackle Andre Smith was sidelined with an ankle injury and wide receiver and top return man Alex Erickson was under concussion protocol after he was upended and hit the field head first on a pass reception.
The Bengals have also suffered from lack of imagination and some suspect play calling on offense and for that Taylor took the blame. Before those final two scores late in the game, Cincinnati had gone almost nine quarters without a touchdown
“I am the play caller and we are not scoring, so that falls on me,” Taylor sad.
Once again the Bengals got off to a slow start offensively. Twice they were first and goal from the 8 and had to settle for a field goal.
Just as glaring was Taylor‘s decision to have Dalton try to pick up a yard on fourth-and-1 on his own 42 in the third quarter. Dalton was stuffed and the Cardinals had a short field to get in range for another Gonzalez field goal.
An unfortunate byproduct of the losing is that it not only obscures the good things the team does on the field ,but also eclipses the good deeds players do off of it.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap dedicated this past week to helping several women who are dealing with breast cancer. He got them spa treatments, visits by his teammates and some were honored on the field Sunday.
Erickson is helping out one of the families who lost a son in the Oregon District’s mass shooting in August.
And yet after the game the only thing that came up about those two was that Erickson was hurt and Dunlap was part of a Bengals’ pass rush that got to Murray only once, this after he’d been sacked a whopping 20 times in his first four games.
Regardless of what Taylor said, you can see the losing is starting to take a toll.
“If you want to make a name for yourself, for your family, for that name you have on the back of your jersey, you have to make a play,” said Boyd, who did have 10 catches for 123 yards and one of those two final touchdowns .
“When it doesn’t happen it’s frustrating. And right now it’s not happening.”
He shook his head, at a loss for what else to say: “I’m speaking, but it ain’t happening.”
A few lockers away Kirkpatrick felt the same way:
“This is about our team, our fans, our community and what we stand for. Bro, it’s hard. You feel like you can’t be yourself. I’m one of those energetic guys who likes to smile and have fun but now I can’t.
“I have to keep answering the questions in the community and when I’m around my family and friends.
“This is the most frustrating I’ve been since I’ve been here.”
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