Bengals turn attention to Panthers in short week

The Cincinnati Bengals didn’t have time to let the disappointment of Monday’s loss to the Browns fester. Attention quickly turned to the Carolina Panthers with a short turnaround to Sunday’s game at Paycor Stadium.

Cincinnati (4-4) is seeking to bounce back from a 32-13 loss at Cleveland and climb back above .500 going into its bye week, after which the schedule only gets more difficult.

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As important as this game could be for a playoff push in the second half, the Bengals can’t overlook a struggling Panthers team coming off an overtime loss at Atlanta, which followed a stunning win against Tampa Bay in Week 7.

“We can’t control that right now,” Taylor said Monday in his postgame press conference when asked about the importance of climbing out of a hole in the second half of the season. “We just have to focus on beating Carolina.”

The Bengals have played the Panthers just six times in their history, the last meeting being a win for Carolina in 2018 when Christian McCaffrey rushed for 184 yards. Cincinnati doesn’t have to worry about McCaffrey this time – he was traded to San Francisco two weeks ago.

D’Onta Foreman is the team’s current rushing leader with 273 yards and three touchdowns on 53 carries. Chuba Hubbard, who is listed as the team’s No. 1 running back, has just 97 yards on 15 carries and missed Sunday’s loss to the Falcons because of an ankle injury.

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Cincinnati also might not be facing former Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield as originally expected at the beginning of the season. Mayfield, who was Cleveland’s No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018, is 6-1 against the Bengals but at least temporarily lost his starting job in Carolina. He was sidelined with an ankle injury during Matt Rhule’s final game as head coach in Week 5, following a 1-4 start, but Mayfield was available on the bench Sunday in his first week back.

After fourth-string quarterback P.J. Walker led the team to the upset win at Tampa Bay, interim coach Steve Wilks indicated he saw no need to make a change even if Mayfield was ready to play, but it’s unclear if health factored into that decision. Walker, a former XFL player, has a better pass completion rate (62.5 percent) than Walker this season in two fewer starts and 614 yards passing and three touchdowns with one interception over four total appearances.

D.J. Moore leads the team in receiving with 425 yards and three touchdowns, but Carolina traded away its next best receiver, sending Robbie Anderson to Arizona after five games.

The Panthers did not end up trading defensive end Brian Burns, despite the team receiving offers for him. Burns leads the team with 5.0 sacks and is another talented pass rusher the Bengals offensive line and Joe Burrow will have to worry about after struggling with pressure from Myles Garrett on Monday.

Carolina allows 23.3 points and 358.6 yards per game – both ranked 21st most in the league. Linebacker Shaq Thompson is Carolina’s top tackler with 59 combined tackles and one fumble recovery. Cornerback Donte Jackson has two interceptions.

Cincinnati will be trying to get back on track after the offense was shut out through three quarters Monday and the defense, which hadn’t allowed a second-half touchdown all season, gave up a season-high 32 points.

Burrow had called the last three games before the bye week a crucial stretch that would dictate the rest of the season for the Bengals, who beat Atlanta before the blowout loss at Cleveland. Taylor said the loss was not indicative of the team Cincinnati can be.

“This isn’t the type of team we are,” Taylor said. “This is a 17-game season and this is one game. We weren’t at our best (Monday) at any phase. I’m confident that’s not who we are, but we can make the corrections and flush this one away quickly, turn our attention to Carolina on the six-day week, have a great opportunity to get this out of our system quickly and play next Sunday.”

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