At 0-8, first-year Bengals coach looks for positives: ‘I do feel like we’re close’

Even at 0-8, Andy Dalton is doing his best to look for some positives.

A run game that seems to finally be making some progress. An aggressive game plan that saw the Cincinnati Bengals go for it six times on fourth down — converting four of them. No turnovers. And a locker room that shows no sign of quitting on the season.

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None of that was enough on Sunday, though, as the Bengals gave up 470 yards in a 24-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams (5-3) in London to remain winless.

“I’ve obviously never been in a situation like this before,” said Dalton, who is the only quarterback since 1950 to record both an 0-8 record and an 8-0 record in the first eight games of a season. “So this is new, but we keep saying it every week. … Our mentality, everything, has been very positive. There’s been nothing from this team that has gone in the tank, given up.”

Against the reigning NFC champions, the Bengals even held their own for much of the first half. Dalton led a 75-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter to tie the game at 10-10, and the team’s running game was productive for once, finishing with 104 yards.

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But Jared Goff hit Cooper Kupp for a 65-yard score on a double reverse flea-flicker on the following drive, and the Bengals couldn’t find a reply. Kupp finished with a career-high 220 yards as the Bengals defense was repeatedly beat in the air.

The Rams came up with a stop on fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line with five minutes left in the fourth quarter to thwart any hopes of a comeback by the Bengals. Auden Tate thought he had caught a touchdown with 4 seconds remaining, but the pass was ruled incomplete after a review.

Dalton finished 32 of 52 for 329 yards and had a 1-yard touchdown pass to Joe Mixon.

“I mean, there’s been a lot of 0-7 teams that would have gone to a game like this and could have gotten blown out,” Dalton said. “I feel like we were right in this game for a majority of the game. That’s a testament to the guys we have on this team.”

The Bengals now have a bye week to recharge for the second half of a season that can already be written off. But first-year head coach Zac Taylor also insisted that there’ll be no tanking the rest of the way.

“I’m not in the least bit discouraged with the guys. I do feel like we’re close,” Taylor said. “People probably don’t want to hear that, but we’re giving ourselves a chance. … We’re halfway through the season, but these guys are hungry for a win. They’re hungry to show the world that we’re improving and that we’ve got a good team here.”

Taylor also confirmed that team isn’t looking to make any major trades before Tuesday’s deadline — even though other teams are interested in snapping up some of their players.

“There are some key players that we feel like are critical to our success this year, critical to our future,” he said. “So that makes for an easy decision.”

The biggest positive for the Bengals may be that A.J. Green is getting closer to a comeback. The star wide receiver has yet to play this season after having ankle surgery during training camp but could be ready after the bye week.

“I think he feels encouraged that he’s headed in the right direction, but I don’t want to put a timetable on it, guarantee anything,” Taylor said. “But he’s making good progress.”