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Instead of breakthrough, Bengals get beat-down

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Instead of breakthrough, Bengals get beat-down

CINCINNATI (AP) Instead of a breakthrough, the Bengals got another AFC North beat-down.

A 24-17 loss to the injury-depleted Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night dropped the Bengals (3-4) into third place in the division. They wanted to show they were ready to compete for the division title, but instead fell to 0-6 against Pittsburgh and Baltimore the last two seasons.

And now, they're in trouble. They take a three-game losing streak into bye week.

``I thought we were very, very good at stinking up October and we need to do a cleanse,'' coach Marvin Lewis said Monday. ``And the best thing going forward is to be better in November and December, which is the key because we kind of erased a lot of the positives that we had in September.

``We found a way to flush them down the toilet in October. So this week comes I think at a good time. We have an opportunity to fix a lot of the things that are ailing us right now, and that's what we've got to do.''

Their biggest ailment is their inability to beat the Steelers and the Ravens. They had two prime-time chances this season, but lost to Baltimore 44-13 in the opener on Monday night and let a 14-3 lead over the injury-depleted Steelers slip away on Sunday night.

Their Pro Bowl connection on offense - Andy Dalton throwing to A.J. Green - managed only one completion all game. The defense got flattened by a Steelers team missing its top two running backs and two offensive linemen.

When they play a top team, the Bengals are only so-so.

``We were OK in the running game,'' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said Monday. ``OK is not good enough. We were OK in the pass. Andy played OK. A.J. played OK. OK will get you beat by the Steelers every time. Nobody played outstanding. That is what we have to have.''

That's been their way the last two seasons. They earned a wild card berth last year despite not beating another playoff team. They went 9-7 by taking advantage of a favorable schedule, then lost to Houston in the opening round.

They've taken a step back this season, losing to some struggling teams as well.

``We have to win these ballgames,'' safety Chris Crocker said. ``You only get so many opportunities. We have to beat a good team, and so far we haven't.''

The most stunning part of Sunday's loss was how it slipped away.

The Bengals opened with their most impressive drive of the season. They came out determined to run against the NFL's fifth-ranked defense, and did it. BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried eight times for 44 yards, converting on third-and-3 and fourth-and-1 to keep it going.

The Bengals carried nine times for 49 yards on the drive, which took 8 minutes, 9 seconds. The rest of the game? They ran it 12 times for only 31 yards.

Cincinnati finished with 185 yards and ran only 49 plays to Pittsburgh's 70 plays and 431 yards.

``My performance was poor,'' Gruden said. ``Our whole performance was poor. It was an embarrassment.''

The Bengals hadn't lost three in a row since 2010, when they dropped 10 straight and finished 4-12 with receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens. Coming out of the bye week, they have home games against Denver and the New York Giants.

Cincinnati closes the season at San Diego, home against Dallas, at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, then home against the Ravens.

``It will be uphill from here on,'' cornerback Leon Hall said. ``The schedule doesn't get any easier.''

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NOTES: Gruden said rookie WR Marvin Jones was expected to have a big role in the passing game until he suffered a knee injury on Pittsburgh's first kickoff. The Bengals already were short at receiver with Armon Binns inactive because of a sprained ankle. Lewis said Jones' injury isn't serious. ... Lewis said the Bengals don't plan any significant roster changes during the bye, but some players might get more playing time after the break based upon what's happened. He didn't give any specifics.

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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