Bengals survive another sloppy game


Bengals survive another sloppy game

CINCINNATI (AP) The Bengals stayed on the cusp of the playoffs by surviving their sloppiest game of the season, one that left them with plenty of concern heading into a weekend off.

They did a lot of things wrong during a 34-13 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday night, but the Eagles were far worse, bailing out the Bengals by turning the ball over five times.

The Eagles lost four fumbles and had an interception off a severely underthrown pass, helping Cincinnati overcome a second-half deficit.

The ugly victory gave Cincinnati (8-6) a chance to make the playoffs by winning at Pittsburgh and at home against Baltimore in the next two weeks. The Bengals are 0-6 against those AFC North rivals during the last two seasons.

``After reviewing the tapes, it's evident in a lot of areas we have a lot of coaching to do,'' coach Marvin Lewis said on Friday. ``We have a lot of improvement we can still make.''

Although they're in the postseason chase, the Bengals aren't happy with how they're playing at the most important time of the season. They struggled to win at San Diego, pulling it out with a fourth-quarter rally aided by the Chargers' self-destruction. They then lost at home to Dallas, blowing a fourth-quarter lead.

In Philadelphia, they hit a low point - 11 penalties for 94 yards, a punt fielded at the 1-yard line, two fumbles by quarterback Andy Dalton, six sacks allowed. The Eagles' turnovers made the difference and left the Bengals relieved yet unhappy.

They've talked all season about getting hot as the playoffs approach. Their performances are getting worse, especially on offense. They know that if they want to consider themselves playoff-worthy, they've got to play a lot better in the next two games.

``Anytime you win on the road, I don't care how you do it, it's exciting,'' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said on Monday, taking a break from watching tape of a Baltimore-Pittsburgh game. ``We are 8-6 right now and we still have everything in reach that we want to reach for. We just have to play better, and we know that.

``We know that the other team is not going to fumble and give us that field position all the time. We are going to have to grind some yards, protect the football. We gave two turnovers in their end of the field and that can't happen against teams with Ben Roethlisberger and (Joe) Flacco and Peyton Manning like that.''

The offense was totally ineffective in the second quarter and the early part of the third, before the Eagles started turning it over. Cincinnati had the ball seven times and lost four yards overall, done in by penalties and Dalton's two fumbles.

In the first half, A.J. Green was the only receiver to catch a pass, getting 41 yards on four receptions. Tight end Jermaine Gresham had three catches for 28 yards, running back Brian Leonard one catch for seven yards.

Dalton was under heavy pressure most of the game. He finished 13 of 27 for 127 yards and a below-average passer rating of 74.2.

``It was very un-Andy-like last night,'' Gruden said. ``He missed some throws that he should make, he didn't throw some throws that he should throw, could have run for yards and tried to throw across his body and was almost intercepted. He made some plays that just weren't up to par.''

The second-year quarterback become frustrated as the offense bogged down, slamming down a binder on the sideline at one point.

``Everything you do, you have to continue to do it with more poise than you did it the last time,'' Lewis said. ``That's all we ask any of our players all of the time: every opportunity, every chance you get, do it better than you did it the last time.''

Notes: FB Chris Pressley had an MRI on his right knee Friday. He got hurt in the first quarter on Thursday night. Gruden said if the injury is significant, the Bengals will see what other fullbacks are available. If there are no such options, they could move TE Orson Charles to a fullback role. ... Gruden said half of the six sacks were the result of Dalton holding the ball too long.


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.