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Bengals only .500 heading into tough stretch

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Bengals only .500 heading into tough stretch

CINCINNATI (AP) An ugly performance has left the Cincinnati Bengals in trouble.

The Bengals self-destructed in the second half of a 34-24 loss to the Browns on Sunday that dropped them to 3-3, which is not at all where they wanted to be heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule.

And their coach thinks a lot of it comes down to attitude.

Marvin Lewis suggested after the loss on Sunday that his team was too nice at times and needed to get tougher when it has a chance to put an opponent away. He didn't change his assessment after watching video of the loss.

``I told them: You've got to be able to stomp on the back of somebody's neck and go,'' Lewis said Monday. ``That's what this is all about. We don't get mulligans. We are playing for lunch tickets and we are playing for keeps. You've got to go when it is time to go you got to put them away in every way.''

The loss in Cleveland ended a stretch of five consecutive games against opponents with quarterbacks who were either rookies or in their second season. The Bengals went only 3-2 during that favorable part of the schedule.

Up next are home games against Pittsburgh, Denver and the Giants. Cincinnati finishes the season with games against San Diego, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, which leads the AFC North at 5-1 and has already beaten the Bengals.

Cincinnati won a wild card berth last season with a 9-7 mark and lost to Houston in the first round of the playoffs. The goal this season was to try for the division title and only the second set of back-to-back playoff appearances in franchise history.

The Bengals were in good shape when they opened 3-1. They've crumbled in the second half of losses to Miami and Cleveland, dropping them back into the large pack of teams trying to get above break-even.

``It's not time to jump ship,'' offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ``We're 3-3 just like everybody else in our conference. At the end of the day, it's not about wins and losses, it's about who makes the playoffs.

``Our goals are all still right there in front of us. Somebody that's 3-3 has to go win some games and get in the playoffs. Why not be us?''

There are a few reasons why at the moment.

The offense has become overly reliant on big plays to get points. The Bengals had a couple more of those on Sunday - Andy Dalton threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham and a 57-yarder to A.J. Green. But Cincinnati had trouble moving the ball consistently for the third game in a row.

During the last three games, Cincinnati is only 9 of 39 on third down conversions. The lack of a running game has been a major factor. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, brought in to replace Cedric Benson, is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry.

``I've been harping on it - it's about running the football,'' Lewis said. ``In the first half we had 10 carries and averaged about 4.5 yards per carry. It was a good start.''

Green-Ellis was limited to 17 yards on six carries in the second half, and the Bengals finished with a total of only 76 yards on the ground.

Dalton was 31 of 46 for 381 yards, but threw three interceptions, including one that Sheldon Brown returned for a touchdown that put the Browns in control. Dalton also was sacked and fumbled in the closing minutes, ending any chance of a comeback.

The Bengals have scored 10 points in the third quarter this season, a factor in the last two losses.

``If you look in the past, that's been a strength,'' Lewis said. ``I can look at years past, particularly last year, and it was a strength of ours. It was a strength of ours in the preseason. But right now, it's not. And it's not that the defense has been dreadful, it's just that we've been dreadful on offense in the third quarter.''

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10 Questions in 10 days: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

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10 Questions in 10 days: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

It might be hard to remember now, but there was a week late last season for the Redskins where most informed people considered Kevin O'Connell on his way out. The talented young quarterbacks coach was being pursued by Chip Kelly to be offensive coordinator at UCLA, and the smart money suggested O'Connell would take the job. 

Except he didn't. 

O'Connell decided to stay with the Redskins and continue to work on Jay Gruden's staff. In turn, Washington promoted O'Connell to passing game coordinator, a new title that likely means much more involvement in game-planning. 

Working for Gruden comes with some perks. Sean McVay ran the offense for Gruden for a few seasons and landed a prime head coaching job with the Rams. McVay has plenty of his own talent, but throughout the NFL, Gruden's offense is widely respected. 

How will O'Connell's influence shape things this fall?

Consider that he deserves some credit for Kirk Cousins improved play out of the pocket in 2017. Now combine a coach that schemes plays for QBs on the move with new Washington passer Alex Smith, a strong runner and serious athlete, and this offense could look much more mobile in 2018. 

Gruden still has the final call on gameday, but O'Connell's voice will matter this year, more so than before. Bill Callahan and Matt Cavanaugh retain their roles and prominence in the offensive game-planning, for sure, but as Washington imports more run-pass option plays and QB movement, know that O'Connell is playing his part. 

Things will look different with Alex Smith running the Redskins offense than they did with Kirk Cousins at the helm. 

Just remember, O'Connell didn't turn down a job in Hollywood for no reason. 

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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 17, nine days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass catchers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass catchers are up. They are roughly ranked 2017 receiving yards, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teams and quarterbacks

Julio Jones, Falcons—Somehow the perception is that he had an off year in 2017 even though he still had 1,444 yards receiving. His touchdowns were down; his total of three TDs was a career worst for a full season. Still, he’s a beast to try to cover and even if you have him perfectly covered he can still make the catch on you. 

DeAndre Hopkins, Texans—Despite working with some shaky quarterbacks, Hopkins has managed to gain over 1,100 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. He is a highlight show regular and his 13 touchdowns led the league in 2017. 

Michael Thomas, Saints—The third-year player doesn’t have high name recognition outside of New Orleans and maybe fans of the other NFC South teams. Defensive coordinators certainly don’t sleep on him. Thomas is as consistent as they come, posting nine games with 80 or more receiving yards last season. 

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals—I keep wondering when he will show signs of his age (he’ll be 35 before the season starts). He didn’t last year, posting 109 receptions despite the fact that his quarterbacks were an aging Carson Palmer plus journeymen Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton. 

Mike Evans, Buccaneers—At 6-5, he is able to physically beat most cornerbacks. Evans will turn 25 just before the season starts and he got a five-year, $82.5 million contract extension. He is worth every bit of it. If Jameis Winston gets a big contract (something that is up in the air right now), he owes a good chunk of it to Evans. 

Best of the rest: T.Y. Hilton, Colts; Davante Adams, Packers; Alvin Kamara (RB), Saints; Zach Ertz (TE), Eagles

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 9
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 23
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 46

The Redskins last played a game 198 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 54 days. 

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