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Bengals survive another sloppy game

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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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Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

Steelers will require fans to wear a mask at Heinz Field, should they be allowed

If fans are permitted to attend Pittsburgh Steelers home games this fall, there's one item they can't forget: a mask.

Steelers' director of communication, Burt Lauten, explained the decision to require fans to wear a mask in a statement on Tuesday.

"Our goal is to still have fans at Heinz Field this year with the understanding that social distancing, as well as all fans being required to wear masks, will play a role in the capacity to ensure a safe atmosphere," Lauten said, via ESPN. "We will continue to work with the NFL and public health officials to finalize plans for fans to attend our home games."

Pittsburgh was one of the first franchises to alter its ticketing plans this season, as they decided in May to trim half of their individual game ticket sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The news comes just hours after their AFC North rival, the Baltimore Ravens, announced that M&T Bank Stadium will be capped at less than 14,000 fans this fall, should fans be allowed to attend games.

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In June, The Athletic reported that the NFL will not place a limit on capacity at games, allowing each individual team to make the decision themselves.

"Attendance will be a state-by-state, county-by-county thing," an anonymous NFL source told The Athletic. "It will not be a one size fits all."

Additionally, the NFL has said that the first 6-8 rows of lower bowl sections, including field-level suites, will be blocked off this fall to help slow the spread of the virus. Those sections will be covered with tarps, which teams can use to sell advertising, similarly to what the Premier League in England has done.

With training camp still a few weeks away, there are a lot of virus-related questions the NFL must answer beforehand.

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Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

Howard is a finalist for 2021 five-star defensive end Korey Foreman

The Howard University football program has moved a step closer to landing perhaps its highest-ranked recruit in years, if not ever.

Five-star defensive end Korey Foreman trimmed his college choice to seven on Wednesday evening, and the Howard Bison were on the list. The other six schools were Southern California (USC), LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, and Georgia.

In Foreman's tweet, he explained why Howard, a historically Black college (HBCU), was included in his list.

"I am a young black man that is happy and proud of my race," he wrote. "The Black Lives Matter movement is and forever will be powerful and definitely never forgotten. These are the schools I will now be focusing on the most. Set the standard and .. be different."

The news comes just a week after the Howard basketball program landed five-star Makur Maker, who chose the Bison over Division I schools UCLA, Kentucky and Memphis. Maker was the highest-ranked recruit Howard basketball has landed in its history. Mikey Williams, a top-five basketball recruit in the 2023 class, has already hinted about potentially playing at an HBCU as well.

Foreman, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end, is projected to commit to USC, according to 247Sports. Foreman is ranked the No. 2 overall prospect on 247Sports recruiting rankings for the 2021 class.

However, if the last few weeks are any indication, Howard can't be ruled out.

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