CINCINNATI — The 50th season in Bengals history started with banners and on-field honors for some of the franchise’s greatest players. It’s quickly turned into a reminder that the last half of their history has been more frustrating than anything else.
The Bengals remain winless after the Packers rallied for a 27-24 overtime victory at Lambeau Field on Sunday. They’re 0-3 for the 14th time in franchise history, leaving them with long odds of ending their most stubbornly enduring streak.
Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest stretch of postseason futility in league history. The Bengals are 0-3 for the first time since 2008 , when they finished 4-11-1. Odds are they’re not going to be able to pull out of it.
No NFL team has lost its first three games and reached the playoffs since the 1998 Buffalo Bills. The Bengals have never finished with a winning record after losing their first three games. The best they could muster were 8-8 finishes in 1984 and in 2003, Marvin Lewis’ first season as head coach.
Lewis is in the final year of his contract, so this 0-3 carries a lot more weight. There’s a chance to stop the tailspin next week at Cleveland — also 0-3 — before a home game against Buffalo (2-1) and a bye week.
The offense in Green Bay was better under new coordinator Bill Lazor, who took over for the fired Ken Zampese after a 13-9 loss to Houston . A.J. Green caught 10 passes for 111 yards and his first touchdown after getting 10 catches in the first two games combined.
The Bengals scored a touchdown on their first possession, ending a drought of 25 series without getting into the end zone. But they managed only three points in the second half, a familiar problem from last season when they’d have fast starts and accomplish little after halftime.
“Everything is a process,” said Green, who had openly lobbied to get more passes after the 0-2 start. “I feel like we took a step forward.”
The historically bad offense was the main problem in the first two games, while the defense played well overall. In Green Bay, the defense contributed William Jackson III’s interception return for a touchdown that helped the Bengals surge ahead 21-7, but they couldn’t contain Aaron Rodgers when it mattered.
He completed 10 of 12 passes for 71 yards during a 12-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in his touchdown to Jordy Nelson with 17 seconds left, tying it 24-24. Rodgers’ 72-yard completion in overtime set up the winning field goal and got his first career victory in overtime — he’d been 0-7, including the playoffs.
“We should have stopped them,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “This one is going to hurt.”
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is eligible to return after completing a three-game suspension from the NFL for his latest egregious hit. He’s expected to start in Cleveland. Last year, he also served a three-game suspension, started the fourth game and was on the field for 34 of 45 plays during a 22-7 win over the Dolphins.
Bengals players locked arms as a sign of unity during the anthem in Green Bay. Lewis said he was proud of their gesture. He’s not sure whether they’ll do it again in Cleveland.
“I think this (anthem gestures) was something that had gone away and it got brought back to the forefront, for whatever reason,” Lewis said Monday. “This has got to be football, and our state of the union is urgency here, winning football games. And it’s very urgent right now.”