The expectations clearly are raised for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati tries to rebound from its first loss of the season as it visits The Coliseum to face the Tennessee Titans.
The Bengals, who have not made the playoffs since 1990, opened a season with four straight wins for the first time since 1988, the last time they appeared in the Super Bowl. Last Sunday night, Cincinnati nearly overcame 12 penalties and a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit before suffering a 23-20 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“We’ve fought our tails off for five weeks in a row and now, as players and coaches, we work on making some corrections,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We didn’t play well enough to win at Jacksonville, but we showed we’re a team that will keep playing even when things are tough. And we’re 4-1.”
That record has the Bengals atop the AFC North, but is not enough to please Chad Johnson. The two-time Pro Bowl receiver caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer, but battled double coverage for much of the game and finished with just five catches for 52 yards. He also complained Palmer was not getting him the ball enough.
“It’s not a selfish act,” Johnson said Monday. “Everyone considers me a game breaker. One play, I can change the entire game. All I want is the opportunity to do that. That’s it. Now if you give me those opportunities and I don’t get it done, I can’t say nothing. When I don’t get the opportunity, I’ve got to be able to voice myself here.
“I’ve done enough here to where I think I should be able to do that, for real. Think about it. I’m not a bad guy. I’m not a knucklehead. I do everything the right way.”
Palmer did not take offense to the complaints of his No. 1 receiver.
“He just wants the ball. He just wants to win and he’s frustrated and I don’t blame him,” Palmer said. “Nobody is going to let him make 10 catches for 200 yards. We just need to do more things to get him the ball and have him make plays when he gets an opportunity.”
Palmer and Johnson would benefit from the return of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, though the receiver has been downgraded to doubtful with a bruised hand and may have to miss a second straight game.
Palmer was 22-of-33 for 239 yards and a pair of TDs against Jacksonville, and now he can tie the NFL record of nine straight games with a passer rating of at least 100. Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning had nine straight games with a passer rating of at least 100 last season.
The Titans are very aware of Palmer’s ability. Tennessee offensive coordinator Norm Chow held that position at Southern California when Palmer won the Heisman Trophy and led the Trojans to a share of the national title in 2002.
“The Bengals have finally become what they’ve been working towards for a number of years and that’s a very good football team with a solid quarterback, talented, gifted receivers, a good runner, a veteran offensive line and a very aggressive defense,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
Tennessee rebounded from a 31-10 loss to Indianapolis two weeks ago by defeating the Houston Texans last Sunday, 34-12.
Steve McNair became the 49th player in NFL history to pass for 25,000 yards and the Titans sacked David Carr seven times as Fisher picked up his 100th career win. McNair was 22-of-31 for 220 yards, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another.
“We didn’t turn the ball over,” McNair said. “We did the things we have been doing to make big plays. We minimized mistakes. When you don’t turn the ball over, you have a great chance to win.”
McNair was added to the Titans’ injury report Friday because of back spasms and is listed as questionable, but downplayed the seriousness of the situation.
“It’s something I’ve dealt with from time-to-time throughout my career,” he said. “It just got a little tight (Thursday) night, and we’re working through it.”
Chris Brown carried 22 times for 78 yards against Houston and is seeking his first 100-yard game of the season. He ran for 147 yards and a TD in a 27-20 victory over Cincinnati last Oct. 31.