CINCINNATI (AP)—The only thing bold about this offense was the jerseys.
Playing it close to the vest in their new orange threads, the Cincinnati Bengals pulled off the game’s only big play—a 76-yard touchdown pass to Matt Schobel—and beat the bumbling Dallas Cowboys 26-3 on Sunday.
It was fitting that a tight end who spent most of the season blocking broke open the game. Neither team wanted to open it up with their quarterbacks—one about to turn 41, the other still a novice.
“With a young quarterback, we’ve been staying in a lot and protecting,” said Schobel, who had only 11 catches in the first seven games. “We always say that when we have a chance, let’s make the most of it.”
Neither team cared to take many chances in this one.
The Bengals (3-5) turned four field goals by Shayne Graham and the one big play by Schobel into a soothing win. It was the type of game defensive-minded head coach Marvin Lewis would love to see more often.
Instead of relying on first-year quarterback Carson Palmer to win it with rainbow throws, the Bengals ground it out with short passes and lots of handoffs. Palmer was 21-of-32 for 212 yards without a sack, interception or long pass in a slog-it-out game plan that tested his patience.
“It’s extremely difficult,” said Palmer, who had a 2-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes. “The fans want to see you go deep, and you want to go deep, get the ball to Chad (Johnson) and see him do something funny.”
It was another unsettling setback for the Cowboys (3-5), who have lost four of their last five and fumbled away most of their hope for a second straight playoff appearance.
“That’s about as bad as you can get,” coach Bill Parcells said. “I’m really embarrassed for that kind of performance. There’s no explanation for it, except we’re poorly coached and we played bad. I don’t know where we go from here, if anywhere.
“I really don’t have much to say, fellows, except we were poorly prepared, we played poorly, we were inefficient and we were just awful.”
For the first time in franchise history, the Bengals came out in gaudy orange jerseys reminiscent of the XFL. The two offenses looked like something out of the ’40s.
Vinny Testaverde, who turns 41 next Saturday, had his worst game with the Cowboys. Throwing to an injury-depleted receiving corps, Testaverde was 18-of-30 for 207 yards with three interceptions and a fumble.
“I feel it’s my job to generate energy for our offense,” said Testaverde, who has thrown six interceptions in the last two games. “I didn’t do that today. It’s hard to put a finger on it.”
Owner Jerry Jones was already pondering changes for the next game against Philadelphia.
“Vinny’s been a real surprise of our season so far,” Jones said. “He had been our most positive surprise for us going into this game. Now we may have to look at what our other possibilities are as to any personnel changes. I won’t speak to that right now.”
Testaverde wasn’t the only culprit. The Cowboys failed to take advantage of the NFL’s softest run defense, and finished with their worst offensive showing since a 12-0 loss to New England last Nov. 16.
“The way we performed as a team is pitiful,” tight end Jason Whitten said.
Graham connected from 35, 47 and 45 yards in the first half—two of the kicks were set up by fumbles—and had a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys tried to set the tone early, going on fourth-and-inches from the Bengals 22 on the opening drive. Testaverde lost inches, and the Cowboys went into a shell.
Not even the war of words between chatty cousins Keyshawn Johnson of the Cowboys and Chad Johnson of the Bengals was much to talk about. Keyshawn had a fumble and four catches for 58 yards, failing to make much of an impact.
“We need to make changes, whatever they might be,” he said. “But it definitely has to be something.”
His cousin got so frustrated by Cincinnati’s slog-it-out offense that he tackled cornerback Lance Frazier at the end of a play late in the third quarter. Lewis had a long talk with him on the bench, and Johnson had six catches the rest of the way, finishing with eight overall for 74 yards.
“I was fine,” he insisted. “I didn’t have any problem.”
The Cowboys ran for only 109 yards against a defense allowing an average of 155. Eddie George had only 23 yards on eight carries. … The crowd of 65,721 was the second-largest in Paul Brown Stadium’s five seasons. … The Bengals also will wear their orange jerseys against the Browns.