CINCINNATI (AP)—Inspired by what passes for motivation around these parts, the Cincinnati Bengals found their resolve and got a win.
Finally. And barely.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a pair of touchdown passes to Chad Ocho Cinco, who celebrated by giving the head coach a kiss, and Cincinnati stopped a late 2-point conversion try Sunday, preserving a 21-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With the losses mounting and history beckoning, several Bengals tried to fire up their teammates. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth talked to the offense after practice on Saturday, and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh spoke up in the locker room before the game.
The message: Don’t be a doormat.
“We’re 0-8, but I think we’re a good 0-8 team, if that’s possible,” Houshmandzadeh said. “I was just telling them: Are we going to the playoffs? Probably not. But we’re all men and play with pride. Basically, play with pride and let’s try to make this thing look somewhat respectable.”
For one day, they were.
At 1-8, the Bengals are no longer on pace to be historically bad. Now merely dreadful, they were too much for the stunned Jaguars (3-5), who fell behind 21-3 before making it close.
Montell Owens returned a fumble 18 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, and David Garrard led a late drive that culminated in Maurice Jones-Drew’s 1-yard run with 1:17 to go. Garrard failed to squeeze a pass into double-covered Jerry Porter on the conversion try.
The game ended on one of those multiple-lateral plays that ended with the ball dribbling out of bounds. The 64,238 fans raised their arms in celebration of an unexpected win.
The Bengals were coming off the most lopsided back-to-back losses in franchise history. One more would have left them 0-9 for only the second time in team history.
“Being 0-for-whatever-it-was coming in, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of frustration for everybody, from the staff to the equipment managers,” said running back Cedric Benson, who ran for 104 yards and a touchdown. “Everybody’s trying to figure out what’s wrong.”
Now, the Jaguars have to do some figuring.
Again, they had problems trying to run the ball behind a patched-up line. Garrard threw his first interception in five games, breaking a streak of 166 passes without one. That rare, poor throw set up a touchdown that put the Bengals ahead 21-3.
Frustration boiled over as the Bengals pulled ahead. Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson and Whitworth were ejected for trading blows while blocking each other on a play.
“We’re not functioning with a high level of confidence,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’re missing a spark, and we’re trying to find it. It hasn’t been good enough, and I’ve said it enough different ways.
“I’m not in a good mood right now.”
Fitzpatrick, who studied the laws of economics at Harvard, helped the law of averages catch up with his winless team. The scrambling quarterback looked a lot more comfortable in his fourth straight start for the injured Carson Palmer, going 21-of-31 for 162 yards.
He gave them hope on the opening drive.
In their eight previous opening drives this season, the Bengals failed to get a first down. This time, Fitzpatrick completed seven of eight passes and broke loose on a pair of long scrambles. Ocho Cinco made a diving 2-yard catch in the corner of the end zone, then ran along the sideline with both arms outstretched in wonder.
Indeed, it was a wonder: The offense’s first touchdown in the first quarter this season.
Fitzpatrick was inspired by Whitworth’s get-tough speech to the rest of the offense a day earlier.
“We were starting to let teams think they could come in here and walk over us,” Whitworth said. “I told the guys the last thing we are going to do is be a joke or a punk to somebody.”
After his 10-yard touchdown catch made it 14-0, Ocho Cinco flipped the ball to the official, went to the sideline and gave coach Marvin Lewis a peck on the cheek, the second time he’s done that this season.
“I think that’s his way of telling me to relax,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t work, obviously.”
The Bengals were sweating it out at the end. The Jaguars are the only team in the league with all of its games decides by seven points or fewer this season, and made this one close, too. It ended as another near-miss.
“I know we’re a good team, so to be behind the 8-ball like this is unbelievable,” Jaguars defensive lineman Reggie Hayward said. “Getting upset won’t stop the pain.”
K Josh Scobee, who broke his right hand a week earlier making a tackle, kicked field goals of 52 and 26 yards with a cast on his right arm. It was his fourth field goal of 50 yards or longer this season. … Benson became the first Bengal to run for 100 yards this season. … Johnson’s two touchdown catches matched his total in the first eight games.