EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J. (AP) -The main attraction in the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room after they lost 26-14 to the New York Jets on Sunday was a player who never took the field.
Carson Palmer, the starting quarterback, stood patiently answering questions about the elbow injury that kept him out for the second time this season.
He was frustrated - both about the state of his elbow and the winless state of his team.
``You can see some good things but you can't see enough,'' he said.
His absence wasn't why the Bengals lost. They've already dropped four games with Palmer, unquestionably one of the game's top quarterbacks.
They lost because they couldn't run the ball; couldn't stop the Jets often enough on third-and-7 or third-and-4; couldn't punt; couldn't return punts; and couldn't do any of the other little things that so often turn games.
ir faces: ``Oh well, another week, another loss. What else is new?''
``When we punted the football, we didn't punt it out of there deep enough. On the other side, we only had one good return. We were never able to flip the field position, which would have made a big difference,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ``The defense was playing on a short field almost the entire first half and most of the third quarter.''
True. But standard for the Bengals, who always play on a short field.
Without question, they are the best 0-6 team in the NFL. Actually, they are the only 0-6 team in the NFL because the other winless side, Detroit, is 0-5 after barely losing in Minneapolis. Two other winless teams, Houston and St. Louis, found ways to win Sunday.
Still, you can argue that at one level, the Bengals are better than all of them. With Palmer at QB, they nearly beat two of the NFL's best teams, taking the Giants into overtime on the same field at the Meadowlands and nearly beating Dallas on the road last week.
Close, of course, doesn't count.
Just check out these (losing) stats from Sunday:
ts: one gave Cincinnati the ball at its 3, and the second at its 8.
-Those two and a fair catch of a punt by Antonio Chatman at his 4 kept the Bengals in awful field position. So did some bad punting by Kyle Larson and some good return work by New York's Leon Washington. So the average starting position for the Bengals in the game was their 20; the average starting position for the Jets was their 46. You don't win much with those figures.
-Ryan Fitzpatrick, who didn't do badly as Palmer's replacement at quarterback, was Cincinnati's leading rusher with 23 yards on six carries, including a 10-yard scramble. The longest run by anyone else was 4 yards by Chris Perry, who finished with 14 yards on 11 carries. The Bengals had just 43 yards all day.
``Everyone will say that with a backup in there, we need to run the ball better,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``We will.''
The Bengals will do a lot of things, especially if Palmer, who stayed in New York to consult an elbow specialist, returns in the near future. There is talent on this team, including, obviously, the two starting wide receivers, Chad Whatamicallingmyselfthisweek and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
for last week's game.
OK, the running game is bad, something Lewis vowed to fix after, in standard coachspeak, he looks at the game tapes.
It's harder to fix a malaise. Getting rid of Lewis might be an answer, but the problem is above him.
He came into this season at 42-39 after taking over in 2003, remarkable after double-digit losing seasons by his predecessors. But he seems beaten down now by a front office that won't give him the tools (i.e. money, a general manager, scouts and the other implements) needed for a winning team.
The result?
Guys trooping into the locker room after a loss with no emotion - no slammed helmets, no scowls, no nothing.
Another week, another loss.

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