CINCINNATI (AP) -An offense with some of the biggest names in the game - Pro Bowl MVP quarterback Carson Palmer, Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson - is having trouble with a pretty common situation.
On third down, the high-powered Cincinnati Bengals go nowhere.
The Bengals (1-4) have been dismal the last two games on the down that matters most, setting up a pair of losses that have pushed their season to the brink. They failed to convert any of their seven third-down plays in a 34-13 loss to New England, and were only 1-of-11 in a 27-20 loss at Kansas City.
For an offense with so many weapons, it's fairly stunning.
Cincinnati's passing offense is still one of the league's most prolific, but it can't stay on the field long enough to score enough points.
Blame it on third down.
Hoping to remedy the problem, the Bengals spent extra time in practice Wednesday working on third-down plays.
``We hit it pretty good today in practice,'' Johnson said. ``Hopefully we can get out there and keep ourselves on the field Sunday, which will end up in points.''
Certainly that would help because it also would keep one of the league's worst defenses off the field longer. The Bengals' have given up the third-most yards and the fourth-most points in the league.
``It's a team thing,'' defensive captain John Thornton said. ``We don't convert on third down and it puts the defense back on the field.''
The last two games have dropped the Bengals to last in the AFC in converting third downs. They're making only one of three on the season.
Why so bad?
It's a complicated explanation.
The offensive line has been in disarray because of injuries. Right tackle Willie Anderson missed the Kansas City game with foot and knee injuries. Left tackle Levi Jones got benched during the game because of poor blocking, but is expected to start Sunday against the New York Jets (1-5).
The Bengals have missed running back Rudi Johnson as well. He sat out the Patriots game with a pulled hamstring, and had only four carries against the Chiefs.
Finally, the Bengals miss having a No. 3 receiver. Chris Henry is suspended for the first eight games for violating the NFL's conduct policy, and no one has emerged to assume his role.
Tab Perry was supposed to grow into the job, but a chronic hip problem ended his season on Tuesday, when he had surgery. Perry originally hurt the hip last season.
Receiver Antonio Chatman also is hurt again, limited by a hamstring injury. Chatman played in only three games last season because of a groin injury.
The Bengals don't throw to their tight ends or their running backs very often, further limiting their options. One telling statistic: Johnson and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh have accounted for 1,083 yards, which is nearly 60 percent of the team's offense.
That's way out of whack, but there's a chance to fix it on Sunday. The Jets have allowed opponents to convert 49 percent of their third downs, one of the league's worst in that category.
Palmer sensed a renewed enthusiasm to get it right, regardless of the opponent.
``Guys are fired up,'' he said after practice Wednesday. ``It felt like everybody wanted to play today, just to get this past month of bad taste out of our mouths. We can't wait until Sunday.''

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