CINCINNATI (AP) -Two Pro Bowl receivers, not even one victory. It doesn't seem to add up.
Even though they've got one of the best receiving duos in the NFL, the winless Cincinnati Bengals are at the bottom of the league when it comes to moving the ball. They have the fewest yards on offense and third fewest in the air, a stunning departure from the last few years.
It's so bad that bragging has given way to rationalizing.
``There are really some positives about the past several weeks we've played,'' receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said on Wednesday. ``We've really been in every game. We really haven't been blown out.''
A 38-10 loss to Pittsburgh left them 0-7 for the first time since 2002, which is becoming a reference point. The Bengals also started 0-7 that season under coach Dick LeBeau, went to Houston and pulled off a 38-3 win over the Texans, who were favored for the first time in their brief history as an expansion team.
orst in franchise history.
Ocho Cinco, then known as Chad Johnson, and fellow receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh were second-year players then, still trying to find a niche in the offense. Ocho Cinco caught three passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in Houston; Houshmandzadeh caught three passes for 30 yards.
It was a start. Ocho Cinco has broken most of the team receiving records, catching a pass in 99 straight games. Houshmandzadeh tied for the league lead with 112 catches last season, his best yet.
This season, the offense has crashed. Ocho Cinco has only 27 catches for 268 yards and two touchdowns nearing the midpoint. Houshmandzadeh has 46 catches, second in the NFL, for 458 yards and three touchdowns.
One telling statistic: No receiver has a catch of longer than 26 yards. Defenses are allowing the two Pro Bowl receivers to make the short receptions that aren't adding up to much.
The Bengals tried to finally make a big play against the Steelers. Ryan Fitzpatrick, filling in indefinitely for the injured Carson Palmer, threw deep twice. On the second attempt, Ocho Cinco couldn't make a diving catch near the goal line with Cincinnati trailing 17-10.
After that, the team disintegrated, giving up three touchdowns.
way like that was very disappointing and frustrating. But it shows two things: It shows that we're close, and we can beat teams like Pittsburgh. But I think we need to do it once in order to gain confidence and know that we can win in that situation.''
The offense struggled in three of the four games Palmer played, scoring 12 or fewer points. With Palmer sidelined by a sore elbow, Fitzpatrick has taken over and led the Bengals to 14 and 10 points in their last two games. The Bengals failed to get a first down in their first five possessions against the Steelers. Fitzpatrick was sacked seven times and lost a fumble.
``Fitzy is getting better week in and week out,'' Ocho Cinco said. ``You don't get to see it, you might not understand it, but he's getting better. He's getting a lot more comfortable.
``He can throw it. He has a good arm. I mean, he's no golden boy No. 9 (Palmer), but we're not going to use him the same way we use No. 9.''
There's been one noticeable change in the two outspoken receivers during the 0-7 slide. In years past, they would get angry and complain loudly when they didn't get many passes thrown their way. So far, both have kept their emotions in control.
``I think that's been good,'' said coach Marvin Lewis, who got a peck on the cheek from Ocho Cinco in one game. ``As we've said in here, you don't have to look any further than the end of your nose to analyze why things are the way they are. And I think they've taken that to heart, to understand that they are two guys that can do something about it, and play better.''

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