CINCINNATI (AP) -Over the weekend, the Cincinnati Bengals turned back their clocks ... five years, to the bad old days.
Halfway home, their season's done. And the ugliness is far from over.
The coach is tired of talking about it. The players don't know how it's gotten so bad. The sun has already set on this season with eight games left.
Sound faintly familiar?
A 33-21 loss in Buffalo on Sunday left the Bengals marooned at 2-6, all by their lonesome in last place in the AFC North. It's their worst midseason record since they went 1-7 in 2002, on their way to a 2-14 finish that doomed coach Dick LeBeau and opened the way for Marvin Lewis to take over.
They're having a throwback season.
``It's kind of all for nothing when you're 2-6, really,'' receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said Monday. ``You're 2-6, nobody cares. You're losing, nobody cares. It's all for nothing.''
The latest loss pushed them over the edge.
Coach Marvin Lewis reassured them last week that they still had a chance to make the playoffs. He posted the AFC teams' records on the board in the meeting room, showing his players how things could still work out if they got on a run starting with a victory in Buffalo.
One player after another called it a must-win game, underscoring the dire situation. Quarterback Carson Palmer suggested the Bengals could win out and finish 11-5. Running back Rudi Johnson said he was confident of a win.
So much talk.
The offense managed only a pair of touchdowns against one of the NFL's lowest-rated defenses, Chad Johnson dropped a potential touchdown pass that could have changed the game, and the defense had another mind-boggling collapse.
The Bills (4-4) piled up 23 first downs and 479 yards against a defense ranked second-worst in the league. Only Cleveland has given up more yards. The Bengals and the winless Dolphins each have given up 244 points, the most in the league.
The defining moment of the game and the season came with 2:22 to go, when running back Marshawn Lynch was trapped in the backfield by three Bengals defenders. He slipped out of linebacker Rashad Jeanty's attempted tackle, then eluded defensive end Justin Smith and cornerback Deltha O'Neal.
Once Lynch got away from those three, there was nobody left to catch him. His 56-yard touchdown run clinched the game for Buffalo and left Lewis stewing about another defensive breakdown.
After the game, Lewis called the play ``ridiculous.'' A day later, he had no desire to rehash the poor tackling that has been the hallmark of his defense all season.
``Again, you go back to the same dead horse,'' Lewis said. ``It's dead enough. We have to make the play in the backfield. We have to tackle better.''
After improving in the running game the past two weeks, the Bengals significantly regressed. Rudi Johnson carried nine times for 11 yards, and Kenny Watson ran four times for 11 yards. Cincinnati averaged 5 feet per carry.
With so much at stake, they were so bad all-around, dousing what little hope was left.
No. 3 receiver Chris Henry returns from his eight-game suspension this week, giving the offense a boost, and running back Chris Perry will rejoin the team in practice on Wednesday. Things would have been looking up, if they'd won in Buffalo.
Perry broke a bone in his lower right leg last season, and started this one on the physically unable to perform list. The Bengals will have to decide in the next three weeks whether to activate him or put him on an injury list for the rest of the season.
Asked how he feels, Perry said, ``I'm good enough to practice.''
At this point, that's about all they've got left.

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