The Cincinnati Bengals went into the season with the same goal they had last season. And the season before … and the season before that. ...
The Bengals, who visit the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, must first win a playoff game, though, before they can even begin thinking “Super Bowl.”
Cincinnati contended the past five seasons with a 52-27-1 record and five consecutive playoff berths. The Bengals have won at least nine games each year since 2011.
Yet, they lost in the first round of the playoffs in all five seasons. The Bengals’ streak stands as an NFL record with no other team in history having done it more than three consecutive years.
Cincinnati’s most recent playoff victory came in the wild-card round of the 1990 season. Its 25-year drought ranks as the sixth-longest in league history.
Marvin Lewis owns the NFL record for futility in the postseason at 0-7, but he earned a one-year contract extension in the off-season through 2017.
Thumbs up for Dalton
Former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton was having a career year last season when he fractured his right thumb in a Dec. 13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals were 10-3 when he was injured.
He missed the final three games and the playoff loss to the Steelers.
Dalton set a team record with a 106.2 passer rating, which was second in the NFL to Seattle’s Russell Wilson, and he completed a career-best 66.1 percent of his passes.
He is not off to as good a start this season, with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 93.8 passer rating. The Bengals are only 2-2.
Red zone woes
The Bengals rank 11th in total offense, and third in passing. But they are dead last in the red zone, converting only 30.8 percent of their opportunities into touchdowns.
Cincinnati went 1 for 3 in red-zone chances against the Miami Dolphins last Thursday. . .
The return of tight end Tyler Eifert, who missed the first four games while recovering from off-season ankle surgery, will help. Eifert was the team’s second-most targeted player in the red zone last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Bengals became a different defense last week in Vontaze Burfict’s return. The linebacker was suspended by the league for the first three games for “repeated violations of safety-related playing rules,” and the Bengals missed him.
He played 34 defensive snaps and made three tackles and had a pass deflection.
The Bengals ranked 10th in total defense with Burfict last season and expect to be a top-10 defense with him this season.