CINCINNATI (AP) — Third-and-1. Third-and-2. Might as well be third-and-50. The Bengals are at their worst on the most important down, and it's starting to catch up with them.
They were only 2 of 14 on third downs Sunday during a 17-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Given two chances to pull the game out in the closing minutes, the Bengals (3-2) couldn't keep moving the ball. They had to settle for a field goal attempt that Mike Nugent missed before Andy Dalton threw a game-ending interception.
In the last two games, the Bengals are only 4 of 25 on third down. They've come to rely on big plays for points. Forced to grind it out against the Dolphins, they couldn't do it.
Six times, they failed to convert on third-and-5 or shorter.
"We had too many third-and-very-long situations," coach Marvin Lewis on Monday. "There were a couple second-and-2s and third-and-2s that we've got to convert to first downs. That will keep us moving the football down the field a little better."
Dalton and the running backs repeatedly came up short, a major concern heading into a game Sunday in Cleveland (0-5). Dalton was only 2 of 11 for 17 yards on third down throws. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried nine times overall in the game for only 14 yards against the league's top run defense.
Cincinnati let Cedric Benson leave as a free agent and replaced him with Green-Ellis, hoping to get a more diversified running back. It hasn't worked out so far. Green-Ellis is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry and has seven catches for 48 yards.
Green-Ellis watched extra video on Monday trying to find reasons for the problems.
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