By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) — An offense featuring Andy Dalton and A.J. Green can barely get a first down these days, leaving the Bengals on track to finish as worst in the NFL.
Nobody knows how to get more out of it in the final two games.
The Bengals (5-9) managed only one first down and 42 total yards in the first half of a 34-7 loss at Minnesota on Sunday. Dalton’s interception was returned for a touchdown as the Vikings surged ahead 24-0.
It wasn’t an anomaly. Since pulling ahead of the Steelers 17-0 in a Monday night game that turned into a 23-20 loss , Cincinnati’s offense has evaporated.
The Bengals have managed only two touchdowns and a field goal in the past 10 quarters, unable to string first downs together let alone score points.
“I think it’s disappointing that 14 days ago, we were 17-0 in the first half against the division champs, had a heck of a momentum going, felt good running and throwing, and in that 14 days now have really turned out two poor performances,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said.
Things could get worse Sunday when they host the Lions (8-6) , who are still in contention for a NFC wild-card playoff spot.
Right tackle Andre Smith went on injured reserve Wednesday with a bad knee suffered in the loss to the Vikings. Left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi also left that game with a shoulder injury and missed practice on Wednesday.
The Bengals rank last in the league on offense. They’ve finished last only once, in 2008. They rank last in rushing at 77 yards per game, which would smash the previous club record of 89.9 yards per game in 1995.
“You don’t want to be last at anything,” Dalton said Wednesday. “We’ve got to get better.”
The passing game has crumbled in the past 10 quarters as well. Dalton is 30 of 64 for 315 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions over that span. Green has had 20 passes thrown his way, but he has only seven catches for 94 yards and no touchdowns.
The overriding question is how much focus the Bengals will bring to the last two weeks with their playoff hopes crushed, their roster depleted and their head coach expected to leave after the season.
Marvin Lewis is in the final year of his deal and is denying reports that he’s decided not to return.
“Complacency can set in, but that’s what you have to fight at this point,” Dalton said “We still have two games left, there’s still competition out there, and you want to win every time you’re out there.”
Linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Nick Vigil (ankle) also were held out of practice. Burfict has missed the past two games. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick practiced on a limited basis after missing the past two games with a concussion. Safety George Iloka (shoulder) and cornerback Darqueze Dennard (knee) also were limited.
Running back Joe Mixon fully practiced on Wednesday, an indication he will play against the Lions. He missed the past two games with a concussion.
The Bengals signed offensive tackle Justin Murray off the Saints practice squad, filling Smith’s roster spot. He signed with Denver as an undrafted free agent last year, spent the season on the Broncos practice squad, and was waived in the final cuts this year. He’s been on the Buccaneers and Saints practice squads this season. Linebacker Connor Harris was signed to the practice squad.
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