The Cincinnati Bengals firmly believe they're still on the road to respectability, just as the Kansas City Chiefs are wondering if they'll ever hit rock bottom.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals firmly believe they're still on the road to respectability, just as the Kansas City Chiefs are wondering if they'll ever hit rock bottom.
One thing is certain: There could be a lot of people wearing black inside Arrowhead Stadium when the teams meet on Sunday.
The Bengals, coming off a confidence-boosting win over the Giants last weekend, visit a disheveled Chiefs team that's floundered to six straight losses. Kansas City still has only led in regulation once this season, and its only win came after a franchise-record comeback.
"They're going to come in here and feel like they have a good chance to win another game," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said, "but if we work on our attitude, our effort and the things we did Monday night, clean up one or two things, I think we're going to play good. That's the focus."
Been the focus all season, too.
It hasn't mattered.
Kansas City's latest letdown came last Monday night, when it rallied in the final minutes to force overtime at Pittsburgh. Matt Cassel promptly threw an interception after the Chiefs won the coin toss, once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Chiefs (1-8) were expected to contend for the AFC West this season. Instead, they've committed a league-leading 30 turnovers, suffered season-ending injuries to three starters, had both of its quarterbacks go down with concussions, and shown a startling lack of professionalism.
That became evident Monday night, when the Chiefs were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after a group dance celebration following a touchdown that ultimately never happened.
Little wonder there's such unrest in Kansas City.
Long one of the NFL's most passionate fan bases, Chiefs supporters have turned increasingly hostile in recent weeks. Twice fans have paid for banners to be flown behind airplanes asking for general manager Scott Pioli to be fired — they haven't gotten their wish yet — and this Sunday, they're expected to come dressed in black to mourn another lost season.
They should blend in well with all the Bengals fans dressed in black and orange.
"We're frustrated. Everybody is frustrated. None of us envisioned this, or none of us want to be 1-8, and the fans are frustrated as well," said Cassel, who lost his job to Brady Quinn, only to get it right back when Quinn sustained his second concussion three weeks ago.
Quinn still had not been cleared early in the week, meaning Cassel will start Sunday.
"At the same time, we have a job to do," Cassel continued, "and we're going to go out there and do our job to the best of our ability. Hopefully, that results in a win and we can change the atmosphere and the environment around here."
The environment is slowly starting to change in Cincinnati.
The Bengals (4-5) made the playoffs last year for only the third time since the 1990 season, which is also the last time they won a postseason game. They haven't made it in back-to-back years since 1981-82, something that seemed all but written off just a week ago.
Cincinnati started off 3-1, the only loss coming at perennial contender Baltimore, but then came a string of four straight losses that left some cynics saying, "Same 'ol Cincy."
Well, the Bengals showed last Sunday that's not the case.
Facing the defending Super Bowl champions, Cincinnati roughed up Giants quarterback Eli Manning, forced four second-half turnovers and saw second-year QB Andy Dalton throw a career-best four touchdown passes — each to different receivers — in a 31-13 rout.
"If you look at all our games and just evaluate us on a game-by-game basis, we felt that was the standard of how we should play each week," Bengals cornerback Chris Crocker said. "You can always every week make adjustments and get better. That's the thing this week, it's coming out and playing just like we played last week, and just try to build on it."
The Bengals still have plenty of work left — they're two games behind second-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North, and three back of the Ravens. But they're also beginning a stretch of five games against teams with sub-.500 records, starting with lowly Kansas City.
"We had a good attitude going last week," Dalton said. "The way we started the game, we started fast, scoring quick. We've just got to use that as momentum. We've got to keep it going, we've got to take it into this week and take it on the road against Kansas City.
"We've got to come out and play the way we did on Sunday."