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Lewis wants Bengals to forget football during bye week

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The Sports Xchange

CINCINNATI — During the bye week, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis wants his players to get reacquainted with their families, to spend time with teammates, while using the time off get refocused and refreshed.

Lewis’ only directive to his team was that they don’t concern themselves with the next game, albeit an important one.

“The players will not get ready for the Steelers this week,” Lewis said.

The unbeaten Bengals will face Pittsburgh for the first time this season at Heinz Field on Nov. 1.

It’s a key AFC North matchup which could put Cincinnati in the driver’s seat in a division it leads by two games.

Even so, Lewis isn’t about to treat this bye week any different than normal.

“It’s not the biggest game of the season, it’s one of 16,” he said of the game against the rival Steelers.

“The bye comes at a good time for us. Opportunity for us to improve, look at ourselves, refocus, repoint and push forward. We’ve got guys who are bumped and bruised. Good chance for them to get healed up.”

Lewis said his team has a lot of improvement to make, although the weaknesses are difficult to spot.

Cincinnati is 6-0, matching its best start in franchise history, also accomplished in 1975 and ’88.

The Bengals have never started 7-0.

If there’s one thing Lewis’ squad has done a good job of so far is turning a deaf ear to the hype.

“It’s a great thing to be 6-0, there’s no doubt about it,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “But it doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished anything.”

Fair or unfair, this Bengals season ultimately will be judged in the postseason where they haven’t won a game since 1990, the sixth-longest playoff drought in the NFL.

Cincinnati qualified for the playoffs the past four seasons but lost in the first round each time.

Much of the burden for those defeats was placed on the shoulders of quarterback Andy Dalton.

But, that’s the “old” Dalton. This year’s version entered the bye week with a 116.1 passer rating, ranking second in the NFL behind only Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Dalton has passed for 1,761 yards and 14 touchdowns with only two interceptions in six games, giving every indication that he’s poised to put the postseason misery behind him.

“The biggest thing is we’re winning,” said Dalton, who has completed 67 percent of his passes this season. “This is where you want to be … undefeated going into the bye.

“The bye’s going to hit at some point. This is a good time. We’ve have an opportunity to get fresh. It’s a ten-week season after that.”

The Bengals return to work on Monday to prepare for Pittsburgh, which has been down two quarterbacks in recent weeks with injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick.

A win would open up a three-game lead in the division for Cincinnati, which won at Baltimore last month, but still has two games remaining with the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh.

“We’ll keep reinforcing the positives and correcting the negatives,” Lewis said. “(For now) they’ve got to refresh, regroup. They’ve got to get time with their families and the important people in their lives.

“Good opportunity to fellowship with their teammates and grow closer together. So they can come back here, put their blinders back on and get focused.”

NOTES: Cornerback Darqueze Dennard recorded his first career interception last Sunday when he picked off E.J. Manuel’s pass in the first quarter. The second-year player out of Michigan State got the start in place of Leon Hall, who was inactive due to a back injury. Dennard said Hall and veteran Adam Jones have helped keep him focused on improving even with limited playing time. “They know what kind of player I can be,” Dennard said. “They always push me, try to make me better. You never know when your number’s going to be called. Leon and Adam do a great job motivating me.” … Defensive end Michael Johnson left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter because of a leg injury after recording four tackles and a quarterback hit. Through six weeks, Johnson had 16 tackles and one sack. “We’ve got some guys who are bumped and bruised,” coach Marvin Lewis said of the bye week. “It’s a good chance to get them healed.” .. Linebacker Vincent Rey was carted off the field during Sunday’s game because of an ankle injury. He returned to the sideline in uniform and under his own power, but did not reenter the game. Rey leads the Bengals with 57 tackles, including 35 solo, and has an interception. He would be a significant loss for Cincinnati’s defense but the bye week comes at a good time for Rey and other banged-up Bengals. “We’ve got some guys who are bumped and bruised,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “It’s a good chance to get them healed.” … Cornerback Leon Hall was inactive last Sunday because of a back injury. Darqueze Dennard started in his place. Hall has 13 tackles this season. The bye week has come at a good time for him.


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