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The Boston Globe

Sports

Bengals’ offense embarrassed in Cleveland

CINCINNATI — All of the Bengals’ talent couldn’t get them even one touchdown.

And it captured their attention.

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A 17-6 loss in Cleveland on Sunday left the Bengals totally surprised and even a bit embarrassed. They felt very good about their offense heading into the game, but couldn’t even get into the end zone one time.

Surprising? More like shocking.

‘‘I still feel like we have a great offensive group in my room,’’ coordinator Jay Gruden said on Monday. ‘‘They’re talented. Our offensive line is solid. Our receiving corps is excellent. We have great tight ends. We have backs to choose from, and our quarterback is a solid quarterback in the NFL.

‘‘So for us to score 6 points anywhere against anybody is shocking, quite honestly. And it’s something we have to fight out of.’’

The Bengals (2-2), who play host to the Patriots (4-0) on Sunday, wasted a chance to take control of the AFC North. The Bengals have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons as a wild card, but believed they were ready to move ahead of Super Bowl-champion Baltimore and Pittsburgh and claim the title.

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They beat the Steelers, 20-10, in the second week of the season, but came apart in Cleveland against the Browns (2-2), who prevented the Bengals’ offense from doing anything consistently.

It was the first time Cincinnati’s offense failed to score a touchdown since a 19-13 loss at Houston in the first round of the playoffs last season. Leon Hall returned an interception for Cincinnati’s only touchdown in that one.

After adding rookie running back Giovani Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert to help the passing game, the Bengals thought they had enough options to score points on anyone. The loss in Cleveland was an eye-opener.

‘‘When you don’t score a touchdown in a game in the NFL, you’re going to be hard-pressed to win,’’ coach Marvin Lewis said Monday. ‘‘Basically third down was our demise.’’

The Bengals were only 4 of 14 on third down. Their biggest failing came on a fourth-and-1 play at the Cleveland 7-yard line in the second quarter when Lewis decided to go for it trailing 7-3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was dropped for a loss of 2 yards as the Browns swarmed into the backfield.

Cincinnati ran only 20 times, including four scrambles by quarterback Andy Dalton, for 63 yards. Dalton was 23 of 42 for 206 yards with one interception, two sacks, and a passer rating of 58.2.

‘‘We obviously have to be more effective running the football still, and continue to commit to running the football and stay with it, and make positive plays in the running game and not get spooked away from it too often,’’ Lewis said.

Dalton was off target at times and aimed for A.J. Green on 15 of his 42 throws. The All-Pro receiver caught seven of the passes for 51 yards, the longest catch only 16 yards. Bernard caught six passes out of the backfield for 38 yards.

A lot of the focus is on Dalton, who is in his third season as the starter. He opened the season with one of his best games, completing a career-high 78.7 percent of his throws during a 24-21 loss at Chicago. He had two of the Bengals’ four turnovers during a 34-30 win over Green Bay last week.

Immediately after the loss at Cleveland, Lewis said he would reserve judgment about how Dalton played until after he could review the video. A day later, he said there was a lot of blame to go around.

‘‘There’s a lot of question about how Andy did,’’ Lewis said. ‘‘I thought he made a lot of good throws. He did a lot of good things. He stayed composed throughout the game. There are some things that he knows he can do better and that he will do better.

‘‘We also have to help him out and make sure we’re in the right spots all the time for him, so it doesn’t all fall on his shoulders — as goes the quarterback’s job in the NFL.’’

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