GREEN BAY, Wis -- The Cincinnati Bengals are getting desperate, and they should be.
They're 0-3, and the window is closing.
That quiet desperation was evident in the locker room after a 27-24 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The defiant anger that permeated the locker room after a loss to the Houston Texans had been replaced by something else.
On Sunday, the Bengals were more solemn than angry. They know they're letting the season slip away.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, only three teams that started 0-3 have gone to the playoffs since the NFL went to a 12-team format in 1990: the 1998 Bills (finished 10-6, lost in wild-card round), 1995 Lions (finished 10-6 and lost in wild-card round) and 1992 Chargers (finished 11-5 and lost in the divisional round).
There's hope, albeit slim hope. And it starts with the winless Cleveland Browns next week.
"It's very frustrating," said Bengals rookie Carl Lawson, who had 2.5 sacks on Sunday. "But my mind is on Cleveland right now. You just have to keep moving forward. It hurts, but you have to find something to build on. You can't be down in the dumps because you won't get any better."
The Browns have played the Bengals tough as of late, and despite their record, they've been close in every game. They'll be just as desperate to win as the Bengals, but they simply haven't been good enough.
The Bengals knew they were good enough to beat the Packers on Sunday. They just couldn't get out of their own way en route to blowing a 21-7 lead.
To see it end in the way it did, with Michael Johnson jumping offside in overtime to give Aaron Rodgers a free pass to make a 72-yard completion, had to be agonizing.
"If we play like that clean up a couple self-inflicted plays we can beat any team!!! Crazy," Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap posted on his social media account after the game.
"It is what it is. We've got to still go," said linebacker Kevin Minter. "We've just got to do a better job. We had the foot on their neck. We need to stomp on them. We need to cut it off."
Coach Marvin Lewis and his staff talked all summer about pulling out those tough victories. By losing the way they did, the Bengals proved they are no better than last season's team. In their past 11 games, the Bengals are 1-9-1 in contests decided by a touchdown or less. Closing out games has been their biggest hurdle to overcome.
Some in the Cincinnati locker room, perhaps trying to find the silver lining, said they thought they took some steps forward in Week 3. They pointed to William Jackson's interception return for a touchdown, called Lawson a "beast" for his big day against Rodgers, and said the offense is getting better after finally getting in the end zone.
Perhaps that rings a little hollow after a loss, but the Bengals were likely trying to boost morale. They have a chance next week against a Cleveland team that is struggling as much as Cincinnati, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict returns from suspension.
If the Bengals get their first win against the Browns, they'll be back at home the following week against the Bills with a chance to reach 2-3 before the bye. It's not where they wanted to be, but it's a chance to salvage their season.
"Good teams have a short-term memory," Minter said. "You have to take a blow to the jaw and keep fighting."