Bengals limp into bye week with mixed feelings about win

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals' locker room was a contrast of emotions on Sunday following their 37-34 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There was happiness about the Week 8 win, eagerness to get out the door for the Week 9 bye, sadness about the loss of defensive end Carl Lawson, and general puzzlement about what to take away from the game.

"A win is a win, so you feel good, but this one feels a little weird," linebacker Preston Brown said. "We've got to find a way to do it on defense, but luckily our offense helped us out."

If it was possible to be elated and frustrated at the same time, that was certainly the postgame mood. The Bengals (5-3) picked off quarterback Jameis Winston four times -- enough to get him benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick -- but they also gave up 576 total yards of offense and 18 points in the fourth quarter alone.

On the other side, the offense raced out to a 27-9 lead in the first half, put up more than 400 yards of total offense, and executed a last-minute drive that ended in a game-winning field goal. But their lead evaporated in the second half thanks to a combination of poor defense and four straight three-and-outs that netted a total of 14 yards.

"Obviously we wish we would have played better in the second half and made the game a little easier than having to drive down and kick a field goal with no time left. We had the opportunity to do that, but we didn't. That is where it's disappointing. Offensively we didn't play the same way we did in the first half and we weren't getting first downs. We had way too many three-and-out drives, and in that way, it's disappointing. But we won. To be 5-3 right now is huge."

It's no wonder Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he was disappointed in how the team played.

"We've got an opportunity to keep playing and make plays, and we're not making plays," Lewis said. "Those are makeable plays we have to do and we have to understand. We've got to figure it out."

Lewis noted several issues with the defense, which features several young players who he said need to adjust and mature quickly.

"They're trying to do too much at times," Lewis said. "They're trying to get out of their job to do something else. Just do your job first and everything will happen. Everything will fit together. You don't have to [do everything]. Make sure you understand the urgency of what [your] responsibility is on this particular play -- plain, flat and simple, that's what it is. Just do [your] particular job with the urgency on this particular play and let the other guys work and understand it."

The bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Bengals, who need to do a serious reassessment of their defense, which has given up at least 480 yards of offense in each of their past three games. Their offense has been inconsistent for weeks. And their injury list has seriously piled up, with seven starters out before Sunday's game. Clint Boling also left the game because of an injury and Lawson tore his ACL and is out for the season.

Those mixed feelings will linger over the next week. While everything is in front of the Bengals in the second half of the season, the past few games probably leave them with a bitter taste in their mouths.

"We're very happy," safety Jessie Bates said. "It could be a lot worse and it could be a lot better. Being 5-3 going into the bye week, guys are going to be able to go home and see their families and kind of press the restart button and get this thing going. The second part of the season will be very special for us."