Bengals Are Down, but Still Not Out : Raiders: Cincinnati, which beat L.A. in overtime last season, will seek a repeat today and its first victory of '93.


Could it get any worse for this city's pro football fans?

Their team is winless through 10 games.

Players are pointing fingers at one another and at their coach.

The coach, Dave Shula, has called the Bengals the worst team in franchise history. Running back Harold Green, in turn, has questioned Shula's "skills and mentality."

But yes, it could get worse.

After suffering through all these losses, the city could suffer still another--the loss of the team itself.

Bengal management, unhappy with Riverfront Stadium, wants a new lease and stadium renovations and, in the best-case scenario, a new stadium. Total estimated cost: $150 million.

If not, Baltimore is starting to look better and better.

At first glance, it might appear this is the next-best thing to a bye week for the Raiders (6-4).

Cincinnati is last in the NFL in total offense with an average of 241.9 yards. With a 61.6 quarterback rating, Bengal quarterback David Klingler is ahead of only the Indianapolis Colts' Jack Trudeau and the San Diego Chargers' Stan Humphries in the AFC.

Klingler's rating doesn't figure to go up today against the top-ranked pass defense in the league. The Raiders' are giving up an average of only 147.3 yards through the air.

But all Raider Coach Art Shell has to do to motivate his team for the game is a flick of the wrist to start his movie projector.

The feature film this week at the Raiders' El Segundo training headquarters was last season's Bengal victory over the Raiders in Cincinnati, one of only five games the Bengals won all year. The Raiders lost in overtime after fumbling the overtime kickoff.

If Shell wants to provide further motivation, he might also show the film of last weekend's game. The Raiders dominated the Chargers, holding onto the ball for slightly less than 42 of the 60 minutes, but failed to get into the end zone, winning on Jeff Jaeger's four field goals, 12-7.

That is the crisis of the moment for the Raiders, whose season might best be symbolized by a leaky roof: Plug up one hole and another opens.

First, there was a running game stuck in neutral. The Raiders tried different combinations after injured tailback Nick Bell had tried their patience as they waited and waited for him to get better. Finally, they banished Bell to special teams.

Building their running game around rookie Greg Robinson, who has gained both confidence and yardage in impressive amounts in recent weeks, the Raiders have broken through and gained more than 100 yards on the ground in each of their last three games.

Then there was the matter of those miserable second-half performances. The Raiders couldn't seem to hold a lead, getting outscored in the second halves of their first nine games, 113-58. But last week, they held off the Chargers, successfully protecting a lead.

Now, it's the offense. The Raiders have scored only three touchdowns in their last three games.

The Bengals, however, have scored only one touchdown in their last two games and only 10 all season.

It's a young team. The coach is only 34. There are 16 rookies on the Cincinnati roster and 30 players with two years' experience or less.

Their prime need is leadership and they haven't always gotten it.

When the Bengals lost to the Houston Oilers two weeks ago, 38-3, Cincinnati offensive tackle Joe Walter, a nine-year veteran, accused several fellow veterans of laughing on the sidelines when the score reached 21-0.

Klingler, however, is not laughing.

He sees this agonizing season as a test of character for himself and his teammates.

"Who's going to hang in there?" he said. "Who's going to fold up the tent and go home? How are you going to react when times are not good?"

Losses on the field, laughing on the sidelines and finger-pointing in the locker room.

They haven't reacted well.

Raider Notes

Running back Napoleon McCallum underwent an emergency appendectomy in Cincinnati on Saturday and will be sidelined indefinitely.

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