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CINCINNATI – Coordinator Hue Jackson was going over the Bengals' many offensive failures with a group of reporters in his office on Monday afternoon when there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," Jackson said.
The handle jiggled. The door stayed closed.
"It's locked," Andy Dalton said from the other side of the door.
So fitting. A day later, the quarterback still couldn't get anywhere in trying to figure out Cincinnati's worst overall performance in years. And the defending AFC North champions don't have much time to get things right.
A game that will go a long way in deciding the division title is less than a week away.
The Bengals (3-2-1) fell flat and fell behind Baltimore with a 27-0 drubbing in Indianapolis on Sunday. It was the first time they had been shut out since the final game of the 2009 season, when they got beat 37-0 by the Jets.
There was a reason for that one: Cincinnati rested its regulars because it was playing the Jets again the following week in the playoffs. There was no explanation for how this one turned out so badly.
After a 43-17 loss in New England and a deeply disappointing 37-37 tie with Carolina the last two weeks, the Bengals put a lot of effort and focus into getting things right in Indianapolis. Instead, they imploded.
The old Bungles were usually better than that.
"I'm sure if you talk to any one of players, they'll say they never thought that was coming," Jackson said. "They didn't see that happening. I didn't, either, but it did. So what are you going to do about it now?"
An offense that came into the game ranked fifth overall in the NFL failed to get a first down on any of its first eight possessions. The most telling statistic: Cincinnati didn't even cross midfield until the fourth quarter.
The Bengals were missing Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green for the second consecutive week, but the Colts dominated them in every imaginable way. There was no room to run and Dalton had no time to pass. He had been sacked only twice in the first five games; the Colts sacked him three times and pressured him on virtually every throw.
"I think it is a good wake-up call for everyone on this team," said Dalton, who was 18 of 38 for 126 yards.
It wasn't just the offense. The defense got shredded for the third straight game, giving up 506 yards in Indianapolis — the most by a Bengals opponent in seven years. In the past three games, Cincinnati has given up big yards and 107 points.
There is also a concern about linebacker Vontaze Burfict, their best playmaker on defense. He missed two full games and parts of two others because of concussions. On Sunday, he strained his neck.
Even when Burfict was on the field Sunday, the Colts moved the ball easily. They ran for 171 yards and passed for 335 yards, holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
"We're not playing good football right now," defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. "So we've got to figure it out and get back to doing what we did the first three games. We've been off our stuff right now."
The Bengals were seen as an up-and-coming contender when they opened the season 3-0. They went to Baltimore and got a 23-16 win in their opener, giving the defending AFC North champions an early edge in the division race.
The Ravens (5-2) have jumped ahead and have a chance to take control when they visit Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.
"We've got a lot of details to be better at, and to challenge ourselves to be better at, and we have to do it very quickly," coach Marvin Lewis said.
Notes: Burfict's neck strain won't put him back in the concussion protocol this week. A player in the protocol has to get concussion screenings before he is allowed to return. ... Jackson was pleased with how guard Kevin Zeitler played in his first game back from an injured right calf sustained on Sept. 14. "He's getting his game legs back underneath him and getting himself ready to play, but he played pretty good for the first time back," Jackson said.
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