CINCINNATI — Coach Marvin Lewis couldn’t find words to describe how his team came apart. His players had no problem picking out the adjectives.
“This was pretty bad,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “It was embarrassing to put that up there and come out like that. It’s not what I expected.”
A 33-7 drubbing by the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium ended the Bengals’ franchise-record streak of 22 straight games without giving up 30 points. It also was the longest active streak in the NFL.
A defense missing six starters, including both cornerbacks and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, simply fell apart against the league’s last-ranked offense. The young fill-ins and veterans alike made mistakes throughout and appeared to lack the determination to get things fixed.
The defense will be limited again Sunday when the Bengals (5-8) face the Vikings (10-3) and former coordinator Mike Zimmer in Minnesota. The Vikings can clinch the NFC North with a win.
What will Zimmer’s former defense muster in a game with such little significance for Cincinnati?
“I just told them, the veteran guys in this room, there’ll be a lot said over the next three weeks on how you lead the team,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said.
“At the end of the day, it’s my job to get you guys ready to play, but on Sunday the pressure is on you guys. You guys have to do this.”
Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones will miss the rest of the season with a groin injury. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is recovering from a concussion, as is Burfict — both were held out of practice again Wednesday.
Linebacker Nick Vigil has an ankle injury. Defensive tackle Geno Smith was limited to a dozen plays against the Bears because of a toe injury.
A priority this week is getting the energy level up among whoever is on the field.
“There’s no magic drink,” safety George Iloka said. “On Sunday, every individual has to find it within themselves. There’s nothing anybody can do or say.”
How the Bengals play in December will be a reflection on Lewis, who is finishing the final year of his contract. Back-to-back home losses against the Steelers and Bears doomed Cincinnati to a second straight season without a winning record.
Told that Zimmer put in a good word for him with reporters Wednesday, Lewis said: “I guess I owe him a check, huh? We all realize when you sign up for these jobs, the thing is it’s not forever. I think we all accept that.”
Burfict and Kirkpatrick were among seven players held out of practice Wednesday. Also missing were Vigil, running back Joe Mixon (concussion), cornerback Darqueze Dennard (knee), linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) and tight end Tyler Kroft (hamstring).
Five players were limited, including running back Giovani Bernard with a sore knee and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi with a sore shoulder.
Third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel returned to practice for the first time since he broke his passing hand in the final preseason game. He has a three-week window to practice before he has to be added to the roster. The Bengals have gone with Dalton and AJ McCarron as their quarterbacks all season.
Practice squad addition
The Bengals signed safety Robenson Therezie, a third-year player who appeared in 25 games with the Falcons, including two starts.