CINCINNATI — Inspired by what passes for motivation around these parts, the Cincinnati Bengals found their resolve and got a win.
Finally. And barely.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a pair of touchdown passes to Chad Ocho Cinco, who celebrated by giving the head coach a kiss, and Cincinnati stopped a late 2-point conversion try Sunday, preserving a 21-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With the losses mounting and history beckoning, several Bengals tried to fire up their teammates. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth talked to the offense after practice on Saturday, and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh spoke up in the locker room before the game.
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The message: Don't be a doormat.
"We're 0-8, but I think we're a good 0-8 team, if that's possible," Houshmandzadeh said. "I was just telling them: Are we going to the playoffs? Probably not. But we're all men and play with pride. Basically, play with pride and let's try to make this thing look somewhat respectable."
For one day, they were.
At 1-8, the Bengals are no longer on pace to be historically bad. Now merely dreadful, they were too much for the stunned Jaguars (3-5), who fell behind 21-3 before making it close.
Montell Owens returned a fumble 18 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown, and David Garrard led a late drive that culminated in Maurice Jones-Drew's 1-yard run with 1:17 to go. Garrard failed to squeeze a pass to double-covered Jerry Porter on the conversion try.
The game ended on one of those multiple-lateral plays that ended with the ball dribbling out of bounds. The 64,238 fans raised their arms in celebration of an unexpected win.
The Bengals were coming off the most lopsided back-to-back losses in franchise history. One more would have left them 0-9 for only the second time in team history.
"Being 0-for-whatever-it-was coming in, there was a lot of pressure and a lot of frustration for everybody, from the staff to the equipment managers," said running back Cedric Benson, who ran for 104 yards and a touchdown. "Everybody's trying to figure out what's wrong."
Now, the Jaguars have to do some figuring.
Again, they had problems trying to run the ball behind a patched-up line. Garrard threw his first interception in five games, breaking a streak of 166 passes without one. That rare, poor throw set up a touchdown that put the Bengals ahead 21-3.
"We're not functioning with a high level of confidence," Coach Jack Del Rio said. "I'm not in a good mood right now."
Fitzpatrick, who studied the laws of economics at Harvard, helped the law of averages catch up with his winless team. The scrambling quarterback looked a lot more comfortable in his fourth straight start for the injured Carson Palmer, going 21-for-31 for 162 yards.
Fitzpatrick was inspired by Whitworth's get-tough speech to the rest of the offense a day earlier.
"We were starting to let teams think they could come in here and walk over us," Whitworth said. "I told the guys the last thing we are going to do is be a joke or a punk to somebody."
After his 10-yard touchdown catch made it 14-0, Ocho Cinco flipped the ball to the official, went to the sideline and gave Coach Marvin Lewis a peck on the cheek, the second time he's done that this season.
"I think that's his way of telling me to relax," Lewis said. "It doesn't work, obviously."
The Bengals were sweating it out at the end. All of the Jaguars games have been decided by seven points or fewer.
Bengals 21, Jaguars 19
Jacksonville 0 3 0 16—19
Cincinnati 7 7 7 0—21
First quarter: Cin—C.Johnson 2 pass from Fitzpatrick (Graham kick), 2:28. Second quarter: Cin—C.Johnson 10 pass from Fitzpatrick (Graham kick), 10:44. Jac—FG Scobee 52, 3:03. Third quarter: Cin—Benson 7 run (Graham kick), 9:15. Fourth quarter: Jac—FG Scobee 26, 13:27. Jac—Owens fumble recovery in end zone (Scobee kick), 13:17. Jac—Jones-Drew 1 run (pass failed), 1:17.
First downs 18 20
Total Net Yards 282 312
Rushes-yards 21-68 29-159
Passing 214 153
Punt Returns 2-14 4-22
Kickoff Returns 4-83 2-34
Interceptions Ret. 1-4 1-13
Comp-Att-Int 23-38-1 21-31-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 3-15 2-9
Punts 6-45.0 7-35.4
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 12-86 5-39
Time of Possession 29:41 30:19
RUSHING—Jacksonville, Jones-Drew 10-33, Garrard 6-23, Taylor 5-12. Cincinnati, Benson 24-104, Fitzpatrick 3-52, Chatman 1-2, Watson 1-1.
PASSING—Jacksonville, Garrard 23-38-1-229. Cincinnati, Fitzpatrick 21-31-1-162.
RECEIVING—Jacksonville, M.Jones 7-69, M.Lewis 4-38, Northcutt 4-29, Porter 2-38, Jones-Drew 2-29, R.Williams 2-12, Estandia 1-14, Taylor 1-0. Cincinnati, Houshmandzadeh 7-65, C.Johnson 5-37, Utecht 2-21, Henry 2-14, Kelly 2-8, Perry 1-10, Benson 1-5, Chatman 1-2.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.