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  • Jan 18
    CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals‘ redesigned offense had quite
    an opening
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    , putting up yards and points at a far better rate
    than in the past two seasons.With opponents getting a better idea of what
    they’re doing, Andy Dalton and company have sputtered in the past three
    games.It’s more than just familiarity. Running back Giovani Bernard is sidelined
    by a knee injury, receiver John Ross has been limited by a groin injury, and the
    tight end position has been decimated by injuries. What’s left hasn’t been able
    to do much.The Bengals (4-3) head into a game Sunday against Tampa Bay (3-3)
    looking to stop the slide as they reach the season’s midpoint and their bye
    week.“We did some things early on in the season that were really good,”
    quarterback Andy Dalton said Wednesday.In the first four games, Cincinnati’s
    offense averaged 24.5 first downs and 376.5 total yards. In the past three, it
    has managed only 17 first downs per game and 282 yards, both significant
    drops.Dalton’s numbers reflect the trend . He threw for 1,197 yards with 11
    touchdowns in the first four games. In the past three, he’s thrown for 625 yards
    with four touchdowns.Their worst showing by far came Sunday night during a 45-10
    loss in Kansas City . The Bengals had a season-low 15 first downs and 239 yards
    against a defense that was last in the league. Dalton threw for only 148 yards
    and had an interception returned for a touchdown .The offense was shockingly
    limited in the first half. A.J. Green had six catches for 110 yards. The rest of
    the receivers combined for four catches for 8 yards. Green accounted for 110 of
    Cincinnati’s 139 yards as the Chiefs took control.“A couple of us had quiet
    games in the first half,” said receiver Tyler
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    , who had three catches for 27 yards overall. “I
    definitely wanted to make more plays in the first half to ease off A.J. I know
    he was tired at times, and he made a ton of plays.”The Chiefs adjusted their
    coverage on Green in the second half and nobody else was able to take
    advantage.“We have to be able to react and adjust in-game and get back on
    track,” Dalton said. “Our goal is to get back to the way we were playing and the
    way we know we can play.”The most glaring drop-off has been at the tight end
    spot with Tyler Eifert done for the season with a broken ankle and Tyler Kroft
    sidelined by a foot injury. C.J. Uzomah had two catches for 13 yards.Coordinator
    Bill Lazor told the offense this week that good teams improve as the season goes
    along, and it’s time to get out of the recent rut.“We’re always mentioning that
    the sky’s the limit for this offense, and Bill was pointing out we’re
    declining,” Boyd said.BURFICT STRUGGLINGLinebacker Vontaze Burfict has
    repeatedly missed tackles since returning from his four-game suspension for
    violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers. He also was fined $112,000
    for several egregious plays during a loss to the Steelers, including hitting
    Antonio Brown in the head again.In his three games, Burfict has a total of 17
    tackles, no sacks, no interceptions and two passes broken up. He landed on his
    hip during Sunday’s game and was held out of practice on Wednesday.“He hasn’t
    played as well as he has in the
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    ,” coach Marvin Lewis said. Asked to elaborate, Lewis said,
    “I don’t want to talk about Vontaze. It’s not relevant.”ALSO SIDELINEDBurfict
    was one of 10 players held out of practice, along with CB Darqueze Dennard
    (shoulder), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Achilles), LB Nick Vigil (knee), long snapper
    Clark Harris (concussion), RB Giovani Bernard (knee), OT Jake Fisher (back), OT
    Bobby Hart (back), Kroft and Ross.Rookie center Billy Price returned to practice
    on a limited basis. He’s been sidelined for five weeks by a partially torn
    ligament in his right foot. DT Adolphus Washington was limited by a tailbone
    injury. If former Patriots receiver Antonio Brown wants his $9 million signing
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    , he’s going to have to fight for it.Per a league
    source, the Patriots did not pay Brown $5 million, the first installment of the
    signing bonus, on or before the Monday deadline specified in his contract.The
    move was widely expected, even though the team’s argument for not paying earned
    money to Brown ultimately may fail. He did not commit a “forfeitable breach”
    under the terms of the labor deal. Thus, the Patriots will have to fashion an
    argument based on, for example, Brown withholding information as to the
    threatened sexual assault and rape litigation from the team. The Patriots would
    argue that they wouldn’t have signed Brown if they’d known about the potential
    lawsuit, especially since it can (and did) spark an NFL investigation that could
    result in Brown being placed on paid leave.Whatever the argument, there’s no
    downside in refusing to pay Brown. If he wins, he gets the money — without
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    , attorneys’ fees, liquidated damages, or other costs.
    Given his recent history of erratic and aggressive behavior, an arbitrator may
    be inclined to find a way to bend the facts and applicable precedent in the
    direction of a finding that Brown will get nothing.Brown undoubtedly will file a
    grievance aimed at getting the $9 million, along with the balance of his $1
    million guaranteed salary. As explained on Sunday, his minimum pay from the
    Patriots will be $283,333.