CINCINNATI, NOV. 5 -- Boomer Esiason can't believe that this is happening.
For the last four weeks, he has bounced passes in front of receivers, sailed the ball over their heads and made hasty decisions while scrambling away from the rush. The NFL's MVP of two years ago has become the Cincinnati Bengals' mystery player of 1990.
"I don't think I've ever felt as low as a professional athlete," Esiason said. "Right now I feel lower than low. I feel worse than I've ever felt as a pro."
This also is as bad as he has played as a pro.
The Bengals are 5-4 and Esiason accepts a large share of blame for their offensive inconsistency. His passing yards this season: 202, 250, 271, 128, 490, 130, 85, 199 and 138. He has thrown 13 interceptions and 14 touchdowns.
Sunday was perhaps his worst day. The Bengals returned home from a five-game road trip, a crowd of 60,067 was ready to cheer and Esiason left them booing.
He missed four of his first five passes and completed just 10 of his first 26. He finished with 15 completions in 32 attempts as the Bengals lost to New Orleans, 21-7.
Eight of the 17 incompletions were the result of poorly thrown balls. He routinely overthrew, underthrew or led receivers too far. Once, he dumped the ball into the turf in front of an open receiver just a few yards upfield.
"We've got guys open and I'm not hitting them," Esiason said. "Usually those are routine plays, and I just didn't make them. No excuses. It's a slump right now. I'm as disappointed as anybody else. I'll fight through it and be back."
Missing from the Bengals' attack is the long pass. Esiason is known for his marvelous play-fake ability, letting his receivers get deep with man-to-man coverage. The Bengals have just one completion of more than 50 yards this season.
On Sunday, 11 of his 15 completions went for fewer than 10 yards. He found himself dumping off to running backs six times.
As a result, the Bengals' offense seems disjointed, a mere shadow of the unit that has been near the top of the league under Coach Sam Wyche.
"The only reason it was disjointed is because I was throwing it over somebody's head or throwing it at somebody's feet," Esiason said. "If it lands somewhere between there, it doesn't seem so disjointed."
An injury could account for Esiason's trouble throwing the ball accurately, but Wyche said the quarterback has not said anything to him about being hurt.
"As far as I know, he's fine," Wyche said.
Esiason said there was no injury.
"I'm fine, completely healthy," he said. "There's nothing wrong with me. No excuses."
Wyche is reluctant to blame Esiason for the offensive problems, pointing out that other phases are struggling, too. The Bengals have not been able to run the ball consistently, either. And receivers Eddie Brown and Tim McGee have been hurt.
Esiason readily accepts the largest share of responsibility.
"Nobody here deserves to have fingers pointed at them, with the exception of me," Esiason said. "And that's what I'm doing -- pointing a finger at me."
The Bengals have their bye next Sunday, giving Esiason a chance to forget about things for a few days.
"For me, it's probably pretty good," he said.