Bengals’ first loss is painful reminder of the past
Here we go again.
It’s the worst fear of every Cincinnati Bengals fan — and one that must have crossed the mind of each following Monday night’s stunning 10-6 stumble against the Houston Texans.
Even the most optimistic Bengals supporter knew Cincinnati (8-1) was going to lose at some point during the regular season. But that defeat shouldn’t have come against a 10.5-point underdog like the Texans — especially with Houston (4-5) forced to field a backup quarterback who was signed less than a month ago.
A 22-yard T.J. Yates touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins early in the fourth quarter spelled the difference. The Texans only needed 10 points because the Bengals were so inept offensively. Cincinnati could muster just five first downs in the second half, three of which came on the final drive that ended with an A.J. Green fumble at the Texans’ 22-yard line with 40 seconds remaining.
The Bengals offense was so bad that a sizeable chunk of the 61,381 fans in attendance at Paul Brown Stadium reverted to booing just like when quarterback Andy Dalton was heckled at an offseason softball game. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt even mocked Dalton in a postgame television interview, proclaiming he wanted to make the "Red Rifle" look like the "Red Ryder BB Gun."
"We couldn’t get in that rhythm where things were kind of flowing," said Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, who flubbed three Dalton passes. "Drops, penalties, dumb mistakes. Houston played well and we needed to play better."
Until Monday night, the 2015 Bengals had exorcised ghosts from when the franchise would fall short in prime-time settings. Cincinnati was playing so well that it had become easier and easier to forget the crushing opening-round playoff losses suffered in each of the past four seasons — the first two to these Houston Texans.
The image of Yates — who replaced Brian Hoyer (concussion) during the third quarter — leading the Texans to victory over the Bengals just like he did in in the 2011-12 postseason brought back a flood of negative memories in Cincinnati.
These Bengals, though, insisted those days are truly in the past.
"That’s not the team we are," said Dalton, who threw an interception and was sacked three times in a paltry 197-yard passing performance. "We know what we’ve done to this point.
"This game doesn’t define our season. It doesn’t define anything. We’re still 8-1. We’re still leading the division. We know where we are so we’ve just got to get back to what we’ve been doing and we’ll be just fine."
Dalton’s teammates echoed similar sentiment — none more colorfully than Adam "Pacman" Jones.
The Bengals cornerback began his postgame interview by falling on the sword for surrendering the touchdown catch to Hopkins on the end-zone sideline. Jones then offered a backhanded compliment to the Texans stemming from how that squad celebrated after the victory.
"They f****** won a game," Jones said. "We’re 8-1. How many games have they won? Thank God for them.
"They’ve won four f****** games. They act like they won the Super Bowl. Kudos to them."
Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko also believes Cincinnati did more to lose this game than the Texans did to win it.
"We tricked this game off," Peko said. "We kind of peed down our leg a little bit. We can’t do that, especially here at home."
Not if the Bengals want to show they’ve truly changed their stripes.
"We’ve been here before," Jones said. "We know how to bounce back."