After an unbeaten first half of the season where little went wrong, it was a pair of unheralded quarterbacks and a below-.500 team that ended up dealing the Cincinnati Bengals their first loss of the season.
T.J.Yates relieved Brian Hoyer and led the Houston Texans to a come-from-behind 10-6 victory by hitting DeAndre Hopkins with a 22-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati’s bid for a game-winning touchdown drive ended after A.J. Green caught a 10-yard pass on fourth and 6 but lost a fumble at the Houston 22-yard line with 40 seconds to go to put a fitting end on a futile night for quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense.
It was just the team’s fourth loss at home in the last 25 regular-season games, and Hoyer was the starting quarterback in two of those defeats. Hoyer, who led Cleveland to a 24-3 win against the Bengals last year, left Monday’s game with a head injury late in the third quarter. That’s when Yates came in and directed a nine-play touchdown drive for 79 of Houston’s 256 total yards.
Hoyer improved to 3-0 in three starts against Cincinnati, while Yates also beat the Bengals for the third time in three tries.
Here are four more things to know about the primetime flop that dropped the Bengals to 8-1:
Plenty of Pittsburgh parallels
For the second time in three games Dalton struggled for the most of the game only to find a way to mount an impressive fourth-quarter drive and put the team in position to win.
Two weeks ago at Pittsburgh, Dalton overcame two interceptions to go 4 of 5 for 44 yards on the game-winning drive that ended with him finding A.J. Green for a 9-yard touchdown with 2:57 remaining.
Monday night Dalton was a dismal 16 of 30 for 131 yards through the first 56-plus minutes, but he went 6 of 8 for 66 yards on the final drive to put the Bengals in position to pull out a win.
“We just had to put one drive together,” Dalton said. “It was almost like Pittsburgh. At the very end of that game, we put a drive together at the end and we won. I felt that same vibe from everybody, but unfortunately we didn’t hold on to the ball. It’s part of the game.”
Green’s fumble at the Houston 22 after converting a fourth down with 40 seconds left ended any hope of another comeback, and it also brought back memories of another game in Pittsburgh.
In last year’s season finale at Heinz Field with the AFC North title on the line, the Bengals were down three and driving in Steelers territory when Green lost a fumble after picking up a first down at the Pittsburgh 30.
Third downs telling and true
Asked about his team leading the NFL in third-down defense, Houston coach Bill O’Brien told the Cincinnati media that stat was a little skewed because there were a lot of times when the Texans failed to get opponents into third downs.
The Texans got a Bengals team that ranked fourth in the NFL in third-down conversion rate into 14 third-down situations and stopped them from converting 10 times.
Five times the Bengals faced third and 10 or longer, and four times it was third and 15 or more.
“They did a good job of (putting us in) third-and-long a lot of times, and that’s an issue,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “They’ve been leading the league in third-down defense, and when you get people in third-and-long situations — like we put ourselves in, because of the penalties we had tonight — then they’re going to have a little bit of an advantage, and it’s hard to convert 60 percent of those. We converted some, but not enough of them.”
It was the third consecutive game in which the Bengals defense held an opponent to 10 points. The last time a Cincinnati team held opponents to 10 or fewer points three games in a row was 2006 when the Bengals beat Cleveland 30-0, Baltimore 13-7 and Oakland 10-7.
The last time the Bengals lost a game in which they allowed 10 or fewer points was Dec. 12, 1993, a 7-2 defeat at New England.
The 10 points allowed brings the team’s season total to 152, which is the fewest in the NFL.
Still the best
Despite the loss, the Bengals’ 8-1 record is still the best record the team has ever had through nine games.
The 1975 team also started 8-1.