The Cincinnati Bengals were off to their best start in franchise history before Monday night’s 10-6 loss to the Houston Texans. Though it was only their first loss of the season, it summed up the team’s luck for the past four seasons with Andy Dalton a the starting quarterback. The game was a defensive standoff, with a total of 15 punts and only one touchdown scored as neither team could get it going on offense. This kind of output isn’t much of a surprise for the Texans, considering they have struggled all season. But the Bengals rank 8th in the NFL in total offense, and their 26.1 points per game is 5th. This makes Monday’s performance particularly disappointing to their fans, especially given their 8-0 start.
When an 8-0 team finally loses a game, it’s usually not that big of a deal. But with the Bengals, it continues their pattern of failing to show up in prime time games. Dalton is 4-8 in prime time games, with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions; whether it’s Thursday, Sunday or Monday night, he and the Bengals don’t seem to bring their best under the lights. Dalton has also made a playoff appearance every season since he’s been drafted, but has won none of those games. This seems hard to believe after watching what he’s capable of during the regular season, but despite proving that he’s an elite talent he still has to prove he can be consistently effective in nationally televised games.
On the bright side, Dalton put on a stellar performance in Thursday night blowout against the Cleveland Browns a couple of weeks ago. It should also be remembered that this is still the Bengals’ first loss of the season, and it came against a frustrated team who came in really needing a win. The Texans’ defense has now held their last two opponents to only 6 points, and their extremely talented defense seems to be returning to form. Last but not least, one of Dalton’s favorite targets, tight end Tyler Eifert, dropped three potential game-changing passes against the Texans. This can be taken to support the idea that they can’t cut it in prime time, but it also means they were a couple of plays from pulling out the win.
This coming Monday night, the Bengals will go on the road against the 7-2 Arizona Cardinals. Win or lose in this tough matchup, I think this year is the year for Bengals to win their first playoff game. At their current pace, the Bengals will finish as the second seed in the AFC, giving them home field advantage. Perhaps playing in Cincinnati can give them the leverage they need to give the Bengals their first postseason win of the Andy Dalton era. Only time will tell.