ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from Bengals’ 19-17 loss to Giants

New starting quarterback Brandon Allen had a chance to play hero for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, but the rally ended before it had time to develop and the New York Giants left with the win.

After Allen led the Bengals on a touchdown drive to make it a two-point game with 2:33 left, the defense forced a three-and-out to put the ball back in his hands for one last series. On the first snap from midfield, Allen was sacked and fumbled, effectively ending the game for a 19-17 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.

Allen had struggled to move the offense most of the game, as the Bengals (2-8-1) finished with just 155 yards, but the defense and special teams kept them in it by holding the Giants (4-7) to three field goals in the second half.

Here are five takeways from the loss:

1. Missed opportunities

The Bengals were uninspiring on offense, and three turnovers in the final 16 minutes killed any chance of victory.

Allen threw an interception with 32 seconds left in the third quarter, giving the Giants the ball on the Cincinnati 40-yard line and setting up a field goal to extend their lead to 16-10. Then, with under five minutes left, Drew Sample fumbled after a 4-yard reception to put New York back in the red zone and leading to their final field goal and two-score lead.

After Allen led the Bengals to their lone touchdown drive to make it a two-point game with 2:33 left, he got one more chance and was sacked and fumbled, knowing he only needed 15 yards to give Randy Bullock a chance at the game-winning field goal.

2. Allen earns another shot

Allen stepped into a difficult situation with only three full practices to prepare after spending the first 11 weeks on the practice squad and leap-frogging Ryan Finley for the starting quarterback job. But as bad as the offense looked Sunday, it was better than the 17 yards produced behind Finley last week when he replaced injured Joe Burrow early in the third quarter for the final 18 plays against Washington.

That’s probably why coach Zac Taylor said Allen will get another chance to start next week when the Bengals travel to play the Miami Dolphins.

“I thought he did enough for us,” Taylor said. “The guys around him have to step up too, now. We had several drops (and) holding penalties when we would get a completion. (It felt like) we had only three possessions there in the first half. It felt like we hardly ever had the ball. In the second half, (we) just never had our rhythm. When we would get something positive, it seemed like something would send us back the other way on the same play. There were three drops, two holding penalties — and there was a fumble on a positive play — that all hurt us.”

Rookie Tee Higgins said Allen was connecting well with him and the other receivers in practice throughout the week, so “it was frustrating” that didn’t carry over into the game. The offense failed to find a rhythm until the last full drive, and Allen finished with 136 yards while completing 17 of 29 passes. The Bengals converted just three of 10 third downs and had six drives end without a first down.

“I was preparing like I was going to play each and every week,” Allen said of the transition from emergency quarterback to starter. “Nothing really changed for me, except I played on Sunday. As far as preparation went, everything was still the same in terms of the film I watched and practice reps. I’ll learn from what I did during the week, see what I can improve on, and take it to the next game.”

3. Defense, special teams step up

Although the offense struggled, the defense and special teams did their part to keep the game close.

The defense forced an important three-and-out on the Giants’ last full drive, with Sam Hubbard making a tackle on a third-and-13 pass play.

After the Giants drove down to score on the opening drive, Brandon Wilson returned the ensuing kick 103 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 7 with 9:50 left in the first quarter. Wilson’s second career kick return for a touchdown was the longest play in franchise history, besting Eric Bieniemy’s 102-yard return, also against the Giants, in 1997.

Late in the second quarter, Bengals safety Vonn Bell stripped the ball away from tight end Evan Engram after he was left wide open for an 18-yard catch. Bell returned the fumble 19 yards to put Cincinnati on its own 45-yard line, and Allen did enough to move the offense into field goal range for Randy Bullock, who hit a 44-yarder for a 10-7 lead with 3:32 left in the half.

The Giants got 213 yards passing out of Daniel Jones before he went out with a hamstring injury with a 13-10 lead in the third quarter. Colt McCoy finished the game but added just 31 yards passing.

4. Running game disappoints

The Bengals had just 40 yards rushing on a day they could have used a better ground game. Giovani Bernard, starting in place of injured Joe Mixon, finished with eight carries for 32 yards, and Cincinnati ran the ball a total of 15 times on 46 offensive plays.

Higgins felt like the Bengals should have been able to run better considering New York was more focused on stopping the pass, especially in the second half playing with a lead as they were dropping eight and taking away the deep threat.

5. Now what?

The Bengals now have five losses by five points or less, plus a tie against Philadelphia, and just two wins to their resume, but Taylor was pleased to see the team still fighting to the end even through struggles on offense Sunday.

“That tells you everything you need to know about these players in this locker room, and everything that I see every day and know,” Taylor said. “They’re playing hard for each other, and it’s going to turn for us I know at some point. I told them it’s frustrating — you’re sick to your stomach, it sucks. It’s not fun to lose. But we know that this tide is going to turn for us and we’re going back look back on this (someday). This is a necessary part of our growth, but we need to get some wins to show for all the work we’ve put in, because it makes it tough when you finish games like this.”

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