Bengals struggle in Allen’s debut at QB, fall to Giants

The Cincinnati Bengals had little going for them offensively behind new quarterback Brandon Allen, but somehow they hung with the New York Giants enough to make it a game.

Allen found a rhythm late to lead the Bengals into the end zone on a 1-yard pass to Tee Higgins with 2:33 left, but after getting one last chance, he fumbled it away, and the Giants held on for a 19-17 win Sunday in front a socially-distanced crowd of 10,208 fans at Paul Brown Stadium.

Playing its first full game without standout rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, Cincinnati took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter; however, the Giants tied the game on Graham Gano’s 49-yard field goal with 21 seconds in the half and tacked on three more field goals in the second half to build a crucial nine-point lead.

New York (4-7) lost quarterback Daniel Jones to a hamstring injury five minutes into the third quarter, and Colt McCoy did just enough to get the win, while the Bengals failed to move the ball with any consistency.

Cincinnati (2-8-1) turned the ball over three times in the second half and managed just 155 yards of offense, as Allen finished with 136 yards on 17-of-29 passing with one touchdown, one interception and one fumble. Drew Sample fumbled at the end of a 4-yard catch in the fourth quarter, setting the Giants up for their final field goal before Allen’s lone touchdown drive.

Allen, promoted from the practice squad this week to earn his fourth career start and first for Cincinnati, got off to a somewhat promising start, considering how the Bengals finished last week’s loss at Washington. His 36 yards passing on the Bengals’ first series was a quick improvement from the 17 yards a Ryan Finley-led offense recorded on 18 plays after Burrow went out with a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter of a 20-9 loss a week ago.

The Bengals at least moved into New York territory on Allen’s first drive, before Kevin Huber punted the ball away, but that was the peak for the offense until the final minutes of the game. Special teams and defense gave the Bengals a chance to stay in it. Cincinnati got the ball back with a little more than a minute left, thanks to a three-and-out forced by the defense, but Allen fumbled to end the game.

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.

Bell had given up a 53-yard pass play on the Giants’ first drive, when Engram beat him one-on-one with an unusual offensive formation that loaded up the left side, freeing Engram up as an easy target for Jones. The Bengals’ goal-line stand held up for three downs but Wayne Gallman punched in the 1-yard touchdown run on fourth down, as the Giants took the first lead.

After New York regained the lead in the third quarter, Jones attempted to come back on but exited for the remainder after two plays. He threw for 213 yards, and McCoy finished with 31 yards passing while Gallman stepped up to rush for 94 yards on 24 carries.

The Bengals got 32 yards on eight carries from Giovani Bernard.

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