Bengals eager to turn the page

With a 10-6 loss to the Texans on Monday night, the Bengals fell short of becoming the 31st team in NFL history to open 9-0. They were attempting to join this year’s Patriots and Panthers, both of whom won Sunday.

Cincinnati travels to Arizona (7-2) for another big game Sunday night, the Bengals’ third straight in prime time.

“It’s a tough one to handle, for sure, but we have to find a way to move on to Arizona,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “We know everything is still out in front of us, and we need to find a way to go to Arizona and perform and play like we should. It will be a good test for our team.”

Hawk recorded his first sack of the season, his first as a Bengal, to force a third-and-17 with 4:48 left, and Cincinnati came up with the stop to get the ball back with 3:54 on the clock. However, the Bengals offense, which struggled most of the night, turned the ball over in the final minute to end the comeback.

The Bengals had come back in three previous games this season.

“There were many plays that could have been a turning point for us,” Hawk said of his sack being a potential turning point. “We were in it until the end for sure, but you’ve got to give the Texans credit because they fought back all night and continued to make plays, and when it comes down to it, they made a couple more plays than us and they won the game.”

Defensive tackle Domata Peko, who had three tackles and a sack, said Houston (4-5) was another opportunity to separate the Bengals from a lot of the teams in the AFC.

However, the Bengals still maintain a 2.5-game lead in the AFC North and are second in the conference playoff standings behind unbeaten New England. Denver – on Cincinnati’s slate for Dec. 28 on the road — follows at 7-2.

“I felt like we tricked this game off, and that we kind of peed down our leg a little,” Peko said. “We can’t do that, especially here at home. It was another AFC game in the race for that first and second spot. It was a tough loss, but we’ll be fine and bounce back and find a way. That’s what good teams do: Bounce back and find a way to win the game.”

That starts with a good week of practice. The Bengals are off Tuesday, but players said they would be ready to prepare for Arizona on Wednesday. They’ve had an “on to the next one” mentality even through their 8-0 start.

Quarterback Andy Dalton, who completed 22 of 38 passes for 197 yards and one interception, said the Bengals just can’t let a bad game set the tone for the rest of the second half of the season.

“We just have to put this one behind us,” Dalton said. “We can’t let this loss turn into another one. We can’t let there be any carry over. That’s not the team we are, and 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 just got to get back to what we’ve been doing, and we’ll be fine.”

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