Three turnovers and a slew of penalties were too much for the Cincinnati Bengals to overcome, as they dropped their fourth straight game and sixth in the last seven.
Jeff Driskel threw an interception and lost a fumble in his first NFL start, Alex Erickson muffed a punt and the Bengals recorded 12 penalties for 100 yards to help the Denver Broncos to a 24-10 win Sunday in front of 44,392 fans at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati (5-7) trailed just 7-3 at halftime despite losing wide receiver A.J. Green to another injury, but two plays after Erickson’s fumble early in the third quarter, Case Keenum connected with Courtland Sutton for a 30-yard touchdown to extend Denver’s lead and that proved to be the turning point of the game. Sutton breezed past Darius Phillips, who had just come on for injured cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, to make the play.
Driskel, who replaced Andy Dalton after he suffered a season-ending hand injury last week against the Browns, overthrew backup tight end Jordan Franks on the next possession, and Broncos safety Justin Simmons picked him off at Denver’s 7-yard line to set up another scoring drive. Four plays later, Phillip Lindsay ran around the left end for a 65-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
The Bengals answered with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to Cody Core and got the ball back when Nick Vigil, playing his first game since suffering a knee injury in Week 6, recovered a fumble forced by Hardy Nickerson. However, Cincinnati couldn’t take advantage like the Broncos (6-6) did and ended up punting the next two drives before Driskel fumbled while taking a sack late in the fourth quarter to seal it. Denver added a 29-yard field goal in the final minute.
Cincinnati had finally turned a corner with its defense in the first half, but continued its trend of slow starts on offense, which was only worsened by Green’s injury.
Green appeared to re-aggravate the right foot injury that sidelined him the past three games when he went fell two steps into his route on a second-and-15 play midway through the second quarter. He hobbled off the field and couldn’t put pressure on his right foot, then was immediately carted to the locker room and declared out for the rest of the game, which was still scoreless when he exited after making just one catch for seven yards.
The Bengals had forced three straight punts to open the game Sunday, marking the first time they had made back-to-back stops in the first half since Week 5, and Denver kicker Brandon McManus missed a 50-yard field goal with 7:23 left in the second quarter.
After Cincinnati’s fourth punt of the game, Denver drove 55 yards on eight plays to get on the board, scoring with ease on a 6-yard carry by rookie Phillip Lindsay with 1:56 left in the second quarter. The Bengals have given up points in the final 2:47 of the first half in every game this season.
Cincinnati answered with a scoring drive of its own, though, cutting the deficit to 7-3 on Randy Bullock’s 35-yard field goal with 12 seconds left in the second quarter.
Driskel completed 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown, while Joe Mixon rushed for 82 yards to account for the majority of Cincinnati’s 311 yards of offense. Case Keenum threw for 151 yards and one touchdown and Lindsay finished with 157 yards rushing and two touchdowns, as part of a 361-yard day for Denver’s offense.
The Bengals’ eight penalties for 65 yards in the first half were the most they’ve had in a half since 2009.