Set scene: The Bengals, who want to bounce back on Sunday after a 7-30 loss to Dallas, return home this week to face rivals Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night.
“When you lose it’s frustrating,” said Bengal head coach Zac Taylor. “It’s hard to get rid of the feeling we get at the end of each week. But it’s frustrating because we feel good about the position we started out in. But the reasons are endless why we lose. And it falls 100 percent on me. “
Cincinnati’s offensive moved the ball to Dallas early in the game but had nothing to show after losing fumble on the first three possessions. It was the first time in more than seven years that an NFL team fiddled with its first three possessions (most recently the New England Patriots on 11/24/13).
The first fumble was of particular importance as it was committed by HB Giovani Bernard who hasn’t had a rush since his rookie year 2013. Bernard’s streak of 829 fumble-free transmissions was the longest active streak in the NFL by a 317 lead and was also the third longest fumble-free stretch in the NFL in the past 30 years.
On the next run, the Bengals moved the ball with ease and hit the cowboys’ 20 yard line before a fumble from HB Trayveon Williams was salvaged from Dallas DE Aldon Smith and returned 78 yards for a TD. Cincinnati responded by marching back down and into the red zone before the normally safe WR Alex Erickson fumbled in the back and appeared to convert a fourth descent.
“The three turnovers in the first half obviously killed us, but I thought we moved the ball really well,” said Bengal QB Brandon Allen. “My biggest thing is that we only hurt ourselves. We have to fix the mistakes we keep making that really hurt our drives.”
After the three turnovers, Cincinnati began digging out of a 17-0 hole with a 5 yard TD pass from Allen to WR AJ Green. It was the 65th TD reception of Green’s career that brought him to one of WR Chad Johnson, 66, for Cincinnati’s all-time lead.
The game also marked the first return trip to Cincinnati for Dallas QB Andy Dalton, who served as the Bengals’ starting QB from 2011-19. Dalton passed for 185 yards and two TDs to help his Cowboys win in front of more than 10,000 fans who showed their appreciation for his work on and off the field in Cincinnati at every turn.
This week, the Bengals want to be on the right track against a Steelers team that has a defense that is third in the NFL in yards per game (303.1) and first in allowable points (18.2) stands. But Cincinnati faces uncertainty at QB as Allen’s status comes into question after leaving the Dallas game with a leg injury. Taylor called Allen “day in and day out” during his press conference on Monday, confirming that Allen will be Cincinnati’s starting QB when he’s healthy. But if he can’t play, Cincinnati will turn to either QB Ryan Finley, who finished the Cowboys game in Allen’s place, or QB Kevin Hogan, the training squad.
Pittsburgh entered the matchup 11-2 on Monday after falling 26:15 against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The series: The Steelers run 67-35 and 32-19 overall in Cincinnati. The series includes two postseason games, both Steelers wins in wild card rounds at Paul Brown Stadium after the 2005 and ’15 seasons.
The Bengals have played more games against the Steelers (102) than any other opponent. Cleveland is second in this category with 95 and Tennessee (formerly Houston Oilers) is third with 76.
The Bengals on MNF: This week’s game is the 12th Bengals Steelers meeting on Monday night. With 11 previous MNF meetings, Pittsburgh is by far Cincinnati’s number one MNF opponent. The Miami Dolphins are the only other team to have faced the Bengals on MNF more than twice. The dolphins and bengal had four meetings.
Cincinnati’s all-time MNF record is 11-25.
Bengals-Steelers connections: Bengals WR Tyler Boyd is from Clairton, Pennsylvania (Clairton High School) and also played at the University of Pittsburgh … Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is from Findlay, Ohio and played at Miami (Ohio) University … Steelers LB Tegray Scales (training team) is from Cincinnati (Colerain High School) … Bengals K Randy Bullock was with the Steelers in 2016 … Bengals G / C BJ Finney was originally a college free agent signer for the Steelers in 2015. and was with the team during season 19 … Bengals G / OT Fred Johnson was originally a college free agent signatory to the Steelers in 2019 … Steelers RB Benny Snell Jr., LB Avery Williamson, LB Bud Dupree (Reserve) / Injured) and DE Calvin Taylor (Practice Group) all played at the University of Kentucky. Snell is also from Columbus, Ohio (Westerville Central High School) … Steelers DT Cameron Heyward played at Ohio State University … Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, and LB Jayrone Elliott all played at University of Toledo .. . Steelers P Jordan Berry played at Eastern Kentucky University … Steelers DL Chris Wormley (Reserve / Injured) is from Toledo, Ohio (Whitmer High School) … Steelers Senior Defensive Assistant / Secondary Coach Teryl Austin was Bengals in 2018 Defensive Coordinator. Steeler’s head coach Mike Tomlin was the defensive coach at the University of Cincinnati from 1999 to 2000. Bengal’s defensive coach Nick Eason played for the Steelers from 2007 to 2010. Bengal’s linebacker coach Al Golden played TE at Penn State University from 1987-1991 and coached there in 2000.
AJ on Chad’s heels: Bengals WR AJ Green has 65 career TD catches and is reluctant to sign former Bengals WR Chad Johnson, 66, to lead the team. Green finished second in Game 10 in Washington when his five-yard TD from QB Joe Burrow severed ties with former WR Carl Pickens, 63. In Game 13 against Dallas, he came closer with a five-yard TD from QB Brandon Allen.
Green is not far behind in the overall TDs category either. His 65 TDs are third in team history, behind Chad Johnson (66) and RB Pete Johnson (70).
Bates is enjoying his best season: Bengals S Jessie Bates was one of the top performers – offensive or defensive – on the team this season and has been hailed by many observers as one of the top collateral in the NFL.
A 2018 Bengals second-round hit, Bates has started all 13 games this season and has 91 tackles (second on the team), including two losses, as well as 14 PDs (sixth in the NFL), three INTs and one FF. He’s also got a tackle against special teams, and it was a big one – a touchdown-saving stop on a kick-return in Game 13 against Dallas when Cowboys RB Tony Pollard began to break out into the open.
Bates has started all 45 games of his career. With 91 tackles this year, he’s only nine away from hitting 100 in each of his first three seasons.