The Cincinnati Bengals had their first win within reach, but two fourth-quarter turnovers sealed the worst start to a season in franchise history.
The Bengals lost 16-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium to fall to 0-11. The Bengals went 0-10 to start the 1993 season before winning their first game. The loss was the Bengals 13th straight dating back to last season, also a record.
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Cincinnati led 7-3 at halftime but gave up a 79-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges to James Washington early in the third quarter, and when the Bengals had a chance to regain the lead in the fourth, Tyler Boyd fumbled at the Steelers’ 6-yard line. They never had another substantial drive.
Here are five takeaways from the loss:
1. It’s never been worse
Even the Dave Shula years never went this badly. The Bengals now have lost 13 straight dating back to last season and 18 of their last 19 games.
And perhaps even worse: The Steelers still own them. Cincinnati has lost 10 consecutive games in the series with Pittsburgh with the last win coming in November of 2015.
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“It’s just defeating to lose — period,” Taylor said. “I don’t really care about the stats or the records.”
No other team in the league has fewer than two losses, which has some thinking the Bengals are or will tank the season to lock up the No. 1 pick in the draft. The weekly banner hanging in the upper deck of the stadium even read: “Let’s grow with Joe,” with the name, filled in with purple shading, meant to represent LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who many believe will end up being the top overall pick.
2. Boyd’s mixed day
Tyler Boyd complained that he didn’t get enough passes thrown his way last week after a loss at Oakland when he finished with one catch on three targets for zero yards, but he was at the forefront of almost every big play the Bengals had Sunday – for better or worse.
The Pittsburgh native had a spectacular 47-yard catch to set up his 15-yard touchdown in the second quarter, as the Bengals went up 7-3, and he finished with his first 100-yard receiving performance of the season, catching five passes on nine targets for 101 yards and one touchdown. However, the play he won’t soon forget was the one he botched. After the Steelers went up 13-10 on a Chris Boswell field goal early in the fourth quarter, Boyd caught a 22-yard pass to move the Bengals into the red zone but fumbled before the play was over at the 6-yard line.
Cincinnati never again reached Pittsburgh territory.
“I fumbled,” Boyd said. “It was on me. I determine a win or loss (there). That was me. I wish I had that one back, but no one in this world is perfect.”
3. Finley’s struggles continue
Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley still doesn’t seem to be the solution to the Bengals’ problems on offense. He completed just 12 of 26 passes for 192 yards and one touchdown and finished with a quarterback rating of 84.1 and four sacks.
Finley was stripped on his last sack, resulting in his fifth turnover in three games and that was the last play for the Bengals’ offense. There would be no other chance to put together a game-winning drive.
Taylor said he doesn’t make any personnel decisions immediately after a game, so he could not say whether Finley would remain the starter, but he noted three games is not enough to properly evaluate him.
“If you look around the league, all of the young quarterbacks struggle in their first three games,” Taylor said. “If you benched every quarterback after the first three games, you wouldn’t have anybody playing quarterback. You’d only have old guys like Matt Moore. We’re down two receivers. That’s tough on a young quarterback.”
Finley is 41-of-87 passing for 474 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions and three fumbles lost in three games.
4. Glenn returns
Cordy Glenn looked pretty solid in his season debut, his first action since reporting a concussion after the second preseason game. He played every offensive snap at left tackle and said whatever differences he had with the coaching staff — regarding the handling of his concussion and a disciplinary incident that led to a one-game suspension the week he returned to full participation in practice — are now behind him.
However, Glenn said there was a time he wasn’t sure he would ever play a game this season for the Bengals.
“Honestly, I didn’t know, but thank God I am, honestly,” Glenn said. “I just had some time to heal up properly and I started feeling better, feeling like I could go out there and perform and help the team out. That’s kind of how it played out. We’ve had conversations here or there (with the coaches), but it’s just about football. Everybody has one goal, and that’s to win games.”
Glenn did seem to wear down late and got beat by Bud Dupree on the sack that Finley fumbled on the last drive.
5. Hodges steps up
The Bengals have given up big plays all season, but Hodges’ touchdown his first drive of the game will go down as one of the worst.
Washington caught the ball around the 40-yard line in the middle of the field and beat William Jackson, who came in from the left side, and then stiff-armed B.W. Webb to open a free lane to the end zone.
Hodges replaced Mason Rudolph after Pittsburgh opened the second half with a three-and-out, and the third-stringer completed five of 11 passes for 118 yards and one touchdown. There had been a quarterback controversy brewing as Rudolph has struggled in recent weeks while playing in Ben Roethlisberger’s place.
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