The Bengals (4-10-1) had to rally from their first deficit in the final seven minutes to get the win, as the Texans (4-11) picked apart the defense in the second half.
The game was tied at 10 going into halftime, and every time the Cincinnati offense did something spectacular, Houston responded with production of its own. In the end, Brandon Allen – once an emergency COVID quarterback – outshined one of the league’s top passers in Deshaun Watson. The Bengals finished with a season-high 540 yards of offense, including 169 yards on the ground, and Allen completed 29 of 37 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns in his return from a knee injury that sidelined him Monday.
“Tremendous, and that was Brandon,” said Taylor, . “Brandon was throwing with a ton of anticipation. He was doing a great job seeing the coverages. I was really impressed with the way he played and the guys around him, the linemen. … The run game wasn’t always pretty, but those guys did a nice job finding holes and getting everything going for us.”
Cincinnati, which had a seven-point lead until late in the second quarter, scored on a 46-yard run by Perine to regain a lead on the first drive of the second half, accounting for the team’s first third-quarter touchdown since Week 4. However, Houston easily moved the ball on the Bengals defense the next series, capping a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 4-yard run by David Johnson.
Allen then put together arguably his most impressive drive in four starts as Joe Burrow’s replacement to put the Bengals back in the lead. He converted a third-down pass to A.J. Green, connected with Erickson up the middle for a 42-yard gain and then found Tee Higgins in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass, making it 24-17 with 5:46 left in the third quarter.
Johnson put Houston right back in scoring position, running up the middle for a 48-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage the next drive and six plays later, he was in the end zone scoring again on a 2-yard pass from Deshaun Watson.
The Bengals had to settle for a 48-yard field goal by Seibert on the next drive to make it 27-24 with 10:35 left, and the Texans took their first lead the ensuing drive, this time with Watson connecting with tight end Darren Fells on a 22-yard touchdown. Houston finished with 488 yards, as Watson passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns, and Johnson rushed for 128 yards on 12 carries.
Allen followed with the first game-winning drive of his career and solidified his role going into the finale at home against Baltimore on Jan. 3. He completed 78.1 percent of his passes, a career best in seven total starts, and his 371 yards passing and 126.5 rating also were career bests.
“I think I’ve had a couple of bad games, too,” Allen said. “I’ll take this with a grain of salt.”
Perine finished with 95 yards rushing on 13 carries and added 41 yards on four catches. Higgins led the receivers with 99 yards on six catches, and Erickson added 88 yards on six catches. The offensive line, which featured the same five starters as Monday, didn’t allow a sack.
Ravens at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.6