You can trace Cincinnati's offensive successes to anything. Revamped rushing offense, third down conversions, more efficient passing. Then they began struggling in the last two weeks, similar to how they've lost those opportunities during the team's four-game losing streak earlier this season. Andy Dalton, sacked five times against the Dallas Cowboys, has thrown an interception in consecutive games after going three straight without a pick.
Yet they gutted out a win against the the Chargers in San Diego last week, promoting a mental toughness that encouraged fans to believe the Bengals could win those games that they shouldn't. On Sunday they gave away 10 points in the fourth quarter and the entire football game after leading by nine with only six minutes remaining against the Dallas Cowboys, eliminating said mental toughness.
Against the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, the Bengals scored 11 touchdowns on 13 combined red zone appearances, averaging 31 points per game. During the team's last eight red zone appearances against the Cowboys and Chargers, the Bengals have scored only three touchdowns, forced to attempt five field goals, averaging 19.5 points.
After scoring two touchdowns in four red zone chances against the Chargers, the Bengals lost every opportunity to put away the Cowboys by failing to convert on the team's final three red zone chances on Sunday.
+ With 3:47 remaining in the first quarter, already establishing a 7-3 lead and forcing Dallas into one of Brian Moorman's epic punts on Sunday, the Bengals reached the red zone. After a minimal BenJarvus Green-Ellis gain, a four-yard hitch route to Andrew Hawkins, the Bengals have third and four from the Dallas five. Jason Hatcher worked through a Clint Boling block just as Andy Dalton abandoned the pocket, sacking the quarterback and forcing Josh Brown to convert a 25-yard field goal.
What could have been a 14-3 lead, turned into a 10-3 advantage.
+ A quarter later with 4:16 remaining in the second, Cincinnati returned to the red zone on Dallas' 18-yard line. Dalton hesitated in the pocket before dumping a second down pass to BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the flats, slightly behind him and forcing the running back to fall down while making the reception.
Third and three from the 15-yard line, Dalton takes the snap and quickly targets Andrew Hawkins. The football is on-target, but the football bounces off Hawkins' concrete finger tips for the incomplete.
Brown converts the 33-yard field goal.
What could have been a 21-10 lead, turned into a 13-10 advantage.
+ Cincinnati takes the opening second half kick and drives the football to Dallas' 12-yard line.
Follow me here. Andrew Whitworth is called for a false start (DAL-17), Dalton is sacked by Anthony Spencer, but Cowboys defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
First and nine from the Dallas nine-yard line.
After a Green-Ellis minimal gain, Marvin Jones' touchdown reception was nullified after illegally touching the football due to being the first to touch the ball after being pushed out of bounds. Dalton slightly overthrew Gresham in the endzone on second down with Sensabaugh ensuring the incomplete pass with a hit as the football grazed Gresham's fingertips.
Third and goal from the seven-yard line, A.J. Green cuts underneath Andrew Hawkins and Jermaine Gresham's routes, dropping the football on a quick slant, which would have resulted in a touchdown.
What could have been a 28-10 lead, turned into a 16-10 advantage. The Cowboys would go on a 10-3 run and win the game in the fourth quarter.