Heading into Sunday's game against the New York Giants, the Cincinnati Bengals have been outscored 40-74 in the second half throughout their current four-game losing streak. Yet the previous three games during that streak, Cincinnati lost leads in the second half that would eventually waterfall into another epic and depressing defeat.
A determined passing game led by Andy Dalton and a fierce Bengals defense set the stage for Cincinnati's best all-around performance against a team not named the Jacksonville Jaguars. In fact it's the first win against a team sporting a winning record since Cincinnati's Nov. 6 win over the Tennessee Titans last year.
In truth Cincinnati's 17-6 half time lead was never threatened. In fact, thanks to a little help from Eli Manning's two third quarter interceptions, the Bengals extended their 11-point lead into a 31-6 advantage during the third quarter; a quarter that also included a three and out and fumble by New York's offense.
By this time quarterback Andy Dalton had already thrown for a career-high four touchdowns, each to a different receiver. One of those went to rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu, who finished the game with a career-high four receptions for 47 yards receiving; including a huge fourth down conversion in the first half.
Ultimately the two deciding factors for Cincinnati were the big plays early in the game and the defense completely shutting down New York's offense in the second half.
A.J. Green opened the scoring with a wide-open 56-yard reception early in the first quarter. Following New York's ensuing three and out, Adam Jones returned the punt 68 yards to the Giants 11-yard line, giving the offense a prime opportunity for Andrew Hawkins' 11-yard touchdown, taking a 14-0 lead within the first five minutes of the first quarter.
After New York put a field goal on the board, thanks to a Brandon Tate punt return fumble, both teams closed the first half by exchanging field goals.
The Giants second half was nasty, turning it over four times, not including a fourth quarter turnover on downs. Eventually the Giants scored their first touchdown with 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati completes their three-game home stand (with a bye week in the middle), traveling to Kansas City next week, who faces the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.