Bengals fans have been spoiled this year. It's really the only explanation for experiencing a euphoric and historic 8-0 start to the season, spurring the feeling that Cincinnati should win nearly every game for which they take the field. Things couldn't have been more stacked in the favor of the Bengals as they took the field on Monday night.
The Texans defied a lot of odds to come out and beat the Bengals, but when it was all said and done, Houston became a first place team in the AFC South.
The Defense: Any time you hold a foe to 10 points at home and 82 team rushing yards, you should win. Sure, there were issues on third down coverages (more on that later), but they held Houston to a 33 percent third down conversion rate overall (5-of-15) and 0-for-1 on fourth down. Cincinnati had three sacks and an interception, no Houston receiver had 60 yards receiving, while no running back cracked the 35-yard mark.
Dre Kirkpatrick: Although he didn't have an interception, Kirkpatrick was physical on defense and made life miserable for the Texans' receivers--particularly in the first half. He had a season-high three pass breakups, along with three total tackles.
Mike Nugent: He was 2-for-2 once again on field goal attempts on Monday night, with on-and-off drizzle. The 42-yarder he hit was especially impressive, as he hit it after his initial try was nullified by a Tyler Kroft holding penalty.
Vincent Rey: While he's had a couple of impressive games in his career (the Chargers game in 2015 and the Ravens in 2014 come to mind), Rey played very well on Monday night. He was an integral part of the stout run defense and had an early sack where he knifed into the backfield to take down Brian Hoyer.
Domata Peko and Pat Sims: The big boys up front who get less attention had quality games against Houston. Peko had a sack, a stuff and three total tackles, as he is having one of the better years in his career. Sims, who has been rotated for and has been inactive at times this year, was in on six tackles and helped stifle Alfred Blue and Co.
Field Position: The Bengals couldn't get much out of their kickoff returners on Monday night, and when they had an okay start on things, they often shot themselves in the foot with penalties to back them up further. Great field position has been a constant in their eight-game win streak this year, but it was an Achilles heel on Monday night.
Running Game: At times it was awful, but Andy Dalton managed six yards per carry, while Giovani Bernard cracked four yards per carry. However, Marvin Jones had minus-eight yards on a reverse and Jeremy Hill had 15 yards on seven carries. It's a combination of poor blocking at times, as well as indecision by runners.
Third and Fourth Down Efficiencies: Another facet to the Bengals' dominance on offense this year has been their success on third downs. They were 28 percent on third downs against the Texans and 0-for-1 on fourth down. Converting these types of scenarios gives an offense confidence, which they were clearly lacking on Monday night.
Penalties and Stifling Drives: The Bengals haven't had issues in the penalty department often this season, but they were on full display Monday night. They had nine for 70 yards, many of which stalled drives and put them in almost-impossible third-and-long situations.
Offensive Stars Crumbling in the Spotlight: A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert have been incredible this year, but both had terrible moments on the evening. Eifert had three drops to go with just three catches, while Green atoned for Eifert's last drop on the final drive with a big third down catch, but fumbled away a ball where he had a first down on a fourth down. Throw in last year's stud in Hill, and it was a disappointing night all-around.
Bengals in Primetime: Believe in the curse or not, Cincinnati just doesn't seem to play well on the national stage. With Dalton as the quarterback, this team is 4-12 on Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night Football, as well as the playoffs. We saw mistakes from the team that hadn't popped up at all in 2015 in the form of dumb penalties, drops and a myriad of other issues.
Hue Jackson's Offensive Game Plan: The Texans have defensive talent, but going into the game, they were ranked in the mid-20s against the run. Jackson inexplicably abandoned the run, with Bernard getting only eight carries to Hill's seven. In defense of Jackson, yards were tough to come by early, but with pass protection struggling and Dalton clearly uncomfortable most of the night, some more runs would have been helpful. The pass routes were also predictable, as many of them were jumped by Houston defensive backs.
Freaking Bengals Killers, T.J. Yates and Johnathan Joseph: The former Bengals' defensive back has beaten Cincinnati four times the past five seasons, and has an interception in the past two. Yates, a guy who was recently unemployed, has beaten the Bengals three times in his five-year career. He had a touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins and converted other frustrating third downs.