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Bengals defense bottoms out in historic fashion against the Texans

Missed tackles and coverage breakdowns spell disaster.

NFL: OCT 15 Seahawks at Bengals Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“If we don’t correct this,” cornerback Mike Hilton said, “it is going to get ugly.”

He was talking about the defense, but Hilton might just as easily have been talking about the whole of the Cincinnati Bengals’ effort in the loss to the Houston Texans Sunday afternoon.

Because it took an entire team effort to look that bad.

Cincinnati’s defense, which had been the hero of the past couple of victories, fell flat against the Texans in just about every area. Houston running back Devin Singletary shredded the Bengals’ defense for 150 yards on 30 carries, the most it has allowed on the ground since nose tackle DJ Reader joined the fray four years ago.

“We didn’t play well enough,” Reader said after the game. “We missed tackles. That’s it. We just missed tackles. You can’t miss that many tackles as a defense. It’s frustrating because we didn’t play up to our standard. You can do a loss if you played up to standard, but we didn’t play up to standard.”

Cincinnati did not do much right against the Texans, by any standard. In addition to the missed tackles and the inability to stop the run, the Bengals left receivers wide open downfield and managed to come up with only a single sack.

In fact, Cincinnati’s defense was so bad Sunday that it was historically bad. The Texans recorded 17 explosive plays against the Bengals, which is tied for the fourth-most in an NFL game since 2000.

“We just got to be better,” Hilton stressed. “Little things got us beat today. We gave up way too many explosive plays through the air, we didn’t tackle well. That’s the type of thing that gets you beat.”

Cincinnati’s offense didn’t help. After driving down for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, the Bengals’ next four possessions ended in punts, and all but one of them were three-and-outs. The second half started with another three-and-out, and by the time Cincinnati finally got it going again, it was down by a score of 20-7.

Despite it all, the Bengals had a chance to pull this one out. But two late interceptions by quarterback Joe Burrow, including one in the Texans’ end zone, and a dropped touchdown reception by Tyler Boyd kept that from happening.

“We have to step it up,” Burrow said after the game. “We have to be better. Today wasn’t good enough; it’s as simple as that.”

Things are definitely not going to get any easier. Cincinnati travels to Baltimore Thursday night to face the division-leading Ravens. And they still have games remaining against Pittsburgh (twice), Jacksonville, Minnesota, Kansas City and Cleveland.

The Bengals lost at home to Baltimore in September and need a win to stay in contention, but have not won a primetime game on the road since 2012. They have only beaten one AFC team this season and are 0-2 in the division.

“This one definitely hurts but we’ve got to push it behind,” Hilton said. “Guys got to be ready. Do what you have to do for the next couple of days. Just make sure you’re prepared and ready to go for a tough one in Baltimore.

“We’ve got to bow up or shut up.”