Bengals fall to Cowboys, stretch losing streak to five

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals were in a game on Sunday that felt a little too familiar.

In many key categories, the Bengals outperformed the Dallas Cowboys at Paul Brown Stadium. It should have been enough to allow Cincinnati to snap its losing streak. Instead, the Cowboys won 30-7, handing the Bengals their fifth straight defeat.

Under second-year coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals have been in a few games that they arguably should have won, including Taylor's debut in 2019 in a road loss at Seattle. At the time, the performance indicated there could be good things to come for the Bengals under the young but unproven coach.

Instead, the Bengals have four wins over their past two seasons and likely squandered their last chance at a victory in the 2020 season.

It should be noted it's difficult to fault Taylor for how the Bengals (2-10-1) lost Sunday. Cincinnati was playing with backup quarterback Brandon Allen, who has been the starter since Joe Burrow was hurt in Week 11 against Washington.

Even with Allen, the offense moved the ball well early against a bad Dallas defense. But Cincinnati fumbled on its first three possessions, with two of them coming inside Dallas' 20-yard line.

The Cowboys jumped out to a 17-0 lead and nursed the advantage to the finish, even though Cincinnati had a sizable lead in total yards and allowed two offensive touchdowns.

The loss puts the Bengals in the driver's seat for the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. And while it's unclear if Taylor is in serious jeopardy of losing his job after this season, Sunday's loss is a reminder of Cincinnati's inability to win games it probably should have over the past couple of years.

Troubling trend: Once again, the Bengals' offensive line put its quarterback at risk. A couple of plays later, Allen was hit from behind on a pass attempt that appeared to make the situation worse. It was reminiscent of some hits he and Burrow have taken in the pocket throughout the season. It's also worth noting the Bengals swapped left tackles against Dallas because of poor performance. For the second straight week, Allen was unable to finish the game and was replaced by Ryan Finley. Allen tried to play through the leg injury but really struggled to move around. In the previous game against the New York Giants, Allen had the wind knocked out of him on a sack and couldn't continue.

Troubling trend II: Oh, we're not done with the offensive line. It's not just that the Bengals have struggled to protect their quarterback. It's that Cincinnati might not have the solution to fixing the line's interior on the roster. Xavier Su'a-Filo replaced Michael Jordan at left guard, a move that was expected given the preceding week of practice. But in a surprising move, Jordan was inactive. The Bengals must figure out that unit no matter what happens with their coaching situation this offseason.

Eye-popping NFL Next Gen Stat: The Bengals did not ask Allen to throw the ball downfield often. Of Allen's 36 pass attempts, 31 of them were for 10 air yards or less, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. On passes longer than that, Allen was 2-of-5 passing for 32 yards.