Bengals again in the game before more brutal red zone play from Andy Dalton

CINCINNATI -- To figure out why the Cincinnati Bengals are winless this season, three passes in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss explains a lot.

For yet another week this season, Cincinnati managed to remain within striking distance despite being statistically dominated. That changed in the fourth quarter after Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw three interceptions in the 27-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Dalton’s first interception stifled a drive that could have tied the game in the fourth quarter. The following two turnovers cleared out a stadium that was fairly empty already. Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue intercepted a botched screen pass for a 23-yard touchdown. On Dalton’s next throw, Jacksonville safety Ronnie Harrison picked Dalton off again as boos descended from the crowd and all comeback hopes were crushed.

The ninth-year quarterback was 22 of 43 passing for 276 yards, one touchdown and those three turnovers. It was Dalton’s worst game since he threw four interceptions in last year’s loss at Carolina.

By the time the game ended, it was hard to believe the Bengals actually led by a point entering the fourth quarter. It was that kind of day for one of the worst teams in the league.

Pivotal play: After the Jaguars took a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati had a chance to tie the game. Dalton led the Bengals inside Jacksonville’s red zone. However, Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack jumped a route for Dalton’s sixth interception of the year. Four of those have occurred inside the opponent’s 30-yard line.

Sell a breakout performance: Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson had a career day against the Jaguars. The fourth-year player out of Wisconsin set new personal highs with eight catches for 137 yards. However, that might not continue moving forward. With receivers A.J. Green and John Ross out indefinitely with injuries, Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate have received the bulk of the passing targets. While Erickson will continue to be an important part of Cincinnati’s depleted air attack, it will be hard to produce those lofty numbers on a consistent basis.

Troubling trend: Cincinnati struggled to get any rushing yards for the second straight week. Running back Joe Mixon had the worst game of his career. He finished with 10 carries for 2 yards against the Jaguars. It was the lowest rushing total since he had nine carries in his first career game in 2017. After a rough start to the season, Mixon averaged four yards or more per carry for three straight weeks. However, it appears he’s back to where he started this year. Dating back to the Week 6 loss to Baltimore, Mixon has a total of 12 rushing yards on his last 18 attempts.

Silver lining: Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins had his best game of the season. Atkins tallied two sacks against the Jaguars, which doubled his total through the first six weeks of the season. The anchor of Cincinnati’s defensive line was also disruptive in the middle of the line of scrimmage, a good sign for the Bengals’ struggling defense.