Nov 1, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor celebrates after a game against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals retain head coach Taylor

Six wins in two seasons put Zac Taylor at risk of losing his job, but Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown thinks otherwise.

Taylor, 37, went 4-11-1 in 2020 and the Bengals averaged 19.4 points per game, well under expectations.

“We remain bullish on the foundation Zac is building, and we look forward to next year giving our fans the winning results we all want,” Brown said in a statement on Monday.

Taylor was hired in February 2019 and is 6-25-1 in two seasons.

A turnaround in the AFC North, which has three teams in the playoffs, is expected to take more time.

The Bengals drafted quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in April and the former Heisman Trophy winner performed well before a season-ending knee injury in November.

Taylor was quarterbacks coach of the Los Angeles Rams under Sean McVay and played quarterback at Nebraska.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) pushes Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) out of bounds in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Jackson sets QB rushing record as Ravens handle Bengals

Lamar Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in multiple seasons while leading the Ravens to their third straight AFC playoff berth with a 38-3 win over the host Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

The Ravens (11-5) enter the postseason as a wild card on a five-game winning streak, while Cincinnati ends the season 4-11-1.

Jackson rushed for 97 yards on 11 carries to give him 1,005 yards for the season. He also went 10-for-18 passing for 113 yards and three touchdowns and an interception before being pulled late in the third quarter.

The Ravens finished with 404 rushing yards, which was the fourth most by a team since 1950, trailing only the New York Giants (423 on Nov. 19, 1950), Cincinnati (407 on Oct. 22, 2000) and Chicago (406 on Nov. 6, 1955).

Rookie J.K. Dobbins scored on touchdown runs of 4 and 72 yards en route to rushing for a career-high 160 yards on 13 carries, while Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram added 60 and 39 yards on the ground, respectively.

Marquise Brown had five catches for 41 yards and two touchdowns.

Cincinnati quarterback Brandon Allen was 6-for-21 passing for 48 yards and two interceptions. Trayveon Williams rushed for 74 yards on four carries and Samaje Perine had nine carries for 51 yards.

The Ravens took control early. After Justin Tucker’s 34-yard field goal gave Baltimore a 3-0 lead on its first possession, the Ravens found the end zone on their next one when Jackson threw a 43-yard touchdown strike to Miles Boykin for a 10-0 lead with 3:54 left in the first quarter.

The Ravens extended the lead to 17-0 when Jackson found Brown over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown with 4:30 left in the half.

The Bengals pulled to within 17-3 on Austin Seibert’s 38-yard field goal with 36 seconds left before intermission.

Baltimore extended its lead to 24-3 when Dobbins’ 4-yard run capped a five-play, 70-yard drive with 9:55 left in the third quarter.

Brown found the end zone when he caught a 9-yard pass from Jackson with 3:44 left in the third quarter and Dobbins provided an exclamation point with a career-long 72-yard touchdown run with 1:45 left in the third quarter for a 38-3 lead.

Jackson rushed for an NFL quarterback-record 1,206 last year in his first full year as a starter. The mark eclipsed Michael Vick’s record of 1,039, which he set in 2006 — the only season in which he broke 1,000 yards.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Mike Daniels (76) walks off the field after the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bengals DT Mike Daniels (COVID-19) out Sunday

Cincinnati Bengals nose tackle Mike Daniels tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Baltimore Ravens, NFL Network reported Saturday.

The 31-year-old former Pro Bowler started 11 games and contributed 17 tackles this season.

Daniels has 30 sacks, three fumble recoveries and 252 tackles in 122 career games (85 starts) with the Green Bay Packers (2012-18), Detroit Lions (2019) and Bengals.

Green Bay drafted him in the fourth round in 2012 and he made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

Xavier Williams, 28, will likely make his third start of the season in Daniels’ absence.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs the ball against Houston Texans cornerback Keion Crossen (35) during the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals prevail in shootout versus Texans

Samaje Perine capped a 75-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:57 remaining and the Cincinnati Bengals turned the first sack of the game into a 37-31 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen passed for a career-high 371 yards and also threw two touchdown passes and engineered the scoring march that lifted the Bengals (4-10-1) to their second consecutive victory. Cincinnati last won back-to-back games in Weeks 4 and 5 in 2018.

The Bengals racked up 540 yards, while the Texans had 488. Houston lost its fourth straight game.

Houston (4-11) had taken its first lead at 31-27 when Deshaun Watson found Darren Fells for a 22-yard touchdown with 6:15 left. Watson, who passed for 324 yards and three touchdowns, set a franchise record with his 30th scoring pass this season. But with 1:28 left, Sam Hubbard recorded a strip-sack of Watson and Margus Hunt recovered the fumble to seal the win for Cincinnati.

David Johnson posted his first 100-yard rushing game for Houston with 128 yards while Brandon Cooks had his second 100-yard receiving game with seven catches and 141 yards.

The third quarter was an offensive showcase with Cincinnati compiling two 75-yard touchdown drives while the Texans did the same. Perine rumbled 46 yards through a series of broken tackles for a touchdown and a 17-10 lead before Johnson pulled the Texans even with 9:05 left in the third on his 4-yard scoring run.

Allen responded with a series of exceptional passing precision, completing 4 of 4 attempts for 83 yards, including a perfect 20-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins. Watson and Johnson followed by combining on a 2-yard scoring pass that tied the score at 24 with 55 seconds left in the third.

Allen got off to a hot start, going 5 of 5 for 65 yards on the Bengals’ opening possession, a drive capped by his 8-yard scoring pass to Drew Sample — the first career touchdown for Sample.

The Texans attempted to match but stumbled in the red zone following a 50-yard Watson-to-Cooks pass play, settling for a 21-yard Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal and 7-3 deficit. The Bengals squandered opportunities to extend to a commanding lead by failing to convert on fourth down in Texans territory and by also misfiring on a 49-yard Austin Seibert field goal.

Cincinnati amassed 229 yards in the first half with a 20:02 time of possession yet went into the intermission tied at 10-10 after Watson hit Cooks for a 25-yard touchdown at the 1:54 mark of the second period. For Watson, it was his 13th touchdown outside of the red zone, an NFL-best.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) during warmups before the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Watson, Texans aim to bounce back vs. buoyant Bengals

The image of Deshaun Watson gazing in disbelief after another costly late-game fumble against the Indianapolis Colts is sure to linger with Houston Texans fans.

The quarterback and the Texans (4-10) will attempt to rebound Sunday when they host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-10-1).

Watson had once again dragged the short-handed Texans to the brink of victory with his exceptional play against the Colts, only to be undermined by a second red-zone turnover in three weeks. Houston lost each those two games to Indianapolis on either side of a loss at Chicago.

The juxtaposition of the results for the Texans this season against Watson and his impressive performances will resonate into an offseason during which the Texans will have multiple needs to address, including vacancies at head coach and general manager.

Watson is the one constant. No one would question his bona fides as a top signal-caller, considering he ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (4,134) and passer rating (110.6) despite attrition at the Texans’ skill positions.

“I think all of that will make him better because he’s able to adapt to the receivers that he has on the field and he can still put up the good numbers,” Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said. “I think that when he gets a consistent crew, that’ll just make him better down the line.

“Even though he’s had good numbers, I think that he will say that the fact that we’re not winning doesn’t satisfy him. I think his choice would be to have good numbers and to have a lot of wins to go along with it.”

The two demoralizing losses to Indianapolis left the Texans assured of a losing record this season following back-to-back AFC South division titles.

The Bengals’ 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday qualified as impressive at face value. Cincinnati was riding a five-game overall losing streak, had dropped 11 consecutive games against its AFC North rival and was a double-digit underdog entering the primetime affair.

Cincinnati overcame those odds, doing so with a third-string quarterback (Ryan Finley) and without their leading receiver, Tyler Boyd, who was knocked from the contest in the early stages after sustaining a concussion.

The Bengals appear undaunted by the chore of traveling to Houston during the holidays to square off with the Texans. Preparedness hasn’t been an issue.

“It hasn’t been a challenge to get these guys focused at all, to be quite honest, and I think that shows on how we played the other week,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “This week there’s a lot of things to manage. It’s a short week, we’re on the road, you’ve got Christmas. But again, I’ve got a lot of faith in our guys to handle it the right way and we’ve laid out our expectations for them. And we know that they’ll be pros about it.”

Playing out the string of a 16-game schedule is a task in itself. Doing so during a pandemic-altered season can sap enthusiasm. The Bengals might still be without Boyd and quarterback Brandon Allen (knee) against the Texans, but their effort Monday provided a bit of a boost, perhaps enough to carry Cincinnati through the final two games of the schedule.

“This was something that we all needed,” Bengals running back Giovani Bernard said of beating the Steelers. “It’s something that I’m sure everybody is proud of.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) warms up prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers can wrap AFC North title vs. Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost two straight games and yet have clinched a playoff spot. Now they have a chance to wrap up the AFC North title.

That can happen if Cleveland loses Sunday night against the Giants, so it could be decided before the Steelers play Monday night against the Bengals in Cincinnati. A Steelers’ win also gives them the title.

Either way, there are a couple things Pittsburgh (11-2) wants to work on against Cincinnati (2-10-1), which has lost five straight games, including a 36-10 decision Nov. 15 against the Steelers.

A key area for Pittsburgh is opening up the offense, something offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said has been difficult to work on with three games in a 12-day span that ended with Sunday night’s 26-15 loss at Buffalo.

Questions have swirled around veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and whether he is reaching the end of his career after the Steelers have come to rely on the passing game but almost exclusively without throwing downfield.

Roethlisberger, who is 38 and had reconstructive elbow surgery last year, dismissed the notion that he is no longer effective, and Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor believes him.

“It’s a Hall of Fame quarterback who is in full command of the system, so you really have to be on top of your game from a communication standpoint,” Taylor said.

Pittsburgh hopes to give Roethlisberger a chance to air things out more Monday against the Bengals.

“Having this week where we actually get back to a semblance of having a real week, we worked on that,” Fichtner said, calling the longer passes “an area of emphasis.”

“We know we have to get back to that. We know that in any one given year since I’ve been here, the opportunity to throw the ball past the sticks in possession downs is critical to us.”

Pittsburgh — which scored at least 20 points the first 10 games but has not reached that threshold the past three — also has been hurt by dropped passes, particularly the past three weeks.

“If you’re going to throw the football, you have to catch the football,” Fichtner said.

Both teams have had injury problems that have affected consistency — specifically linebackers and offensive linemen for Pittsburgh, the defensive front and offensive line for Cincinnati.

This week, the Bengals also are faced with a question at quarterback. Brandon Allen, who has made three starts in a row, did not practice Thursday because of a knee problem, although Taylor said Allen is “doing better” and is an option to play.

If not, second-year pro Ryan Finley is expected to face Pittsburgh.

It’s just another situation that pits Taylor’s innate optimism against the reality of coaching a two-win team in late December.

“It continues to evolve every week … and put your staff and players in position to be successful,” Taylor said.

For Pittsburgh, cornerback Joe Haden, who missed the Buffalo game because of a concussion, was a full participant Thursday at practice, but running back James Conner (quadriceps) and offensive lineman Kevin Dotson (shoulder) did not practice.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) tackles Cincinnati Bengals running back Trayveon Williams (32) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Dalton does in former club as Cowboys rout Bengals

Andy Dalton was sharp in his return to Cincinnati, and the visiting Dallas Cowboys took advantage of three first-half fumbles from the Bengals to snap a two-game skid with a 30-7 win on Sunday.

Dalton was a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft with the Bengals before being let go by the club in April. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

Amari Cooper had four catches for 51 yards and touchdown for Dallas (4-9), which scored at least 20 points for just the second time in the last eight games.

Aldon Smith, Jourdan Lewis and Jaylon Smith each had a fumble recovery for the Cowboys.

Brandon Allen completed 27 of 36 for 217 yards and a touchdown, but Cincinnati gave away the game with fumbles that ended each of its first three possessions. Allen didn’t finish the game due to a lower leg injury in the fourth quarter.

The Bengals (2-10-1) dropped their fifth straight game and have just 10 combined second-half points during the stretch. Cincinnati has scored only 24 offensive points since a season-ending injury to rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.

Dallas, essentially, had just two possessions and was outgained 196-108 in the first half. The Cowboys led 17-7 at the break anyway.

After Giovani Bernard fumbled on the Bengals’ second play on the opening possession, Greg Zuerlein gave the Cowboys an early 3-0 lead with a 34-yard field goal.

Cincinnati’s second lost fumble from Trayveon Williams was scooped up and returned 78 yards for a defensive score by Smith. That gave Dallas a 10-0 lead with 6:28 left in the first quarter.

The Bengals’ third fumble came from receiver Alex Erickson, who had just converted a fourth-and-1 from the Dallas 15-yard line on the first play of the second quarter. The Cowboys turned the takeaway into a 15-play, 88-yard drive that took 8:12 off the clock, and Dalton finished the series with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cooper with 6:38 left.

Cincinnati used its own long drive, a 16-play sequence that lasted 6:30, to get on the board with A.J. Green’s 5-yard touchdown late in the half. Dallas had time for a single kneel down after the ensuing kickoff.

After neither team punted in the first half, the teams combined for four punts in a sluggish second. Tony Pollard’s 60-yard kickoff return set up Zuerlein’s 20-yard field goal early in the third quarter, and Zuerlein added a 55-yard field goal with 5:12 remaining to make it 23-7.

Dalton flipped a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tony Pollard with 1:55 left on a fourth-and-1 play to finish it off.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen (8) attempts a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Tagovailoa powers Dolphins to win over Bengals

Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa passed for a touchdown and a season-high 296 yards, leading the host Miami Dolphins to a 19-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in a fight-filled game that featured five ejections on Sunday afternoon.

Tagovailoa had missed one game due to a thumb injury on his (left) throwing hand, but he looked sharp in leading Miami (8-4), which also got a big game from tight end Mike Gesicki, who had nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Cincinnati (2-9-1) was led by quarterback Brandon Allen, who passed for 153 yards and a touchdown before getting knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter on a hit to the chest by Shaq Lawson. Allen started his second straight game in place of Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in this year’s NFL draft who is out for the seasondwith a knee injury.

A fight broke out with 11:54 left in the fourth after Cincinnati’s Mike Thomas was penalized on two straight special teams plays, both times for hitting Jakeem Grant, high and then early. After the second one, Dolphins players took exception, and a fight erupted, after which Miami’s DeVante Parker and Mack Hollins, and Cincinnati’s Shawn Williams, were ejected.

In addition, Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd and Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard were ejected in the second quarter after they threw punches.

Prior to that, both had made big plays. Boyd had caught a 72-yard touchdown pass, snapping Cincinnati’s streak of 22 straight games without a touchdown of at least 40 yards.

Howard intercepted a pass for the fourth straight game. He has eight this season, which leads the NFL.

Miami also suffered a pair of injuries to starters: linebacker Tagovailoa (chest) and left guard Ereck Flowers (left ankle). Up until Sunday, Flowers had not missed a snap all season.

Cincinnati had the only first-quarter score on Boyd’s 72-yard play off a short toss from Allen. It was a third-and-2 play, but a block from tight end Drew Sample and a bad angle by Miami cornerback Byron Jones allowed Boyd to take it all the way down the left sideline.

The Dolphins cut their halftime deficit to 7-6 after a pair of Jason Sanders field goals, including one after an apparent touchdown on a 2-yard, fourth-down run by holder/punter Matt Haack was nullified by an illegal-formation penalty.

Miami took the second-half kickoff and drove 75 yards for a 13-7 lead, its first of the game. The score came on a five-yard toss to Gesicki.

The Dolphins put the game away with two more Sanders field goals as they improved to 1-4 this season when trailing at halftime.

–Field Level Media