In a game that turned into a battle of backup quarterbacks, the Bengals defense held the Giants' Colt McCoy to just three field goals but their offense couldn't give Brandon Allen enough support in a 19-17 loss Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
In his Bengals debut, Allen's running game could produce just 40 yards and three second-half turnovers doomed the first effort without rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.
Allen got the first touchdown since Burrow went down last week when he scrambled and, backpedaling, whipped a one-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins coming back for the ball with 2:33 left to cut the lead to 19-17 on a play that was set up by wide receiver Tyler Boyd drawing a 17-yard pass interference penalty.
The Bengals opted not to on-side it and were rewarded when McCoy's roll-out pass on third down for first down was negated by a hold.
And when Alex Erickson ripped off a 29-yard punt return to midfield, it looked like Allen was about to get an improbable victory, needing just 20 yards or so for a winning field goal. But on the first snap, Allen hesitated in the pocket and Jabaal Sheard came over the left edge to execute a sack strip to end it.
Allen finished 17 of 29 for 136 yards for a 67.5 passer rating. McCoy was at 65, but his defense got the three turnovers, not to mention his offensive line getting 142 yards rushing.
Two of the Bengals' bigger pass plays in the second half were wiped out on holding penalties by left tackle Jonah Williams and left guard Quinton Spain. Spain's hold had Allen dropping back into his end zone with less than five minutes left.
Then when Allen hit tight end Drew Sample for a first down, Sample lost the ball when cornerback Logan Ryan stripped him at the Bengals 19 with 4:12 left. The Giants put McCoy in a strait jacket and took the Graham Gano chip-shot field goal with 3:54 left for the 19-10 lead.
When the Bengals got the ball back, Allen had just 96 yards on 13 of 23 passing. The longest completions were to Sample (16) and running back Trayveon Williams (13). A.J. Green didn't have a catch. Green didn't finish catch and Boyd, their leading receiver, had just three catches for 15 yards with his longest just nine yards. Their longest play was Higgins' 18-yarder, one of his five catches for a team-leading 44 yards.
On the first two series of the second half, the Bengals missed two great third-down chances to take control of the game.
After Wilson nearly took the second half's opening kickoff half all the way like he did earlier in the game for a 103-yard kick return that was the longest in team history, the Bengals went three-and-out after getting the ball at their 38. On third-and-one usually reliable running back Giovani Bernard dropped a wide-open third-and-one pass out of the backfield.
Then Giants quarterback Daniel Jones again burned the Bengals secondary with tight end Evan Engram. In the first half their deep-ball 53-yarder set up New York's only touchdown. On their first drive of the second half they hooked up deep down the left sideline. Brandon Wilson was in great position to make a play at safety, but didn't and New York had the ball at the Bengals 28.
Then, with Jones out when he pulled his hamstring, McCoy came in to finish off the drive. He threw a third-down pass right to Bengals rookie linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither over the middle, but he dropped it and Graham Gano hit a 40-yard field goal to give New York a 13-10 lead in the middle of the third quarter.
That third quarter was miserable for the Bengals offense. They couldn't get a thing in the run game and with the Giants blanketing the field in zone, Allen couldn't find anyone open. He had just two completions in the third quarter for 19 yards and went into the fourth quarter with just 72 yards passing.
They missed their three third-down tries in the third quarter, but did get a first down on fourth down when up back Shawn Williams took the direct punt snap and ran seven yards for the first down on his second successful fake punt in three games.
Then running back Trayveon Williams grabbed his first NFL catch for 13 yards. But on the next snap, he lost two yards on a run when the Giants penetrated through the left side.
Then Allen tried to jam it into Boyd over the middle and cornerback Darnay Holmes batted it in the air and linebacker Niko Lalos, just off the practice squad came backward to make a diving interception at the Bengals 40. That turned it into a field goal that gave New York a 16-10 lead.