ARLINGTON, Texas — Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals fell flat in their quarterback’s pseudo homecoming to Texas.
Now he has to face New England in Tom Brady’s first home game since the “Deflategate” suspension with the Bengals under .500 five games into the season a year after they started 8-0.
“Anytime you lose, you’re going to look into the mirror,” Dalton said after throwing a pair of too-little-too-late touchdown passes in a 28-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. “We’ve got the potential to do some really good things, and we’ve got to play to that potential.”
The Bengals (2-3) trailed 28-0 after Ezekiel Elliott’s 60-yard touchdown run on Dallas’ first offensive play of the second half.
Dalton, the former TCU player who grew up in Houston, was sacked four times, and Cincinnati gave up a season-high 180 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. That included one for Elliott’s fellow rookie, quarterback Dak Prescott.
Cincinnati, a playoff qualifier five straight years, was coming off its best defensive game of the season in a 22-7 win over Miami. With Prescott completing 75 percent of his passes while getting sacked just once, the Bengals will have to be better against Brady.
“There’s so much season left, there’s so many runs you make in this game,” tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “If we end the way we started last year, then this doesn’t really mean that much.”
Things to consider after the Cowboys (4-1) won their fourth straight with Prescott filling in for the injured Tony Romo:
PROTECTING DALTON: The run game wasn’t much of a factor for the Bengals since they trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. But the protection of Dalton was a problem. Besides four sacks, Dalton was hurried nine times while going 29 of 41 for 269 yards with two touchdowns to Brandon LaFell . “He didn’t panic,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “He just kept playing, which was good to see.”
CHASING BRADY: Prescott’s rookie record of 155 pass attempts without an interception to start a career is now eight throws shy of breaking Brady’s overall NFL mark. He had his first turnover on a lost fumble, but he helped guarantee a winning record for Dallas going into the Oct. 30 game against Philadelphia. That’s when Romo could return, after a bye following next week’s visit to Green Bay.
“If I don’t break it, I’m sure someone else will,” the 23-year-old Prescott said. “It’s not anything I think about going into the game. I’ll allow y’all to have fun with those things.”
LOSING GROUND: The Bengals trail the Steelers by two games in the AFC North, with Pittsburgh visiting one-win Miami while Cincinnati goes to New England. “You have to have them all,” Dalton said. “That’s what the schedule is, and we’re just going to find a way to win next week.”
STANDOUT ROOKIES: The game against the Packers could be the last for Elliott and Prescott together for a while, if Romo stays healthy. If so, they left a mark. Elliott had his third straight 100-yard game, a first for a Dallas rookie. He and Prescott, who won the last two while also missing star receiver Dez Bryant, are the first rookies in NFL history to have at least 500 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing in the first five games.
SPEAKING OF PRESCOTT: Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones will keep getting the question. Do the Cowboys stick with Prescott even when Romo is ready if the winning continues? “I will tell you this is a wonderful position, if you’re in my shoes, to be in,” Jones said. Romo, who broke a bone in his back in a preseason game, is set for another MRI on Monday. Jones believes it will show the bone has healed.
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