The Bengals literally handed the Cowboys a 17-7 halftime lead when they lost fumbles on the first three series of Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium.
But the Bengals did scramble back to cut the lead to 17-7 with eight seconds left in the half on quarterback Brandon Allen's five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green cutting inside of cornerback Saivion Smith in one-on-one coverage.
Green had a huge third-down and contested catch over the middle in bouncing back from going catch-less in his last two games. It was fitting he did it in front of his old triggerman as Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton watched him grab four balls for 41 yards and that included his 65th career touchdown catch, one shy of the club record. Dalton threw him 58 of those.
_When Dalton celebrated his return by gunning an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper to give his club a 17-0 lead with 6:38 left in the half, the Bengals had an astounding 120 yards of offense compared to the Cowboys' 109.
That will happen when you become the first NFL team since the 2013 Patriots to fumble away the first three series of a game. Remember when the Bengals came into the season with the NFL's two longest fumble-less carry streaks?
Joe Mixon lost his earlier in the season and Giovani Bernard lost his on the second play of the game. He never saw the field the rest of the half and on the next series, running back Trayveon Williams fumbled. The series after that, it was wide receiver Alex Erickson on another run. Bernard did start the second half.
_It was too bad because Allen had a solid first half. He was 15 of 20 for 134 yards to lead the Bengals to 196 yards, their total in last week's game.
_That second series went for eight plays and 53 yards with the help of four first down plays going for 21 yards. They also got Green's first catch in three weeks on a nice leaping contested catch over the middle.
_They were on the Dallas 20 when Williams carried up the gut and ran into the back of rookie left tackle Hakeem Adeniji. The ball popped out of arms and it just sat there on the 22-yard-line until end Aldon Smith scooped it up and went 78 yards for the touchdown.
_Bengals head coach Zac Taylor responded on the next series by replacing Williams with their third different back, Samaje Perine, as well as putting Fred Johnson at left tackle. It looked like Adeniji stopped on his pull and he didn't return in the half. Williams did come back on that last drive.
__The Bengals rolled inside the 20 on that third drive with Perine picking up 12 yards on five carries and he was stoned on the last play of the first quarter. The Bengals hurried up at the 15 on third-and-one and couldn't get it. Then, on fourth-and-one they ran a jet sweep to Erickson to the right edge and had the first down but safety Darian Thompson got his helmet on the ball to pop it free a mind-boggling third straight lost fumble.
_The Bengals clearly went after Dallas' last-in-the-NFL run defense with 62 rushing yards, 40 coming on Williams' nine carries, both career highs.
_At that point, Dalton went to work and converted four third downs on a 15-play touchdown drive as he completed six of seven passes. On third-and-14, he hit Cooper on a seven-yard slant in front of cornerback William Jackson III and it went for 20 with open space behind him. On third-and-five, he hit Cooper for 13 out of the slot working on cornerback Mackensie Alexander, just before Bengals edge rusher Carl Lawson got him.
Then on third-and-six, Dalton put rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in the slot and he picked up 16 against Alexander. Dalton finished it off on a blazing 11-yard touchdown throw that Cooper scooped off the turf slanting in front of cornerback LeShaun Sims to give Dallas a 17-0 lead with 6:38 left in the half.
_On his first carry of the day and second play of the game, Bernard fumbled for the first time since he was a rookie seven seasons and saw the end of the NFL's longest fumble-less at 829.
Bernard got stopped up the middle and was in in the process of bouncing it to the right when end DeMarcus Lawrence came from behind and ripped it out. Cornerback Jordan Lewis recovered it at the Bengals 32.
_The Bengals held Dallas to a field goal when Lawson came off the edge on third-and-three to beat left tackle Brandon Knight for a sack that Margus Hunt finished off.
_Dalton, selected by the Cowboys to be their captain, called tails, won it and deferred. The Bengals gave Dalton an honor. Usually they introduce the visitors as a team, but on Sunday they announced, "Andy Dalton and the Dallas Cowboys."
_Dalton went 9 of 11 in the half for 92 yards and a passer rating of 138.
_Austin Seibert's first try as a Bengals kicker came on the extra point after Green's touchdown. He banged the right upright, but it went through.
Check out some of the best images from the Week 14 contest as the Cincinnati Bengals faced the Dallas Cowboys from Paul Brown Stadium.