The Red Rifle was hot.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton didn't take to kindly to Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt's observation that his defense turned "The Red Rifle,' into Ralphie's "Red Ryder B.B. Gun" of Christmas Story fame during Monday night's 10-6 loss at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I'm disappointed in him because of the integrity of this game. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a really good player," Dalton said. "There are a lot of kids and people who look up to him, and for him to make comments like that, he's just showing that's acceptable to say that kind of stuff. It's disappointing for one of the best players in this league to come out and say something like that, so that's all I'm going to say about that.
"I think he's a good player, but for him to be one of the best in this league and to show that integrity, it shows what he's about, and that's disappointing.". Until Texans safety Quintin Demps knocked the ball out of A.J. Green's hands with 40 seconds left at the Houston 22, the Bengals though they were going to post their fourth fourth quarter comeback victory of the season.
"I can't believe we lost," said linebacker Vincent Rey after the Bengals lost for the first time in 316 days. "We haven't lost in a long time. I don't care if we're down or up, it doesn't matter. If we're down, it always feels like we're going to win. Somebody's going to make a play. We know it. We just don't know when. So we keep playing hard. We tell each other to keep playing hard. They just made one more play than we did." . . .
The Bengals, ranked No. sixth in offense and No. 3 in scoring, suddenly could do nothing. Try 256 total yards, the lowest since the 165 in Dalton's 2.0 game on Nov. 6, 2014. And 256 is what the Bengals gave the Texans, the fewest yards they've allowed at PBS since the 2013 finale . . .
Now here comes some adversity. After losing an eminently winnable game, the Bengals leave Friday for a Sunday night game in 7-2 Arizona against the league's No. 1 offense and No. 3 defense. But as long as it's been since the Bengals have lost, it's been almost twice as long since they've lost two straight.
The last time they dropped back-to-back games was more than two years ago, when they lost OT games in Miami on Oct. 31 and in Baltimore on Nov. 10, 2013.
"We can't let this loss turn into another one. We can't let there be any carry over," Dalton said. "That's not the team we are, and we know what we've done to this point. This game doesn't define our season. It doesn't define anything. We're still 8-1. We're still leading the division. We know where we are, so we just got to get back to what we've been doing, and we'll be just fine." . . .
Offense and special teams simply didn't surface. Kevin Huber didn't have a good night punting with just one of his seven punts going inside the 20 for a mere 39.7-yard net and rookie tight end Tyler Kroft's hold on Adam Jones' 27-yarder wiped out a punt return that put the Bengals on the Houston 28 in the second quarter . . .
Green, cornerback Adam, Jones, and tight end Tyler Eifert all stood in front of their lockers and took responsibility for the loss.
Jones had great coverage on Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone, only to see him leap and make a stunning one-handed-over-the-shoulder grab for the game's only touchdown pinned to the left sideline with 14:20 left in the game.
"I'm so pissed at myself," Jones said. "I should have pushed him out."
Jones didn't want to hear that it took a top 10 highlight play for him to give up his first TD of the season.
"I don't care about that crap," he said. "I have to make the play. I have to make that play. Put that in the blogs. Put the game on me."
Eifert dropped three balls, one on third down at the Texans 12 in the middle of the second quarter when a TD would have given them a 10-3 lead.
"I'm not happy about it," Eifert said. "I feel responsible. I know it's not my fault. But I could have helped our team win and I didn't."
Green looked to make an 11-yard catch on a fourth-and-sixth quick out as the clock ticked to 40 seconds to give the Bengals four more shots from the Houston 22. But as rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson was bringing Green down, Demps swatted the ball out of his arms and recovered the fumble to end it.
"I have to make that play," Green said. "Great play by him. I tried to break my fall. I took one hand off it and he punched it out. I tried to break my fall . . . I just have to make that play. But we still put ourselves in position to win the game. That's on me." . . .
Cincinnati Bengals host Houston Texans at Paul Brown Stadium in week 10 of the regular season.