In Depth

Cincinnati Bengals lose: is Dalton's prime time jinx back?

Houston Texans end Bengal's unbeaten run, as JJ Watt compares 'Red Rifle' to a Red Ryder BB Gun

The curse of Monday Night Football has returned to haunt Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals. As their perfect start to the NFL season came to an end against the Houston Texans on Monday night, a war of words erupted with Texan defensive end JJ Watt.

The Bengals were one of just three unbeaten sides in the NFL, but after eight straight wins this season they lost 10-6 in front of their own fans prompting fears that the team's prime-time hoodoo was back.

Cincinnati's issues with the spotlight are well documented. They have not won a play-off game since January 1991, despite qualifying in five of the last six seasons and have a reputation for crumbling under pressure in front of a national TV audience. A convincing win over the Cleveland Browns earlier in the campaign raised hopes that the Bengals had conquered their fears, but a nervy showing against Houston suggested otherwise.

Dalton was sacked three times and threw an interception as the Bengals failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season. But it wasn't just the quarterback's fault says ESPN. It would be "easy to pin the Bengals' first defeat this season on quarterback Andy Dalton and credit him with another prime-time flop," writes Coley Harvey. Dalton had "arguably his worst prime-time outing in about a year, but he certainly wasn't alone in the poor play offensively".

Tight end Tyler Eifert dropped three passes and the game was up for the Bengals when AJ Green fumbled late in the fourth quarter.

That did not stop Texans defensive end JJ Watt sparking a war of words by mocking Dalton, whose nickname is the Red Rifle, after the game.

"Our goal was to come out here and make the Red Rifle look like a Red Ryder BB Gun, and I think we did that," said Watt, prompting Dalton to question his "integrity".

But the spat at least enlivened a less than scintillating game, says Frank Schwab of Yahoo. "Watt was obviously fired up after the game... Dalton was likely upset to have just lost a game," he says. "Still, it seemed strange to be so angry over kind of a lame insult... but at least it started one of the strangest feuds we'll see in the NFL this season."

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