Bengals Face Tough Challenge in Defending Last Season’s Division Title Run

CINCINNATI: The Cincinnati Bengals may look back on their early struggles and Sunday’s loss to the Houston as too much to overcome this year. The Bengals responded with four straight wins, but the Ravens, Browns (6-3) and Steelers (6-3) have been more consistent.

The Bengals squandered multiple offensive chances against Houston. The Texans’ defense held Cincinnati to 66 rushing yards, 20 of them on a single scramble by Burrow, who also was sacked four times.

The defense allowed too many explosive plays. The Texans had nine plays of 20 yards or more including two on the final drive. Quarterback Stroud passed for 356 yards, Noah Brown had 172 receiving yards, and Devin Singletary rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown.

Joe Mixon rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries, continuing a frustrating season for him and Cincinnati’s offensive line. His season high was 87 yards in a win at San Francisco on Oct. 29.

Edge rusher Trey Hendrickson suffered a knee injury when Brown fell into him. The team’s other starting edge rusher, Sam Hubbard, didn’t play because of an ankle injury. WR Tee Higgins missed the game with a bothersome hamstring.

544 — Total yards by the Texans, the most allowed by Cincinnati this season.

After playing the Ravens Thursday, Cincinnati hosts the Steelers on Nov. 26. “I think Thursday’s game was already massive,” center Ted Karras said. “But we don’t want to fall back to .500, playing arguably the top team in the conference. Thursday night. Prime time.”