EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Andy Dalton and the Bengals missed another chance to get a statement win and turn their season around.
It might have been their last chance.
"It's a long season, but obviously, it's getting shorter," tight end Tyler Eifert said after the Bengals faltered in the fourth quarter again and lost to the Giants 21-20 on Monday Night Football. "We're not too far back to where we can't find a way to get into the playoffs. So we just have to keep our heads down, keep playing hard and control what we can control.
"We have to work on winning games, and when we do that, we'll put ourselves in a winning position."
An inconsistent offense continued to doom the Bengals. Once again, they left too many points on the field.
"We've got to find a way to flip the switch and get these games turned into wins rather than a tie in London and a one-point loss here tonight," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We've got to take a good, hard look at what we're doing and correct the things that are hurting us."
The Bengals twice had to settle for field goals when they got to the red zone. The first came when they started a drive at the 7 after Dre Kirkpatrick's interception in the second quarter. The Bengals didn't gain any yards and got a short field goal. And rookie Tyler Boyd dropped a possible touchdown catch in the third, forcing Mike Nugent's 38-yard field goal.
"We have opportunities on offense to put more points on the board and we end up having to kick field goals and that ended up probably being the difference in the football game," coach Marvin Lewis said.
The Bengals managed only 12 first downs and 264 yards. On top of that, they converted just two of 11 third-down plays.
"We were in too many 3rd-and-longs and that hurt us. We've got to be in 3rd-and-manageable situations," Dalton said.
Dalton was under pressure all night from the Giants' pass rush and was sacked three times. He finished 16 of 29 for 204 yards with a touchdown pass to A.J. Green and an interception.
The Bengals defense, which entered ranked 25th in the league, allowed 351 yards, and the Bengals were penalized nine times for 60 yards.
With the Bengals trailing 21-20 early in the fourth quarter, a bad Dalton pass was intercepted by Landon Collins. George Iloka intercepted Eli Manning on the next play, but the Bengals were unable to take advantage as they failed to get a first down. The Bengals were forced to punt on their next two drives as the Giants sacked Dalton twice.
The fourth-quarter struggles overshadowed a strong start to the second half.
The Bengals used Alex Erickson's 84-yard second-half kickoff return to set up the go-ahead score. Jeremy Hill had a 9-yard TD run and Cincinnati later added Nugent's 38-yard field goal for a 20-14 lead in the third quarter.
But the defense couldn't hold the lead as the Giants went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 3 and scored on Manning's third TD pass of the game early in the fourth.
At 3-5-1, their hopes of making the playoffs for the sixth straight year are in serious doubt - even in the weak AFC North.
From now on, every game is a must-win for the Bengals. Winning out - or six of their last seven - may be their only hope. The Bengals, 1-3-1 in their last five games, host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
"We're trying to figure out what we need to do to have these outcomes be different, and there's not one explanation for it," Dalton said.
NOTES: DE Margus Hunt was inactive for the first time this season, an indication the coaching staff isn't pleased with his play. Hunt got a bigger role in the line rotation this season after Wallace Gilberry left for Detroit as a free agent. The Bengals re-signed Gilberry during their bye week, and he moved into Hunt's role. Gilberry was on the field for 30 of the defense's 75 plays against the Giants and had one tackle ... Cincinnati dropped to 11-23 on Monday night, including 4-7 under coach Marvin Lewis. The Bengals haven't won a road game on Monday night since the 1990 season - also the last season the team won a playoff game.