The Bengals need better QB play to win without starter Joe Burrow

CINCINNATI -- Brandon Allen's task was always going to be daunting on Sunday against the New York Giants.

After spending the entire season as the emergency quarterback stashed on the practice squad, Allen was tabbed to be the Cincinnati Bengals' starter with rookie Joe Burrow out for the year with a left knee injury.

Things went about as expected in a 19-17 loss to the Giants (4-7) at Paul Brown Stadium. For the Bengals (2-8-1) to have a chance at winning another game in 2020, Cincinnati will need more production from its quarterback.

Allen was 17-of-29 for 136 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble in his fourth career start. The Bengals didn't score a touchdown or get into the red zone until late in the fourth quarter, when Allen connected with Tee Higgins to cut the lead to two.

Allen made three starts last season with the Broncos, with the most recent coming in Week 12 against Buffalo when he threw for 82 yards in a loss. Allen had a decent start to the game but eventually tapered off as the Bengals failed to sustain drives and keep their defense off the field.

When the outcome was in question, Cincinnati’s best plays occurred when the offense wasn’t on the field. Safety Brandon Wilson scored the Bengals' first touchdown on a 103-yard kickoff return, the longest in franchise history. Safety Vonn Bell also had an interception that set up a short field that eventually led to a field goal.

Sunday showed the Bengals can hang around with similar teams even without Burrow. But on a day when Cincinnati had a mere 155 total yards, it's clear the offense needs more from the quarterback spot in order to get second-year coach Zac Taylor some much-needed wins.

Turning point in the game: A relatively boring game suddenly became interesting in the final minute. Following the Higgins TD, the Bengals picked up a stop and after a solid punt return from Alex Erickson, they had the ball on the 50 with 57 seconds left trailing 19-17. But any hopes of a comeback quickly disappeared on the first play of the drive, when Allen was sacked and stripped of the ball, and the Giants recovered. It was that kind of day for Cincinnati.

Troubling trend: Cincinnati's safeties allowed a couple of big plays through the air to Giants tight end Evan Engram. On New York's first drive of the game, Engram beat Bell for a 53-yard completion. Then in the second quarter, he beat Wilson in a one-on-one matchup for a 44-yard gain. Cincinnati has surrendered a few big passing plays this season. That will be a major liability if it doesn't get corrected.

Biggest hole in the game plan: In the first half, New York was 6-of-11 on third downs and found a lot of success completing passes underneath the Bengals' zone defense. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has had to scheme around injuries to cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Darius Phillips, which makes things more difficult. Still, the inability to get off the field was an issue Sunday.