Bengals continue to give up late first-half points

As one of five teams at 5-5, the Cincinnati Bengals are still in the hunt for an AFC playoff spot.

If they want to improve their chances, the Bengals need to be better defensively prior to halftime. In nine of ten games this season, the Bengals have given up points in the final two minutes before halftime

In their loss at Baltimore on Sunday, the Bengals allowed the Ravens to move 27 yards in 22 seconds to set up Justin Tucker’s 56-yard field goal with five second left in the second quarter, sending Baltimore to the locker room with a 13-7 lead.

The Bengals committed two mistakes in the final minute. When they had to punt, a holding penalty by rookie linebacker Malik Jefferson on the punt allowed the Ravens to start at their 35 instead of their 25. Then, linebacker Jordan Evans got lost in coverage on a Lamar Jackson scramble that turned into a 23-yard pass to receiver John Brown.

“We have to just do a better job executing. It couldn’t have been easier yesterday — we can’t come out of coverage, and we have to understand the situation,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday. “We just have to understand it and do it. We know the effectiveness of Tucker and where they have to get to, and we have to be conscious of that.”

Six of those times, including Sunday, the Bengals have run a snap inside the two-minute warning.

“There’s not a common thread,” Lewis said when asked if the defense could be more aggressive.

In terms of the playoffs, the Bengals final six games include two against the Browns and visits from the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos. They close the season Dec. 30 against the Steelers at Heinz field.

“We’re still in good shape. We need to win these last three division games. It’s going to come down to us having to beat [Pittsburgh] in the last game,” Tyler Boyd told the team website of the Dec. 30 finale at Heinz Field. “We have to take care of the Browns first. If we complete that, then if we can beat the [Steelers], that will put us where we need to be.”

–QB Andy Dalton completed 19 of 36 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens. Dalton led the Bengals with 29 yards rushing on two carries.

–WR Tyler Body caught four passes for 71 yards in Sunday’s loss.

–S Shawn Williams had nine solo tackles and an interception against the Ravens.

–RB Joe Mixon was stonewalled by the Ravens, gaining just 14 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. It was by far his lowest yardage output of the season. He caught three passes for 38 yards.

–WR Alex Erickson had a busy day on the return unit. He took back two kicks for 35 yards and a pair of punts for 46 yards.