AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton was the Bengals’ leading rusher at halftime, which pretty much summed up the state of Cincinnati’s running game.
It’s not good.
Dalton finished as Cincinnati’s second-leading rusher in a 10-6 loss to Houston on Monday night, gaining 30 yards on five carries. Giovani Bernard had 36 yards on eight carries. Starter Jeremy Hill was limited to 15 yards on seven carries.
The latest sub-par day for the running game dropped Cincinnati to 3.9 yards per carry for the season, tied for seventh-fewest. Houston and Cleveland are last at 3.3 yards. The Bengals (8-1) have had only one 100-yard game by a running back this season.
On Sunday night, they play at Arizona (7-2), which has allowed the fourth-fewest yards rushing in the NFL and is ranked third overall on defense.
“We’ve played a lot of great rush defenses this year,” said Hill, whose top game total is 63 yards. “We understand that. You’ve got to take what the defense is giving you. We’ve done that this year.
“Again this week we’re going to try to establish the run, but if it’s not happening that way, you’ve got to make throws down the field and you’ve got to back those guys up a little bit.”
That’s not what the Bengals would prefer. They put more emphasis on the run last season and had six 100-yard games, five of them by Hill. Cincinnati averaged 4.36 yards per carry last season.
On Monday, Dalton was the Bengals’ leading rusher at halftime with 30 yards on five carries, including some designed quarterback runs.
“I don’t mind it,” Dalton said. “There were some possibilities where I was able to keep the ball, whether it’s on a run play or a scramble out of the passing game. Obviously we don’t want me to be the leading rusher, but sometimes things happen that way.”
Part of the problem was penalties. The offense had seven of them, leaving the Bengals in long-yardage situations that forced them to throw 38 times and run 21 times.
“It really takes the running game out of the game,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “And then you get into third-and-5 and all of a sudden you’re not converting them, and then you really don’t get a chance to run the ball.”
The Bengals ran for only 73 yards overall against Houston. Two games earlier, they ran for only 78 yards in a 16-10 win at Pittsburgh. Their ability to pull out games by passing has made the lack of a consistent running game less troubling.
On Monday night, nothing worked.
“We just didn’t play good,” offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said on Wednesday. “I don’t know what it is. I can’t tell you it’s this, that and the other thing. It was everything.”
Notes: Wind and rain prompted the Bengals to change their practice schedule on Wednesday so they could take buses to the University of Cincinnati’s covered field. Cincinnati is the most northern NFL team without its own covered field. … Dalton said on Wednesday that he regrets criticizing Texans defensive end J.J. Watt after the game on Monday night. Watt said jokingly that the Texans had tried to turn Dalton — nicknamed the “Red Rifle” — into a “Red Ryder BB Gun.” Dalton said he should have waited until he actually heard the comment to react. “I’ve got no ill will toward J.J.,” Dalton said. “There is no feud between me and him.” … CB Adam “Pacman” Jones (foot) and DT Pat Sims (knee) missed practice Wednesday. LB Vontaze Burfict (knee), DE Carlos Dunlap (shoulder), RT Andre Smith (concussion) and S Shawn Williams (ankle) were limited.