CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton returned from his three-week exile Sunday and got a long-awaited win for the coach who benched him, throwing a touchdown pass during a 22-6 victory over the New York Jets that ended the longest losing streak in Cincinnati Bengals history.
The Bengals (1-11) had lost 13 in a row since the end of last season, with newcomer Zac Taylor waiting until December to get his first head coaching win. Taylor benched Dalton after the eighth loss, deciding to see whether Ryan Finley fit into the team’s long-term plans.
With the rookie struggling and the season careening toward 0-16, Taylor reversed course and went back to Dalton, who made the difference in front of the smallest crowd in Paul Brown Stadium history. Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard dunked Taylor with ice water in the final seconds.
Dalton got beyond his initial bitterness over the benching and led the NFL’s lone winless team to the breakthrough victory in front of 39,804 fans. Dalton also set a couple of franchise passing marks along the way.
The Jets (4-8) had their three-game winning streak snapped, unable to extend their high-scoring momentum behind Sam Darnold. An improving Bengals defense limited the Jets to their fewest points since a 33-0 loss to New England on Oct. 21.
The Jets also made some dubious NFL history, becoming the first team to lose to two teams who were 0-7 or worse in the same season. New York lost to Miami, which was 0-7 at the time, on Nov. 3.
New York had scored 34 points in each of its last three games, but was self-destructive throughout on Sunday. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety. They were flagged 10 times for 106 yards overall. Darnold was 28 of 48 for 239 yards with four sacks.
Dalton put Cincinnati ahead to stay with a 17-yard pass to Tyler Boyd that made him the Bengals’ career leader in touchdown passes, moving ahead of Ken Anderson with 198. He also passed Anderson for the franchise’s career completion mark.
Dalton finished 22 of 37 for 243 yards with no interceptions and one sack.
Joe Mixon had a 5-yard touchdown run against the league’s stingiest run defense as the Bengals put up their second-most points this season, trailing a 26-23 loss to Arizona.
This time, the defense added to the lead instead of giving it up, getting its first safety in three years. Dunlap had three of Cincinnati’s four sacks.
Jets: CB Brian Poole was evaluated for a concussion in the first quarter and returned. … CB Arthur Maulet left in the third quarter with what Adan Gase said after the game was a calf injury.
Bengals: WR A.J. Green missed his 12th game recovering from ankle surgery. … S Brandon Wilson hurt his right hand in the second half.
Jets: host the Dolphins. They lost at Miami 26-18 last month.
Bengals: play at Cleveland. The Browns swept the season series last year.