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Struggling Bengals turn to backup QB against Broncos

The rapidly fading Cincinnati Bengals were having their share of problems and now they have to go forward without their starting quarterback.

The Bengals (5-6) will face the Denver Broncos (5-6) on Sunday in Cincinnati with backup Jeff Driskel taking over for Andy Dalton.

Dalton was placed on injured reserve after suffering a thumb injury during the Bengals' 35-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. He was hurt when 275-pound defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah crashed on the thumb attempting to pounce on a loose ball.

The reason the ball was loose was rookie center Billy Price could not properly execute a snap and Dalton was forced to retrieve the ball to avoid a turnover.

Driskel was somewhat effective, completing 17 of 29 passes for 155 yards. He connected with Tyler Boyd on a 28-yard touchdown and also rushed for a 2-yard TD.

"I was impressed with Jeff and really we've been impressed with him every time he's gone in a game," Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. "He's poised."

Dalton finished the season by completing 61.9 percent (226 of 335) passes for 2,566 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph expects the Bengals to change a few things on offense but nothing too drastic with Driskel in and Dalton out.

"You watch (Driskel) throw the football and he's pretty accurate," Joseph said. "He's an NFL quarterback and we can't sleep on him. Obviously, have a rush plan for a guy like that is going to be critical, and just playing good defense. We're not going to discount this guy's ability."

The Bengals did get some good news this week when star receiver A.J. Green declared himself ready to return from a toe injury that cost him the previous three games and made Boyd the No. 1 receiving option.

"I'm playing," Green said. "I don't care if we're 0-15."

In theory, the Bengals still remain in the playoff chase with five games left, but the quality of play in recent weeks hardly reflects a team capable of turning things around and going on a big late-season run.

Sunday is the last game of a supposedly favorable stretch of six out of eight at home. After the Denver game, the degree of difficulty picks up with road games at the Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland and Pittsburgh sandwiched around a home game with the Oakland Raiders.

The Bengals can't stop anyone right now and their defense continues to be historically inept even with head coach Marvin Lewis calling the defensive plays for the last two games after terminating first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

"I've got to do my job," Lewis said. "I've got to do a better job. I've got to prepare them better. They've got to go out and they've got to execute their jobs better. OK? It rests squarely on me."

There is budding optimism in Denver these days. After being left for dead in terms of their playoff chances, the Broncos (5-6) are a game out of the second AFC wild-card spot with five games remaining after two straight wins.

"We have another game, a big game on the road," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "I expect it to be a dogfight. I don't expect anything easy from the Bengals. It's always hard going in there and playing in Cincinnati."

Updated November 28, 2018

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