The Cincinnati Bengals have been on a long road. This is the fifth consecutive year the team has made the Wildcard spot when it comes to the playoffs. They have not won a playoff game since Jan. 6, 1991. That did not change tonight, 25 years later, and despite the underdog story of backup quarterback, A.J. McCarron, the team’s series of unfortunate events- with one minute remaining- led them to a humiliating loss.
Today, the Bengals ALMOST defied history, but they could not do it. They fell 18-16 to the the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night, and are now eliminated from the playoffs.
Going into the game, the Bengals had to fight without the help of starting quarterback Andy Dalton. He was injured breaking his thumb on Dec. 13, ironically in a home loss to the Steelers. Though his cast was removed and there was speculation of his return, he was ruled out, leaving the future of the 2015-16 season in McCarron’s hands. While he didn’t play extraordinarily, he played a solid game and was so close to victory and making NFL history… until the last minute of the fourth quarter.
To start off, the game was pretty tight at Paul Brown Stadium. At the end of the first half, the Steelers were leading 6-0 thanks to field goals, and then They added nine more points, thanks to an acrobatic touchdown from Martinis Bryant and another field goal. It was a night of kicking obviously for Pittsburgh, as Ben Roethlisberger only threw for one TD.
However, in the fourth, it seemed that history would not repeat itself for the Bengals.
Jeremy Hill scored a touchdown from one yard out to cut the lead to 15-7, and then Mike Nugent‘s 36-yard field goal made it 15-10. After that, McCarron tapped A.J. Green from the 28 for the winning touchdown with just a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Though the Steelers got the ball and went for the late touchdown to take the game, Vontaze Burfict intercepted the ball, apparently ending it for the black and gold.
Then it happened. A series of unfortunate events. This was by far the worst one-minute breakdown in recent sports history. First, they fumbled, giving it back to the Steelers. Then, a penalty to Burfict, and then there was a personal foul for Cincinnati, as Antonio Brown was hurt after a nasty attempt to stop him from catching the ball.
After all the penalties were sorted out and Brown was helped to the sidelines, the Steelers gained 30 yards, putting them in field goal range. And with 14 seconds to go, Chris Boswell capitalized on the opportunity, making it 18-16 on yet another FGA. That ended it, and quite probably ended Marvin Lewis‘ job.
What a wild game, and what a horrifying set of events for the Bengals. They broke down, and I believe it was karma that lost them the game. They threw things on the field when Roesthlisberger was injured and the defense waved goodbye prematurely.
However, this wasn’t easy for the Steelers, and they limped away with a victory that was too close for comfort. And by limped, I mean limped; Brown was hurt, and Roethlisberger suffered an apparent arm injury. But now, he is not focused on that.
“We won the game,” he told the reporters when asked about the injury. “That’s all that matters!”
The Steelers will go on to face the New England Patriots, and they know that tonight was not their best performance, even though they came out with the W.
“We’re not a perfect group, but we did enough to move on,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Hopefully we can do the same thing next week.”