Bengals in playoffs after 13-10 win over Steelers

Marvin Lewis raised his hand, wiped his brow and let out a

”whoo.”

There used to be a time when the Cincinnati Bengals coach would

make a bad decision and his team would lose.

Only that doesn’t happen anymore. Not with Andy Dalton and A.J.

Green changing the Bengals’ woeful history one gut-check victory at

a time.

The second-year quarterback and wide receiver connected for a

21-yard completion in the final seconds, setting up Josh Brown’s

game-winning 43-yard field goal in a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh

Steelers on Sunday to send the Bengals back to the playoffs.

”Obviously we know the history is that we haven’t been (in the

postseason) two years in a row for the last 30 years,” Dalton

said. ”But since I have been here I haven’t known that. My class,

me, A.J., some of these other guys, we come in and expect to go to

the playoffs.”

A place the Bengals (9-6) are heading to once again after

another late-game gaffe by Steelers quarterback Ben

Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger tossed an interception on the second play of

overtime a week ago in a loss to Dallas. This time his pass to Mike

Wallace sailed high and Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson returned it

to the Pittsburgh 46.

Two plays later, Cincinnati clinched a wild-card berth while the

Steelers (7-8) saw their postseason hopes disappear after losing

for the fifth time in six games.

`’We should be (in the playoffs) if it wasn’t for me,”

Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger’s mistake helped the Bengals bail out their

coach, who allowed Brown to attempt a 56-yard field goal in the

swirling Heinz Field winds with 3:18 to go. The kick never had a

chance and gave the Steelers a chance to put together a potential

game-winning drive.

Looking back, Lewis admits he probably made the wrong

choice.

”I make decisions to try and win the game,” Lewis said.

”Today it kind of backfired on me.”

Just not on his team, which is heading to the playoffs in

consecutive seasons for the first time since 1981-82, six years

before Green was born.

”This has been our goal coming in at the beginning of the

season,” Green said. ”A lot of people talked about we hadn’t been

in in back to back seasons in 30 years. I don’t worry about that

stuff. I’ve been here two years and we made the playoffs all two

years. That’s all we can control.”

Shredding the label as erratic – and sometimes comical – losers

one improbable victory at a time, the Bengals, their precocious duo

of Green and Dalton and their quickly improving defense have

Cincinnati in uncharted territory.

The Bengals have been around since 1968. This is the first time

they’ll make the postseason in two straight non-strike years.

”I know they just think that there’s some complex; there’s no

complex, you’ve just got to come play and win,” Lewis said. ”This

group in there has very little history of anything.”

Maybe that’s why Bengals aren’t doomed to repeat it.

Dalton completed 24 of 41 for 278 yards and two interceptions

for the Bengals, which snapped a five-game losing streak to

Pittsburgh. Green caught 10 passes for 116 yards and Cincinnati’s

defense never let the Steelers get comfortable. The Bengals sacked

Roethlisberger four times and allowed Pittsburgh to complete just 2

of 14 third downs.

”Not our day and thus, not our year,” Pittsburgh coach Mike

Tomlin said. ”Just not enough significant plays at the moments.

Sounds like a broken record but reality as we sit here.”

Pittsburgh did a decent job of keeping Dalton and Green in

check, posting season highs with three turnovers and six sacks. The

Bengals couldn’t run the ball at all, managing just 14 yards

against the NFL’s top defense. Still, it wasn’t enough for the

Steelers, turning a season that looked so promising before Election

Day into a muddled mess.

Instead of making playoff plans, the team that was 6-3 on Nov. 4

needs a win next week against Cleveland to avoid the first losing

season in Tomlin’s six-year tenure.

”It hurts bad, not making the playoffs,” Pittsburgh cornerback

Keenan Lewis said. ”We’re going to be home with the rest of them,

watching.”

Not Cincinnati, which took another step forward behind a young

core intent on changing the perception of a team known not so long

ago as ”the Bungles.”

”I grew up in Cincinnati so the city should be buzzing,”

punter Kevin Huber said. ”We have a big game next weekend. New we

have to get ready to go to the playoffs.”

NOTES: Cincinnati’s 14 yards rushing were the second-fewest in

franchise history. The Bengals had 4 yards rushing against

Baltimore in 2000 … Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller left game in the

fourth quarter with a right knee injury … Brown is 8 of 9 since

taking over for Nugent three weeks ago … Five of Pittsburgh’s

eight losses this season have come by three points … Steelers RB

Rashard Mendenhall had 50 yards rushing in his return after serving

a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.