Bengals lack signature win heading into playoffs
The Bengals had seven chances to beat a top-tier team during the
season, and lost all seven games. Their eighth opportunity comes in
One more chance to show they belong with the league’s elite.
The Bengals’ enchanted year has stretched into the postseason, a
most improbable finishing place for one of the NFL’s youngest
teams. They had a lot of things go their way – the schedule was
favorable, most of their key players avoided serious injuries.
And, in the end, the Bengals (9-7) got into the playoffs by
getting a lot of help. The Jets, Broncos and Raiders melted down,
allowing Cincinnati to claim the final wild card berth despite a
24-16 loss to Baltimore. They’ll play at Houston on Saturday.
”The sky’s the limit for our team,” offensive tackle Andre
Smith said. ”I think we’re going to take advantage of this
They’ve gotten the chance because they’ve been good at beating
The Bengals went 0-7 against other teams in the playoffs – AFC
North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh, as well as Denver, San
Francisco and Houston. Their nine wins came against teams that had
a combined 43-85 record.
Five of their nine wins came against teams that finished in last
place. They beat only one team that finished with a winning record
”It’s just unfortunate that we’re losing to some of the better
teams,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. ”We’ve been in each of
those games, a play or two away from winning those games. But we’re
just happy around here that we’re in the dance and have to now
prove to the world that we belong here.”
Although they haven’t beaten another playoff team, they’ve come
close. Often, they’ve fallen behind and rallied to another
near-miss. Their only blow-out loss was 35-7 at Pittsburgh.
Otherwise, they’ve lost by 2, 5, 7, 7, 1 and 8 points to the other
Good enough to stick with `em, not good enough to beat `em.
”We’ve just got to cut out the mistakes,” receiver Jerome
Simpson said. ”We’re young, but now it’s time for us to grow
They’ve had two opponents come to Paul Brown Stadium and clinch
championships this season. Baltimore’s win on Sunday gave the
Ravens the AFC North title and the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
On Dec. 11, the Texans came to town and secured the first
playoff spot on franchise history, winning the AFC South with a
20-19 victory behind rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. The fifth-round
pick led Houston on an 80-yard drive with a little more than 2
minutes left, throwing the winning touchdown pass with 2 seconds to
One consolation: The Bengals aren’t the only team heading into
the playoffs with big questions.
The Texans didn’t win again after clinching in Cincinnati,
dropping their last three games. Coach Gary Kubiak rested a lot of
his starters during the second half of a 23-22 loss to Tennessee on
Sunday, keeping them fresh for the playoffs.
Denver also lost its last three games: 41-23 to New England,
40-14 to Buffalo and 7-3 to Kansas City.
The Bengals have a feeling they could break a long drought – no
playoff victory since 1990 – if they can avoid falling behind in
the first half. They rallied from double-digit deficits three times
in the second half during the season, but fell short a lot more
”I know we have the fight part right,” coach Marvin Lewis
said. ”There is no quit in this team. We need to get the mental
part corrected early in the game. We cannot put ourselves
Some of it can be attributed to their youth. The Bengals were
the youngest team in the AFC heading into the season, led by a
rookie quarterback and rookie receiver.
The challenge is to show some poise in the playoffs.
”We definitely haven’t played our best game yet,” rookie
quarterback Andy Dalton said. ”It’s what we’re working for. We’ve
got to go put it all together and just let it all out. Once we’re
able to do that, this team can be really good.”