Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports
Continuing their postseason trend, the Cincinnati Bengals were eliminated from the playoffs after the Wild Card Round, falling 18-16 to their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is now the fifth year in a row Marvin Lewis’ Bengals have been one and done in the playoffs.
Despite nothing exciting really happening for two and a half quarters, the game delivered its fair share of narrative changes, drama, and boneheaded miscues that befit a primetime wild card game, especially one featuring division rivals with lots of bad blood between them.
For most of the evening, it looked as if the Bengals were headed towards their next quick exit from the playoffs. Sans their MVP-caliber quarterback, the Bengals offense failed to effectively move the ball down the field and was shut out for three quarters. However, after a well-timed pass interference penalty, some good runs, and a fantastic AJ Green catch, the Bengals established a lead over the Steelers by one point with less than two minutes left.
With their own starting quarterback being held to the sideline after being checked out for a shoulder injury, the Steelers also had to rely on their own backup, Landry Jones, to win the game.
He responded by throwing an interception.
The win was all but wrapped up for the Bengals. They had the ball with only a minute and a half to go, they were in Steelers territory and easily could build upon their lead with a touchdown or even a field goal.
That’s when the boneheadedness began (yes, it even deserves a made up word to describe it).
The Bengals fumble the ball right back to the Steelers, giving them one last sliver of hope. Perfectly encapsulating the “if you want something down, do it yourself” mentality, the Steelers starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger came back into the game to try and lead his offense to the game winning field goal.
With seconds left on the play clock and twenty yards to go to get to field goal range, Roethlisberger delivered a strike to Antonio Brown which fell incomplete; but, the Bengals were flagged for unnecessary roughness and fifteen yards were gifted to the Steelers. To cap off the utter meltdown, a scrum ensued after the play which led to another penalty on the Bengals. The Steelers kicker converted the kick and the Steelers won the game, capping off one of the ugliest meltdowns in playoff history.
Giving the ball away and committing unnecessary penalties doomed the Bengals. They were in prime position to pull it off and change a four year narrative, but for some reason couldn’t find it in them to deliver. The headlines will read that the Steelers beat the Bengals, but it feels more like the Bengals beat themselves.
Now the Steelers will go on to face the Denver Broncos next Sunday the 17th, while the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of their game earlier in the day, will go on to face the New England Patriots on Saturday the 16th.
On a separate note, Steelers wide receiver, Martavis Bryant, treated us with possibly the catch of the season, catching a pass with both his hands, then corralling it with one hand and the back of his leg, then getting both feet down for a touchdown… and then finishing it off with a front flip to hold onto the ball. The play was a great show of athleticism and is truly a “you gotta see it to believe it” catch.