Cincinnati Bengal fans are used to losing in the playoffs. But no fan base is used to losing like that.
The Bengals fell behind rival Pittsburgh 15-0 in their Wild Card matchup and it looked like just another, run-of-the-mill loss was on tap for the playoff-challenged franchise.
After an epic 15-point, fourth-quarter comeback led by backup pivot AJ McCarron put them up 16-15, Vontaze Burfict seemed to have iced the game by intercepting Pittsburgh’s own backup pivot, Landry Jones, with under two minutes to play.
Then Burfict ceremoniously ran into the locker room with the ball, chalking up the win while there was still time on the clock. The Bengal faithful collectively said to themselves, “Oh crap. That’s tempting fate.”
Up 16-15, all the Bengals had to do was convert one first down and the game was over. Heck, they had the ball inside the Steeler 25. They could have kneeled three times and then kicked a field goal to put them up four.
But, in the driving rain, head coach Marvin Lewis chose to run fumble-happy Jeremy Hill up the gut. The second-year back promptly put the ball on the ground and Pittsburgh recovered.
Injured Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger, whom Burfict had knocked out of the game earlier, returned to try one last drive, bum-shoulder and all. He clearly couldn’t throw down field, but Cincy still respected the deep ball and Pittsburgh marched to midfield with just under a minute remaining.
Then Cincinnati decided they’d do the rest of the leg work.
Burfict laid a shoulder into WR Antonio Brown’s helmet well after the ball had sailed by incomplete, picking up a 15-yard personal foul. That moved the Steelers into field-goal range.
But Adam Jones wasn’t satisfied. He thought the Steelers needed a little more help. So he pushed a referee, moving Pittsburgh another 15 yards closer.
Now set up at the 18-yard-line, kicker Chris Boswell converted a chip-shot field goal, putting a lovely bow on a collapse for the ages.
There were three main goats in the game for Cincy: Hill, who fumbled; Burfict, who drew the first idiotic penalty; and Jones, who drew the second, possibly more idiotic penalty.
What lies in store for the Bengals and their untrustworthy trio next year? Let’s set the odds!
Cincinnati Bengals 2016 Odds
Odds that the Bengals re-sign free agent Adam Jones: 3/1
Jones has a checkered past, to say the least, but looked to have righted his personal ship and was playing arguably the best football of his surprisingly long career. But his penalty has made him a pariah in the Queen City and he’ll be 33 years old next season. This looks like the end of the road for the artist formerly known as “Pacman”.
Odds the Bengals keep Vontaze Burfict on the roster throughout the 2016 season: 1/2
Burfict has been suspended for the first three games of next year thanks to his hit on Brown. He’s proven time and again that he’s one of the dirtiest players in the league. But he’s also an exceptional football player. As Ndamukong Suh proved, the latter trumps the former. The Bengals are likely to give the brutal backer another shot at cleaning up his play.
Over/under on fumbles for Jeremy Hill in 2016: 3.5
Hill put the ball on the deck four times this year and five times in his rookie season. After the high-profile nature of his recent bout of dropsy, you can bet your life the LSU product will be clinging to the rock for dear life next year. You can also bet that Lewis doesn’t put
Odds the Bengals win a playoff game in 2016-17: 1000/1
I’m joking. Kind of.
(Photo credit: emeybee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)