Well…that was something. “Something” as in a game that the Cincinnati Bengals would probably count as one of their most devastating losses ever. “Something” as in a miracle comeback for the Pittsburg Steelers. Or, that “something” could mean it was one of the most disgraceful ends to an NFL game in recent history.
It probably means all of the above in the minds of anyone who watched the Bengals vs. Steelers game and witnessed that dramatic 18-16 ending.
ESPN invoked the image of inner demons tormenting Cincinnati, leading the team to self-destruct in the closing minute of a game they could have — and otherwise should have — won.
“Six days after coach Marvin Lewis joked about the need to exorcise his team’s playoff past, the Cincinnati Bengals were 14 seconds away from doing just that Saturday night. But a comeback bid came up short, as they dropped an AFC wild-card game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 18-16, extending their playoff wins drought beyond 25 years.”
By comparison, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the NFL Super Bowl. Which means for more than half the years there’s been an NFL Super Bowl, there hasn’t been a successful Bengals postseason run.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) January 10, 2016
But it gets worse. It gets so much worse because so much of the Cincinnati Bengals game came down to poor sportsmanship. I’m not talking about the ugly tackle by a Steelers player that somehow was missed by officials – although that’s proof that the Steelers aren’t exactly innocent in all of this.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a shoulder injury and was carted off field. As he was driven off, Bengals fans cheered and threw debris at him. The behavior was certainly unbecoming of the home crowd in such a way…it was going to be hard to pity them when their entire season came crashing down once again.
The Bengals were winning, right up until a fumble in the closing 90 or so seconds of the game. That was bad, yet the Cincinnati players seemed utterly determined to make their situation worse. Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers were making the most of the few seconds they had left, but with about a minute to go, a focused defense could have held them at bay for just a short while longer.
Instead, we had a hit by Bengals Vontaze Burfict on Antonio Brown, a hit so hard it knocked Brown out. It was a dangerous tackle and resulted in a 15-yard penalty. On top of that, a personal foul by player Adam “PacMan” Jones caused another 15-yard penalty. Due to the reckless actions of two Cincinnati players, the all-but-defeated Steelers were suddenly in easy field goal and game-winning territory.
With 18 seconds left, the Steelers put themselves ahead. The Bengals were left with a few seconds to watch as an otherwise stellar season crumbled to meaningless dust. One Cincinnati fan’s face actually went viral, seeming to represent to many the sheer disappointment felt after watching it all slip away.
That moment when you realize you’re a Cincinnati Bengals fan. pic.twitter.com/7dqjkmW2xn
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) January 10, 2016
Cincinnati.com writer Paul Daugherty called the game a “brutal farce,” commenting that “the cool every Bengals player promised during the week was nothing but hot air and nonsense.”
“Make no mistake: Playoff L No. 7 in the Marvin Lewis Era was the worst. And given the sadness, skepticism and cynicism provoked by the previous six, that’s saying something.”
Given the nature of this game and the way it ended, there are calls for the Marvin Lewis era to end with unlucky number seven. His inability to control his players has been noted. When a head coach can’t seem to get the best out of his players when they need to be at their best, is there really any reason to continue to rely on him?
What do you think of the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game? Share your thoughts below!
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]