And lost in the craziness and ugliness of that game was the fact that the Bengals went Bengal again. They came into last night having won two straight and somehow still had some sort of a chance to reach the playoffs. And then they jumped out to a 17-0 lead over the Steelers. It was incredible. Andy Dalton was firing on all cylinders. A.J. Green had two touchdown receptions in the first half. Adam Jones had an interception of Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the Bengals dee was locking up Le’Veon Bell and keeping the Steelers under wraps. I mean, for a moment, they almost looked like a football team.
And then they remembered they weren’t. And that they’re the Bengals. And they got all Bengal with it.
And this might have been their most Bengal game yet. They got things started by allowing the Steelers to drive from their own 17 to a field goal in the final 31 seconds of the first half.
But whatever. It’s just three points. That’ll happen. Cincy was still up 17-3 at the half. And they were still up 17-3 when Le’Veon Bell caught a pass from Roethlisberger and somehow managed to tightrope the sideline and get into the end zone.
I’m not sure what was more bizarre – his ability to stay in-bounds or the fact that the Bengals defenders were happy to watch him stay in-bounds, you know, instead of shoving him out and ending the play. But again, things like that will happen, especially if you’re the Bengals and besides they were still up by seven anyway.
And a Cincy field goal later, they were up by double-digits. Order restored. The march to the playoffs is back on again.
Well, except for the fact that Cincy was committing penalties at an alarming rate… EVEN FOR THEM. But I’ll get to more of that later. Then they gave up a field goal. And it was starting to become clear that the good ship Bengal was taking on water. And by the time Antonio Brown scored the game-tying touchdown, the meltdown was on. There was no way they were coming back from that. No chance.
Steelers d-lineman Cameron Heyward knew it: “It sort of reminded me of the playoff game — what was it, two years ago? It’s sort of the best reality TV show out there — better than the Kardashians.”
A.J. Green knew it too: “Very disappointing. We had it.” Ehhh, not exactly. Whatever it is, the Bengals never have it against the Steelers.
Mike Tomlin described his team as a “no-blink group.” I’ll buy that. But if they’re a no-blink group, the Bengals are an eyes-closed group. Because when pressure sets in, they close their eyes and just hope for the best.
How else do you explain jumping offside on the game-winning field goal, to turn it from a 43-yarder to a 38-yarder? That truly was vintage Cincy. You couldn’t find a better way to cap off the game, the night, or this era of Bengal football than by moving your fiercest rival another five yards closer for the game-winning kick.
Oh, and by setting a new franchise-record with 173 yards in penalties. Listen, I don’t want to kick the Bengals when they’re down, but when you set a Bengals franchise-record for penalties, you know you’ve accomplished something. This isn’t like baseball a hundred years ago where a dude like Frank “Home Run” Baker was leading the league with 9 home runs. If you beat Home Run Baker in the home run category, it meant you got to 10 or 11, big deal. But if you break a Bengals franchise record for penalties, you’ve done something historic.
And they did last night. Not only blowing a 17-point lead at home to their most hated rival. But blowing their season and pretty much ending this era of Bengals football all at once. Good job, good effort, fellas.