The Bengals-Steelers rematch started out like Cincinnati fans dreamed. But, it slowly turned into the same old nightmare they’ve gotten used to.
The Bengals came out fired up and ready to play. Finding a passion that had been missing during the month of November, the Bengals started with focus and determination. After receiving the kickoff, Cincinnati drove down the field to take a 3-0 lead on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The drive was efficient and time-consuming. But, it didn’t matter. Cincinnati dropped another heartbreaker to the Steelers, 24-20.
After the Bengals took the lead on a 14-play, 70-yard drive, Pittsburgh tied the game. The Steelers dinked and dunked their way down the field and settled for a 45-yard field goal from Chris Boswell. But, that’s when the Bengals dug deep and found some anger.
Determined to stay alive in the playoff hunt, Cincinnati took over on their 36-yard line. Behind an offensive line that has been much maligned, Jeremy Hill provided a spark for the Bengals offense. The drive got a huge lift when Andy Dalton spotted Brandon LaFell streaking behind a defender. Dalton tried to connect with LaFell but the pass was incomplete. However, Artie Burns was called for defensive pass interference. The ball was placed at the 1-yard line. Four plays later, Dalton plunged in for the score and popped up to execute a monster spike.
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The Turning Point
Suddenly, the enthusiasm went south. A 20-9 halftime lead quickly melted to 20-15 at the end of the third quarter. The Steelers had found momentum and were making it a game. That’s when Bad Andy made an appearance. Dalton telegraphed a pass to Lawrence Timmons. Pitt had the momentum and now the ball. It ended with Boswell’s sixth field goal of the day.
Ken Zampese suddenly lost the creativity that generated 20 points in the first half. Cincinnati looked stagnant on offense and the defense was being put in a familiar position. Le’Veon Bell was finding his legs. The Bengals defense was able to hold him in the first half. But, with the offense sputtering, Bell was becoming a force.
After getting convincing back-to-back wins against the Eagles and Browns, there was a feeling of optimism in the city. But, dreams of the playoffs are going to have to wait until next season.
Just Not Prepared
Although they gave it a good shot, it wasn’t enough. A football game is a full 60 minutes of battle and fire. The Bengals played with intensity during the first half and died in the last 30 minutes. Once again, a general lack of offensive power and adjustments doomed the Stripes. It was the same old leftovers warmed up for supper.
At this point, the problem may not be Marvin Lewis. Ken Zampese’s offense was shutout in the second half and looked predictable in the loss. Maybe it’s not Marvelous Marv. The answer may lie in a new coordinator.