It is a testament to the power of the NFL that on a weekend of mostly lousy football games they can come up with a compelling story when two players choose at the last minute to show their butts and turn a memorable win into a catastrophic loss.
Meet the 2015 Cincinnati Bengals, but wave “bye-bye” because they pulled out a choke job of epic proportions as they gave away a game they had won to their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 18-16.
I can take bad football…to an extent. The Chiefs/Texans game was nothing but bad football. The Steelers/Bengals was bad, then it got good, then it got crazy, then it went right off the rails with some of the STUPIDEST football I’ve seen in a loooong while.
The Bengals had come all the way back from a 15-point deficit and all they had to do was run out the clock. Pittsburgh was missing starting QB Ben Rothelisberger after a sack delivered by linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Jeremy Hill coughed up the ball on a fumble and a few moments Burfict’s big play was negated when he went headhunting for Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. That got the Bengals flagged for a 15-yard penalty and then cornerback Adam Jones added a second unsportsmanlike penalty thus turning a 50 yard field goal into a 35 yard which kicker Chris Boswell put through for an improbable win for the visitors.
Burfict and Jones were morons, but so were the officials whose non-call of Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier helmet-to-helmet kill shot to Bengals running back Giovani Bernard in the 1st half. There’s NO excuse for the Bengals melting down at the end and giving the Steelers 30 YARDS in personal fouls. That’s just stupid. At the very least the Bungles should cut Jones loose and send Burfict to anger management classes.
Burfict is a wrecking ball on the field. He causes havoc on opposing offenses. He sacked and knocked Big Ben out of the game and made an interception. You want him out there and you need him out there, but he has to control the fury he plays with or he’s gonna get flagged and cost his team a game.
If they can’t block you, they’ll bait you. Which is what happened.
Football is as much a mental as it is a physical game. As we’ve seen before Mike Tomlin isn’t above playing head games to get an edge. Steelers coach Mike Munchak scrapping with Bengals’ Reggie Nelson on the sidelines? Head game. Another Steelers coach Joey Porter coming out on the field (and you know he was yapping) and baiting Jones into losing it? Head game.
Ask Bill Belicheat if you don’t believe me. Head games work!
Even injured starting quarterback Andy Dalton knows how badly Burfict’s brain cramp cost the Bengals.
“You can’t have stupid penalties at times like that,” Dalton said. “Vontaze is obviously a great player for us. He’s done a lot of really good things. So, I’m not saying he’s hurting this team. But the penalties are.”
The Steelers didn’t choke and lose their poise in the clutch and the Bungles did. Which is why Pittsburgh has so many SB rings and Cincinnati has so few–like none. It is a true blessing for Starvin’ Marvin Lewis to play for Mike Brown, a cheap skate owner who runs his team like a corner carry-out.
You think Jones would keep around a coach with an 0-7 record in the playoffs after 12 years? Nah. Brown should fire Lewis because he can’t close. He won’t. Same old sorry ass Bengals. Lewis and Brown deserve each other.
Jones is a moron, but he’s a moron with Super Bowl rings and the NFL’s most valuable franchise. What’s Brown got but a plastic ring he found in the bottom of a Cracker Jack box?
The Bengals had pulled off one of their greatest comebacks in a critical game with a backup QB. They had it right there. Hill’s fumble was costly, but the dumb and frankly, selfish plays of Burfict and Jones made it fatal.
You cannot lose your cool or go headhunting at that point of a game and hand Pittsburgh 30 free yards. Play smart, play in control, win the game and send the Steelers to the showers. That’s all it took and they blew it.
This one is on the Bengals. Win as a team and lose as a team. They lost because they lost their cool when it mattered most to keep it.