The Monday Touchdown: Big Game, Big Loss

By losing to the Houston Texans by one measly point on Sunday, the Bengals have put their playoff hopes in jeopardy. Now they have to win out to have a shot and that is much easier said than done. A betting man would likely put money on them missing out on the post season.

But, before we get to what the Bengals need to do to go to the playoffs, lets take one last look back at their Week 14 loss to the Texans.

Point One: The difference between Benson's first and second half blows my mind

Cedric Benson ran like a mad man throughout the first half of the Bengals' 20-19 loss to the Texans. He almost broke 100 yards in the first half. Through the first two quarters, Benson racked up 92 running yards. In the second half, he carried the ball for -1 yards.

It was likely caused by a combination of Bobbie Williams' injury, the Texans adjusting their defensive game plan and the gods of football placing invisible barriers between Benson and the line of scrimmage. Either way the difference between Benson's first half and his second half can easily be pointed at as one of the reasons the Texans came back to beat the Bengals on Sunday.

Point Two: Tight end? We don't cover no stinking tight end!

T.J. Yates didn't need Andre Johnson to beat the Bengals on Sunday. All he needed was tight end Owen Daniels. He also needed the Bengals to forget that Owen Daniels existed.

Daniels has played well in two of the three games he's played against Cincinnati. On Sunday, he caught seven passes for 100 yards (the first time he reached 100 yards so far this season) and in 2009 he caught two touchdown passes (tying his game high TD total). With Johnson out, the defense had to know that Daniels was going to be Yates' top target right?

Point Three: What will happen to Bobbie Williams?

His ankle injury hurt the Bengals. When he left the game and was replaced with Mike McGlynn, the running game went to the crapper and the whole offense followed. He'll be 36 next September and his pass protection abilities haven't been terrific but he's been good when it comes to run blocking.

He's a free agent after the 2011 season. Will the Bengals pass the torch to Clint Boling? Will they re-sign Williams for another year? Will they draft his replacement or spend money on a free agent?

We'll have to wait and see.

Point Four: Loved the play calling at the end of the first half

The Bengals got the ball back at the very end of the first half. What they usually would have done is feed the ball to Benson a couple times and head into the locker room happy with a 13-3 lead. Instead what they did was throw the ball down the field to Andrew Hawkins for 22 yards and Jermaine Gresham for 31 yards setting Mike Nugent up for a 49-yard field goal.

Nugent kicked the ball through the uprights and gave the Bengals a 16-3 lead at half time (not that it really mattered in the end). This is the kind of play calling I'd like to see from the Bengals in situations like that more often.

Point Five: Yates made the Bengals' top-10 defense look stupid more than once

Maybe it was because his parents were at the game to watch his first start on the road or maybe it's because Yates truly is a good quarterback and has a place in the NFL, either way he made the Bengals defense look stupid on more than one occasion.

He passed all over them at the end of the game, including finding a wide open Kevin Walters in the end zone to tie the Bengals at 19 with just seconds left in the fourth quarter, and before that drive he converted a third-and-15 play with a 20-yard run that the Bengals should be embarrassed about.

Point Six: This was one of Maualuga's best games

Rey Maualuga has gone through some growing pains this year as he's made the transition from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. He has played well enough at this point of the season as he's third in tackles on the team with 71 (Reggie Nelson has 75 and Thomas Howard has 78), but he's not a pro bowler.

If he played the way he did on Sunday through the entire season, though, he would be getting quite a few Pro Bowl votes. He finished the game with six tackles and two forced fumbles. One of those forced fumbles came on Ben Tate on the goal line and the other came on Arian Foster. He recovered the first one himself setting up a Bengals touchdown and the other one was recovered by Geno Atkins. Had Atkins held on to the ball, we probably would be talking about a different outcome.

Hopefully this is a sign of what we can expect from Rey in 2012.

Extra Point: Now it's do or die.

Actually, the Bengals should have been in do or die mode on Sunday, but now they know they have to win out if they want a shot at the playoffs. If they lose one of their last three games, it's all over. A win over Houston would have given them a little, not much but a little, wiggle room. That isn't the case, though.

There is no wiggle room anymore. They have to beat the Rams, the Cardinals and the Ravens in the next three weeks. If they don't, the Bengals will be watching the playoffs from their homes.

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