The national media is making a habit of it. Loyal and dedicated Bengals fans are disregarding it. Both have justified reasons, notably Bengals fans who could easily argue that Cincinnati lost all but one game by only one possession. And we're not talking about mop-up time where teams score points during huge deficits to make the score look better than it appeared. For the most part Cincinnati was well within striking distance for most of their games during their losses against playoff teams.
Yet the facts have that dull stare that can't be disputed. The Bengals have beaten every team on their schedule that failed to make the playoffs (9-0) where as every loss this season was against teams that qualified for the postseason. Obviously the idea of beating teams that you're supposed to beat is richly rewarding, the need to beat playoff teams now comes at a premium.
And Chris Crocker agrees:
"I feel like we really haven't stepped it up vs. teams that have really been the top tier teams in the league," he said. "It's important because it gives your teammates confidence."
Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko echoes Crocker's sentiment.
"It’s just unfortunate that we're losing to some of the better teams," Peko said. "We've been in each of those games [and] a play or two away from winning those games."
And he's right.
The Bengals had fourth and 19 with 30 seconds remaining, down by two points to the Denver Broncos at their own 43-yard line. Andy Dalton throws an incomplete pass to A.J. Green and the Broncos win the game 24-22.
Cincinnati actually established a 6-3 lead over the San Francisco 49ers with 9:08 remaining in the game. The 49ers responded with a 72-yard drive, capped by a Kendall Hunter seven-yard touchdown to take a four-point lead. Even so the Bengals had two opportunities to win this game with 3:59 remaining in the fourth quarter -- Andy Dalton threw interceptions during both possessions.
Rashard Mendenhall scored on a nine-yard touchdown to break a third quarter tie between the Steelers and Bengals with 2:02 remaining during their week 10 clash. Cincinnati had four possessions to tie the game at 24, the final coming with 2:33 remaining in the game on Pittsburgh's 25-yard line. Dalton threw an interception and the game was over.
Cincinnati reached Baltimore's seven-yard line with 50 seconds remaining, down by seven on November 20. After throwing three consecutive incomplete passes, Dalton was sacked on fourth down with 33 seconds remaining in the game. This was the same game that Jermaine Gresham's touchdown reception was reversed after the football, pressed against the ground, shifted slightly in the palm of his hand.
Everyone recalls Cincinnati's performance against the Houston Texans. The Bengals established a comfortable nine-point lead in the fourth quarter with Cincinnati's defense generating not one, but two turnovers. Eventually the Texans pieced together consecutive 13-play drives, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter and beating the Bengals with two seconds remaining in the game.
Down by eight points with 1:05 remaining in the fourth quarter against the Ravens during Cincinnati's regular season finale, Dalton completed a 31-yard pass to Jermaine Gresham and a Brian Leonard 16-yarder to Baltimore's 33-yard line with 15 seconds remaining. Andy Dalton threw three consecutive incompletions and the Ravens won 24-16.
Whatever you do, know that the national media is correct in that the Bengals haven't beaten a team this year that's currently in the playoffs. However that's as far as one should go, especially considering that each loss was one possession away from a win.