It's all over. The Bengals fell to the Texans by a score of 31-10 in their wildcard game in Houston. It has now been 22 years since the Bengals have won a playoff game, but we can be happy with the fact that they've been to the playoffs two of the last three years and in three of the last seven. We are now staring down the barrel of a long, but exciting, offseason.
But before we get into things like the draft and free agency, here are our picks for MVP and Goat in the Bengals' playoff game in Houston.
Anthony Cosenza's MVP:
"Leon Hall and Pat Sims: I know that they were injured and didn't play in this game, but call this the "Peyton Manning Effect". Though the Bengals managed to largely avoid major injuries this year, these two proved extremely costly. You could see the impact that these two players have when healthy. Sims shores up the run defense, which was a sieve on Saturday, and Hall is the leader of the secondary. The entire defensive unit wasn't the same without these two since their respective injuries and it showed on Saturday."
- Hall and Sims were definitely missed. Sims provided run-stopping power on the defensive line and Hall was by far the team's best cover corner. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson had a much easier time dismantling the Bengals' defense without Hall and Sims in the game. In fact, the Bengals defense slowly but surely declined after both Hall and Sims went out with season-ending injuries. Hopefully the Bengals re-sign Sims and both he and Hall are back and healthy for camp.
Dave Wellman's MVP:
"Brian Leonard: It's hard to give out an MVP nod when you're on the wrong end of a 21-point loss, but I'll give a shout-out to RB Brian Leonard, who was the team's leading offensive weapon Saturday with 70 combined rushing and receiving yards on 9 touches. Overall, Leonard finished the year averging 5 yards a rush and 9.5 yards a catch, but got fewer than 40 touches in 13 games. In short, he was criminally underutilized in a year when his skill set meshed well with the new WCO offense and lead back Cedric Benson was garbage. Boo on the coaching staff."
- Brian Leonard was the only running back that I would pick in this game. He helped pick up a big first down or two and compared to Benson he looked like Arian Foster, who was unfortunately taking it to the Bengals defense at the time.
Joe Goodberry's MVP:
"Johnathan Joseph: Joseph was the difference-maker between the two teams. The Bengals offense goes as A.J. Green goes. In the 2nd half, Green was completely shut down by Joseph. Not only did Joseph take his man out of the game, the Bengals struggled to contain Andre Johnson in the 2nd half. Had Joseph been in stripes, you think Andre beats him on a double move for a TD? He was the player equivalent to the James Harrison interception and TD in the Super Bowl again the Cardinals. A 14-point swing. Joseph took away the Bengals passing game and left the Bengals pass defense vulnerable vs one of the best WRs in the game."
- Joseph wasn't able to shut down A.J. Green completely, I'm not sure if there are any corners in the league that could, but he did stay with him throughout the game. With Leon Hall out, Joseph was missed more than ever and it's clear that the Bengals need to update the cornerback position in the draft.
And to the Goats.
Anthony Cosenza's Goat:
"Marvin Lewis (again): This team again was ill-prepared for the big stage. They fought hard for almost two quarters, but at the first sign of adversity (the Watt interception) they shrunk. You could point at the fact that they're such a young team, but the veteran leaders and other coaches could have stepped up. Lewis also made two questionable challenges and at times looked rattled on the sideline."
- The challenges were the thing that stuck with me the most in this game when it came to the decisions that Lewis made. I'm not sure if it would have made a difference in the game had he decided not to challenge those two plays, but we'll never know.
Dave Wellman's Goat:
"Run defense: The Texans gashed the allegedly tough Bengals run defense for nearly 200 yards Saturday, making life easy for rookie QB T.J. Yates, whose pedestrian performance was most notable for not making mistakes. This was the strategy Bengals fans hope to see their own team follow at the start of the season: rely on a bruising running game and don't ask too much of their young QB. Unfortunately last weekend it was the Texans who delivered and as a result the Bengals went home with the L. Get well soon, Pat Sims."
- The run defense has been bad throughout the second half of the season. They allowed over 100 yards on the ground in six of their last eight regular season game and their playoff game. As a result, they lost six of those games. The run defense needs to get better by 2012.
Joe Goodberry's Goat:
"Chris Crocker: I've defended Crocker all season because I thought he still held some value on this team. He's the veteran presence and the intellectual player who can make the adjustments on the fly. On Saturday, Crocker had the most embarrassing day of his football life on national television. He was slow, out of place, un-opportunistic, and a liability. I honestly felt bad. This is how he'll be remembered this offseason as the Bengals look to upgrade the position."
- Chris Crocker was terrible on Saturday and the one play that highlights his game was the long touchdown run by Arian Foster. Crocker was so bad that he actually looked like he was blocking for Foster. I hope he's not on the roster in 2012.