Close. Yet moral victories are not accepted here.
In a game that featured so many hints and indicators of a historical trend, compounded by a suffocating three-game losing streak, the Cincinnati Bengals nearly recovered from their many depressions, nearly knocking off the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
Yet artistically the Bengals ensured every effort that would lead to another self-imposed loss on Sunday. If not for a missed Mike Nugent field goal, an unexpected 105-yard kickoff return or a handful of penalties by Cincinnati's offensive line in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati failed with many of their remaining opportunities despite all of the self-inflicted wounds.
Thanks to Peyton Manning's two interceptions -- the first in the endzone, the second that led to BenJarvus Green-Ellis' touchdown -- the Bengals took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter. As if feeling the suffocating mask of actually having something in their favor, the Bengals absolutely collapsed; not unlike playing a scripted broadway show with eight games remaining.
After an offensive hold on Jeff Faine that eliminated a 19-yard A.J. Green reception (originally converting a third and 15) and an Andrew Whitworth false start, the Bengals were forced into third and 25 from their own 18-yard line. Feeling that he had nothing to lose, Dalton made the horrendous decision to throw the football into a crowd of Broncos defenders covering Green near the right sidelines.
Champ Bailey intercepts the football and the Denver Broncos eventually score a touchdown, taking an 11-point lead with only 3:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Cincinnati Bengals were unable to make a game-winning run during the team's final possession of the game, consuming clock on short yardage plays, including a series of runs on third and fourth down that wiped out 31 precious seconds off the clock, leading to the two-minute warning. Screens, quarterback sacks and dump off passes to Brian Leonard led to a Mike Nugent 41-yard field goal, reducing the deficit to eight points.
An attempted onside was recovered by Denver, who milked the clock without any timeouts remaining for the Bengals. Cincinnati extends their losing streak to four games, while the Broncos have won 11 of the past 13 against the Bengals and Manning adding another game to his winning streak against Cincinnati.
The Bengals host the New York Giants next weekend, pretty much without any postseason chance at this point.