It was a game of opportunities.
Entering Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Cincinnati Bengals have already experienced the postseason desperation. Win and the controlled destiny stays alive. Lose and that sixth loss of the season becomes an unnecessary complication for another playoff opportunity this year.
It was a game of opportunities.
The Bengals offense hasn't played well in recent weeks, including Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys. An Andy Dalton interception led to a Cowboys touchdown, several poor passes and wide receiver drops prematurely ended possessions, penalties wiped out productive plays, all featured during Cincinnati's fourth-quarter collapse, losing the game 20-19 in front of a Paul Brown Stadium crowd packed with Cowboys fans.
Yet with just under ten minutes remaining in the game and the Bengals leading by nine points, the Dallas Cowboys offense neutralized a defense that terrorized Tony Romo and stuffed Dallas' rushing offense. The Cowboys pushed downfield, threatening to collapse Cincinnati's somewhat confident lead.
At one point during the possession, in the slow-motion process of becoming another Geno Atkins victim, Tony Romo threw an inadvisable pass to Miles Austin's comeback route. Nate Clements cut off the route and placed both hands on the football; the football fell harmlessly to the ground. It was one of three dropped interceptions by the defense.
Several plays later with 6:44 remaining on first and ten from the Bengals 27-yard line, Tony Romo launched the football over the middle to Dez Bryant's in-route from the right sidelines, reducing Cincinnati's lead to within a field goal on a 27-yard touchdown reception.
The Bengals tried pushing the football with high-percentage plays to kill the clock. Yet for some reason BenJarvus Green-Ellis led a rushing offense with only 12 carries, uncharacteristically generating into a high ratio of passes over runs on the afternoon. With four yards needed on third down from their own 36-yard line and 4:40 remaining in the game, Andy Dalton takes a quarterback sack and a ten-yard loss. Kevin Huber's 50-yard punt was returned four yards, giving Dallas the football at their own 30 with 3:44 left in the game.
On a quick slant with the receiver tripping, Terence Newman nearly picked off the football giving the Bengals a chance to seal it. Incomplete. Romo finds Jason Witten over the middle for the first down. Lost opportunities.
A field goal wins it and the Cowboys are draining the time remaining in the game. Nine-yard reception and two-yard DeMarco Murray run picks up another first down, reaching Cincinnati's side of the field. Quick seven-yard pass to Murray, knocked out of bounds, reaching the two minute warning on Dallas' following Murray's two-yard draw. First down with 1:28 remaining in the game. Incomplete. Short dump off to Murray, capped with another first down on a sweep to the right when Carlos Dunlap lost contain.
It's a first down and the Bengals are unable to stop the clock. Dan Bailey converts the 40-yard field goal with four seconds remaining and the Bengals lose, 20-19.