In the shadow of all the bad that happened during Cincinnati's 27-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (and we'll discuss that in a moment), Bengals running back Jeremy Hill nearly broke a franchise record that's stood for nearly 20 years. Hill finished the regular season with 1,124 yards rushing, five yards shy Corey Dillon's rookie rushing record of 1,129. Sunday was also Hill's fifth 100-yard performance this year and third straight.
Cincinnati generated 337 yards of offense against the Steelers, converted six of 14 on third down (43 percent) and for the 11th time this season, rushed for more than 100 yards as a team.
However it was turnovers that, once again, did Cincinnati in.
"If we don’t turn the ball over, it’s a different game. We have to get rid of those," Hill said.
Andy Dalton threw two interceptions on Sunday (both on passes intended for A.J. Green) with the second leading to Martavis Bryant's 21-yard touchdown that gave Pittsburgh a 17-10 lead with 5:52 remaining in the second. Andy Dalton accepted blame for both. "The first one I shouldn't have thrown," said Dalton after the game. "The next one I left high. It was my fault. You have to be better. You can’t turn the ball over."
Green's fumble was perhaps the most catastrophic. Down 20-17 with four minutes remaining in the fourth, the Bengals reached the Steelers 48-yard line and were moving the football. They could have significantly reduced the clock and moved into position to score a game-winning touchdown. At the very least, a game-tying field goal and force overtime.
"It felt like we had a good rhythm," Dalton said of the fourth quarter. "We were able to put a big drive together that put us within three. We had a chance at the end to go down and win it."
Those, of course, are the unrealistic scenarios that we conjure up in the closing minutes of a loss.
"You can’t play against yourself and the other team," Whitworth said. "To be quite honest, with the mistakes we made, we shouldn't have even been in the game. But that’s how good of a team I think we are. If we just don't hurt ourselves and give people points, I think we're tough to beat."
Unfortunately, the Bengals are prone to turnovers with 12 giveaways over the last six games.
At least Hill is optimistic. "We haven't lost back-to-back," Hill said. "We're going to hang on that. We've done a good job with that all year with veteran leadership. A lot of guys have experience in the playoffs."