To say the Bengals had little-to-no shot of beating the Seahawks on Sunday when they trailed by 17 points may actually be an understatement.
History suggested the Bengals didn't have much shot at winning before the game even began. Since the NFL realignment of 2002 that saw the AFC North formed, no team from the division had ever began a season 5-0. Even the 15-1 Steelers of 2004 saw their only loss come in the second week of the 2004 season.
Even though the Seahawks had blown leads at St. Louis and at Green Bay earlier this season, history suggested they would not do it a third time when they had a 24-7 lead in the fourth quarter against the Bengals.
Seahawks are 2nd team in NFL history to lose 1st 3 road games of season after leading in 4th qtr of each (2012 Steelers) (H/T @EliasSports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 12, 2015
While the Bengals have had several big comeback wins over the years, none were ever when they were down as many as 17 points. The biggest deficit Cincinnati had ever overcome in the Andy Dalton era was being down 16 against the Packers in the 2013 season. However, Cincinnati entered the fourth quarter of that game trailing only 30-21 before rallying for a 34-30 win.
You have to go all the way back to the early days of Carson Palmer to find the last time a Bengals team rallied from being down 17 points.
Bengals defeat Seahawks in OT; Their last win after trailing by 17 points in the 4th quarter: 2004 at Ravens pic.twitter.com/vPXjpm1YYE— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 12, 2015
That was a game in which Palmer's Bengals trailed 20-3 going into the fourth quarter before he threw three touchdowns in that final period to rally his team to a 27-26 win.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times pointed out several other notable streaks that were working in favor of the Seahawks, but the Bengals ended up overcoming. Since Seattle hired Pete Carroll as their head coach in 2010, they had not lost a game in which they led by 17 points in his 81 games.
This loss to the Bengals ranked as the biggest blown lead in the Carroll-era with the previous biggest collapse being when Seattle blew a 12-point lead at Indianapolis in 2013. Still, that was a game where Seattle led only 28-23 going into the final quarter before the Colts rallied for a 34-28 win.
Condotta also notes how this was Seattle's first loss after holding a lead as large as 17 points since 2004 against St. Louis, when they had a 24-7 second-quarter lead and a 27-10 lead midway through the fourth before losing 33-27 in overtime.
Pro Football Reference also shows that this was the biggest fourth-quarter lead the Seahawks had ever blown in a game. Their previous 71 games in which they led by 17-plus points saw Seattle sport a perfect 71-0 record.
But this nugget from ESPN (and our fearless leader) is the real kicker, showing how teams facing a deficit of 17-plus points in the fourth quarter since 2010 were 0-427:
Last 5 years, there are 428 17-point deficits in the 4thQ. Of those, 427 were losses. The win? #Bengals on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/2KB4Nq3bZV— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) October 12, 2015
Yeah, it;s safe to say history was not on the Bengals' side when the final quarter began Sunday, but that didn't stop them from pulling off what may end up being a season-defining win.