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Bengals stress poise will be emphasized more going forward

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The Bengals weren't poised enough to beat the Steelers in the playoffs, and they're already vowing that won't be the case next year.

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Despite all of the adversity the Cincinnati Bengals faced in their Wild Card matchup from Andy Dalton's thumb to other injuries and just having to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was the simplest of things that ultimately cost them that game.

After trailing 15-0 in the fourth quarter, the Bengals battled back to take a 16-15 lead and appeared to have put the Steelers away for good.

But then the Bengals lost the last thing a veteran-heavy team should have.

Poise.

While the fumble by second-year back Jeremy Hill kept the door ajar for Pittsburgh to rally, there still was no reason for the defense to allow an injured Ben Roethlisberger drive down the field with just over a minute in the pouring rain without his top two running backs, Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. The Steelers simply didn't have enough left in the tank to make it far enough for second-year kicker Chris Boswell to kick a hit a game-winning field goal.

Yet, Cincinnati was flagged twice on personal fouls that gave Pittsburgh 30 free yards to put them in range for Boswell to a convert a chip-shot 35-yard field goal for the win. One was an illegal hit to the head by Vontaze Burfict on Antonio Brown, who was attempting to catch a pass that was too high and was hit after it was out of his reach.

Then came Jones' unsportsmanlike foul for pushing Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter. While Porter shouldn't have been on the field, Jones and others can't allow that to distract them, let alone cause them to get flagged.

They didn't have enough poise to stay focused on the task at hand, stopping the Steelers, and instead let the extracurricular stuff affect them. That's why head coach Marvin Lewis has already stressed to the team that stopping these kind of acts, as well as arguing and complaining to officials, is going to be one of, if not the biggest points of emphasis this offseason.

"Through the midseason and later in the season, that's when we started making it a real emphasis," said linebacker Vincent Rey on arguing with refs, via Bengals.com. "This coming season from day one in April I bet it's going to be about having poise. That's going to be a big emphasis."

Defensive tackle Domata Peko also committed a terrible personal foul during Saturday's game that helped keep a Steelers drive alive after a punt looked to be coming.

"Coach has already said that moving forward here we're not going to do things that way," Peko said. "If anybody is having any arguments with referees he's going to get you out of there. Moving forward we're going to make that change, and it's a good change."

And at the end of the day, we can criticize the head coach for these issues, but in reality, we're talking about grown men losing their cool, and it's up to them to be adults and fix these mistakes themselves.

"It's on all of us," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "At the end of the day, men are men and there's nothing a coach can do, honestly, in a situation to control guys. There has to be a baseline, for sure. We'll look at that as a group with Marvin.  I think we always look at what we can be better at. If that's a problem, we'll address it and we'll hold guys accountable if that's the case."

If any of the acts that happened on Saturday continue next season, you can bet Lewis is going to be much quicker to lay down the hammer on his players. It's simply unacceptable for these kinds of mistakes to cause a team to lose a game as important as Saturday's.