The Bengals are already out of the playoff race, so this week’s loss to the Houston Texans didn’t sting as badly as it probably could have, given the close nature of the game. With the result, the Texans clinched the AFC South title, while the Bengals slipped ahead of the Eagles in the race for draft positioning.
Still, the way the Bengals lost, with a missed field goal that shouldn’t have been particularly difficult for an NFL caliber kicker, was all too familiar and painful for Bengals fans who got their hopes up. The frustrating nature of the loss, summed up by Cody Williams of Fansided, was exactly what you would expect from either team in 2016.
[Dalton and Cincinnati’s offense] drove all the way just outside of the red zone to give their kicker, former Texan Randy Bullock, a shot at the game-winner. But after a weird early step in his run-up, Bullock mis-hit his kick and pushed it wide right. No good; Houston wins:
Is there anything that epitomizes the 2016 Houston Texans more than clinching the AFC South title by their opponents shanking a 43-yard game-winning field goal? (Hint: the answer is an emphatic no.)
After all of the buzz about Tom Savage replacing Brock Osweiler at quarterback, the Pittsburgh product was far less impressive this time around. That was partly due to play-calling, but also at least somewhat due to the fact that—shocker—he might not be that great. Whatever the case with Savage, though, Bullock forgot which team he was trying to help, ultimately giving a boost to his former team as he punched their playoff ticket with his miss.
In addition to epitomizing the 2016 Houston Texans, the miss epitomizes the 2016 Cincinnati Bengals. So many games this year could have been won or at least heavily influenced with a made field goal instead of a missed one by former kicker Mike Nugent. In fact, that is exactly why he is the ‘former’ kicker and why Bullock was brought in in the first place.
Paul Brown Stadium absolutely erupted when Bullock made his first field goal with the team last week against the Steelers, They thought they had finally found a reliable kicker who could sink field goals when they really need it. Unfortunately, missing this week’s probable game-winner undoes all of that confidence and relief, even if the Bengals don’t have much left to play for this season. It was bad enough that Peter King of Monday Morning Quarterback made him this week’s Goat of the Week.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Randy Bullock, kicker, Cincinnati. The Texans finally got some return for investment on their fifth-round pick in 2012. They drafted Bullock to be their long-term kicker, but he was just 80.3 percent on field goals for Houston in three-plus years and was cut during the 2015 season. Four teams later, Bullock found himself back in Houston on Saturday night, his new team, Cincinnati, down 12-10, with a 43-yard field-goal chance as time was about to expire. Bullock lined up, stopped-and-started, and drilled the kick wide right. Which handed Houston the AFC South title. “Incredibly disappointing,” Bullock said. Not to all of Houston.
That said, as it should always be noted, you can’t blame the entire result of the game on one bad kick. I understand we’re all frustrated with the futility of the kicking game over the last few weeks, but let’s not forget how bad the Bengals’ offense looked this week. We have to give credit to the Texans’ defense for playing well, as Sarah Barshop of ESPN did, but that’s still no excuse for the overall lack of production.
The Texans' defense, which entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed per game, allowed 294 yards, although 86 came on a touchdown pass from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver Brandon LaFell early in the fourth quarter. The defense allowed 15 first downs and had an interception from safety Quintin Demps in the third quarter.
While the defense was decent this week, the inability of the offense to get much accomplished summed up the rest of the Bengals’ season. A complete shutdown of the Texans’ offense in the first half allowed the Bengals to enjoy a 3-0 lead at halftime. The Texans were able to get things going a little better in the second half, putting up 12 points. The Bengals’ offense couldn’t keep up, only accomplishing anything of significance with the aforementioned 86 yard touchdown pass. They also set Bullock up for a game-winning field goal, but it would have been nice if they didn’t need the game to come down to that one last-second moment.