NFL Network's Elliot Harrison and Alex Gelhar released their top 20 games of the 2015 season. And while plenty of games which deserved to make the list were rightfully included in the countdown, including the Bengals' Wild Card loss to the Steelers at number 7, one of the best games of the entire year got jobbed, left off the list entirely.
The game: the Bengals' 27-24 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
The matchup had every qualification of a great game; both teams were dominant at times, both quarterbacks played excellently, both defenses had their moments and a couple of electric plays on special teams made the game just that much more interesting. To top it off, the Bengals' comeback helped the team remain undefeated and gave the world a reason to think that Andy Dalton is a legitimate franchise quarterback.
To refresh the gravity of the comeback, the 4-0 Bengals entered the fourth quarter of Week 5 down 7-24 against a team that had won a Super Bowl in 2013 and, in 2014, was one play away from becoming the first back-to-back champions since the 2003-04 Patriots.
Despite Andy Dalton having led 13 game-winning drives, including nine 4th-quarter comebacks, in his first four NFL seasons, it seemed highly improbable for the signal-caller to rally a comeback, even though Dalton was near flawless during the Bengals' undefeated streak and despite the Seahawks' early fourth quarter struggles. After all, the Seahawks are still the Seahawks.
Where this game should've fit on Harrison and Gelhar's list is hard to determine; there were a ton of classic matchups in 2015. But the Bengals' victory over Seattle definitely deserves a spot on the list.
So why did this game miss the list? Despite the Bengals often going overlooked simply due to the fact that they're the Bengals, I would blame other factors over the Bengals' lack of media coverage. Although it's worth pointing out that four Seahawks games made the list, and the only Seahawks loss on the list was played against the Panthers, a team that received even more media attention than Seattle in 2015.
First off, Week 5 was a crazy week of football. The morning slate, particularly, was a huge reason for why Cincinnati's victory over Seattle went largely unnoticed. Jamaal Charles sustained a season-ending injury in the Chiefs' loss to the Bears, a game that was decided by one point. The Seahawks-Bengals game went to overtime, of course, but so did the Redskins-Falcons and Browns Ravens games. That's three of seven morning games going to overtime in Week 5. And with the excitement surrounding the other two overtime games, it was easy to see how Cincinnati's comeback went largely unnoticed. Of the seven morning games, only one game was decided by more than seven points, and in that game, Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley rushed for 159 yards in a loss to the Packers, confirming that he is indeed the real deal.
Even the afternoon games overshadowed Cincinnati's win. The Cardinals and Patriots walloped their opponents, winning by scores of 42-17 and 30-6, respectively. The Broncos, Giants and Steelers squeaked by their opponents in one-possession games, and storylines regarding the Steelers' gutsy playcall in their win over the Chargers captured media attention rather than Cincinnati's 17-point comeback. After the Seahawks lost in the Super Bowl, the national media quickly learned how much a single playcall can make people go crazy. Unfortunately, their efforts in making people freak out about the Steelers' playcall in a game they won succeeded, swaying conversation from what could've potentially been about the Bengals' impressive win to a subject that's completely uninteresting in retrospect.
To further prove my point, I spoke with a Seahawks fan, my good friend and Field Gulls staff writer, Evan Hill. Here's what Evan had to say on the game:
"Naturally, as a Seattle fan - this game still stings. However, I was surprised to see this game snubbed from the top 20 list from 2015. Heading into the game, Cincy was undefeated and was attracting the attention of teams and fans all around the league. Seattle played a strong three quarters - and entered the 4th quarter with a 17 point lead. But as a famous coach always says, "it's not how you start, it's how you finish." Instead of Seattle playing to their mantra, the Bengals did. Ultimately, this game was about Andy Dalton. Historically, Dalton likely wouldn't be able to lead a comeback of this nature - especially against one of the best defenses in NFL history. Seahawks fans are used to their team properly closing out games - so this game came as a shock to everyone in Seattle. Dynamic plays by both teams and an epic comeback by the Bengals to remain undefeated made this one of the top 20 games in 2015."
-Evan Hill, Field Gulls staff writer
You heard it here first. Both Bengal fans and Seahawks fans believe Cincinnati's comeback win over Seattle deserved a place in the NFL's Top 20 Games of 2015. Next year, NFL Network will clearly need to look back at some Bengals film before crowning the top 20 games of the 2016 season.