In a primetime game that should have been a Bengals win, penalties proved to be the difference in another gut-wrenching loss to their archrival.
Just like in that dreaded Wild Card debacle in 2015, the Bengals committed far too many untimely penalties to beat the Steelers this time around.
By the time the 23-20 loss had ended, the Bengals had racked up a franchise-record 173 yards. In a game that saw just 21 yards of difference in total yardage for the two teams (374-353 edge in favor of Pittsburgh), giving the Steelers that many free yards is effectively guaranteeing a Steelers win.
And what makes it worse is it wasn’t just Dre Kirkpatrick doing the damage. Kirkpatrick did a lot of the damage with a host of pass-interference penalties. But while his penalties led to a lot of easy yardage, it was other Bengals making big mistakes in the final possessions.
When the Bengals got the ball leading by three late in the fourth quarter, Giovani Bernard committed a false start penalty, one play after Andy Dalton was sacked. That led to a 3rd-and-23 play on third down that Cincinnati was unable to convert, giving the Steelers life.
On the Steelers’ game-tying touchdown drive, we saw Geno Atkins commit a dumb roughing the passer penalty. Had he not committed the foul, Pittsburgh would have faced a 3rd-and-5 play deep in their own territory with 7:22 left in the game.
On the Antonio Brown touchdown that tied the game, George Iloka had an obvious blow to the head on Brown that was an easy 15-yard personal foul, which was enforced on the ensuing kickoff.
That turned into a 10-yard Alex Erickson returned to the Bengals’ 12-yard line. Once the offense went three and out, the Steelers got the ball near midfield, making their game-winning drive all the more easier to convert.
On the game-winning field goal, the Bengals had a blatant offsides foul by Josh Shaw that allowed Chris Boswell to then convert a 38-yard kick with ease.
While Kirkpatrick will catch a lot of the blame for this record, it was definitely a team effort, one that should help seal Marvin Lewis’ fate.