In a must win game for both teams, Cincinnati came out victorious. Geno Atkins and the Bengals went into Heinz field to take on the hated Steelers in a pivotal week 16 match up. The Bengals came into the game having lost their last 5 games against Pittsburgh, dating back to the 2009 season. Andy Dalton had lost the 3 previous games against the Steelers since he entered the league in 2011.
Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have been two completely different teams since their week 7 match up at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati has won 5 of their last 6, while Pittsburgh had lost 4 of their last 5. Everyone this year has questioned whether the Bengals could win when it really mattered. Could they handle a bully that has relentlessly pushed them around? This game determined whether the Bengals would make it to the playoffs for back to back seasons since the 1981-82 seasons. It’s been 30 years since the Bengals have made that coveted trip to the post season. While I wasn’t even alive for those seasons or even our Super Bowls runs, I knew it had been too long.
Dalton and the Bengals made the playoffs as a wild card team last year with a 9-7 record. The playoffs are all Dalton and the young Bengals know. The team is hungry to avenge the loss the had in Houston last year in the wild card round. They need to get that bitter taste out of their mouth. A playoff loss is something that sticks with you until you can get a win in the post season. To get there, the had to beat Pittsburgh. A win and they’re in scenario.
The Bengals struck first in the game, but it wasn’t by Andy Dalton and the Offense. It was by way of a Leon Hall pick six. Roethlisberger was looking for Heath Miller and Hall jumped the route at the Pittsburgh 17 yard line and took it back to the house. Josh Brown converted the extra point to put the Bengals up 7-0 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Cincinnati caught a break. They stopped the Steelers drive at the their 6 yard line. In comes Shaun Suisham for a routine field goal that would’ve cut the lead to 7-3. The snap, the hold… Wide left! A few drives later, Josh Brown hit a 41 yard field goal to put the Bengals up 10-0. However, right before halftime Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown with a 60 yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 10-7.
Cincinnati went into the half with a lead and the would be receiving the second half kickoff. Could they keep the lead and nail down a playoff spot?
What followed in the third quarter was pretty much what happened the previous two; a lot of defense. Cincinnati was held to zero points while Pittsburgh kicked a field goal to knot it up 10-10. At the end of the third, Cincinnati was 15 minutes away from a playoff spot.
The fourth quarter was just as nerve racking as the first three quarters. A lot of defense, with not a lot of offense. Both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh had some questionable field goal tries in the fourth. Instead of punting and trying to pin Pittsburgh deep, Marvin Lewis decided to try for a 56 yard field goal. The snap, the hold.. No good. Just short. This gave Pittsburgh the ball at their own 46 yard line. The Cincinnati defense held strong and forced a fourth down. What does Pittsburgh do? Try for the go ahead 53 yard field goal of course. The ball falls short and the ball once again is in the Bengals possession.
Cincinnati can’t do anything and they are forced to punt with 44 seconds left on the clock. Huber punted and the ball was caught by Pittsburgh return man Antonio Brown at their 11 yard line. Roethlisberger connected with Redman for a gain of 13 yards. Vontaze Burfict made the tackle on the play but stayed on top of Redman. The refs threw a flag and enforced a 5 yard delay of game penalty on Burfict for the act. Two plays later, Roethlisberger takes the snap and passes deep right. The ball was caught by… Reggie Nelson! The Bengals safety hauled in the interception and ran the ball ten yards to the Pittsburgh 46 yard line.
With 14 seconds left, Dalton passed to the right sideline to A.J Green for 21 yards. With 4 seconds left, Josh Brown and the kicking unit came onto the field to attempt a game winning 37 yard field goal. Snap, hold, kick… GOOD! Cincinnati stuns Pittsburgh with a 13-10 win to advance to the NFL playoffs for the first time in 30 years.
Cincinnati left Pittsburgh with their ninth win of the year, a playoff birth and one thing still on their mind: “Destination New Orleans”.
Andy Dalton: 24/41 passing for 278 yards and 2 interceptions
A.J Green: 10 catches for 116 yards
Leon Hall: 1 interception
Reggie Nelson: 3 tackles and 1 interception
Geno Atkins: 6 tackles and 2.5 sacks
Josh Brown: 2/3 field goals with a long of 43. 1/1 on extra points