Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent (2) kicks a field goal against the Indianapolis Colts in the second quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
If you were looking for something new from the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon, then you were undoubtedly disappointed by the AFC Wild Card game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, because it amounted to more of the same-old, same-old for Riverfront fans. After an up-and-down 2014 season that saw the Bengals lose the AFC North division crown in the last game, Cincinnati packed it in for good with a 26-10 drubbing by Indianapolis, the Bengals’ fourth straight first-round loss in as many years.
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This time around, Cincinnati was expected to rely heavily on a running game that blossomed behind rookie Jeremy Hill in the second half of the season after incumbent starter Giovani Bernard missed multiple games due to injury. However, Hill’s task was made more difficult by the absence of receiver A.J. Green, who suffered a concussion against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday and who was scratched for the Indy game late in the week.
With a weakened passing attack, the Bengals were not able to overcome the pressure from Indianapolis’ front seven, which led to three sacks on quarterback Andy Dalton and little traction for Hill or Bernard out of the backfield. On the game, Hill ran 13 times for 47 yards, and Bernard picked up just six yards on three carries. Perhaps more telling, Bernard was the Bengals’ leading receiver with eight catches for 46 yards.
Even with that lack of offensive firepower, the Bengals still looked to be in a good position at halftime, trailing just 13-10.
It was all Indy after the break, though, as Cincinnati managed just 88 yards in the second half, and most of those came when the game was already out of hand. The Colts, for their part, didn’t do much of anything spectacular on offense, but they really didn’t need to in order to overcome the Bengals.
Colts QB Andrew Luck completed 31 of 44 passes for 376 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals sacked him only once, and he didn’t throw any interceptions (neither did Dalton).
If you’re looking for a positive, Bengals kicker Mike Nugent connected on the second-longest field goal in NFL playoff history, a 57-yarder at the end of the first half. Sadly, those would be the Bengals’ last points of the season.
There were points early in the 2014 campaign when the Bengals looked like potential Super Bowl champions, and then the wheels started to wobble around mid-season. They were able to patch up their wagon for most of the stretch run, but last week’s loss and today’s flat playoff performance were just more or the same for a team that continues to break hearts in January.
Where are the Bengals headed next? Hard to say for sure, but we know it’s NOT to the second round of the playoffs.
It never is.