January 5, 2013
Plenty of blame to go around for this one.
Andy Dalton overthrew an open A.J. Green in the end zone in the closing minutes, and the Houston Texans held on for a 19-13 victory Saturday in a wild-card rematch from last season.
With its second straight postseason loss in Houston, the Bengals extended one of the NFL's longest playoff droughts. They haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season, a 22-year stretch that equals the seventh-longest in league history.
Despite being outplayed all game, they had one final shot at the end. They got the ball back at their 20-yard line with 6:15 left, and Dalton had his chance for a nice comeback in his hometown. Instead, he overthrew Green, who got behind the coverage in the end zone, then completed an 8-yard pass to Marvin Jones on fourth-and-11.
And the postseason misery goes on.
The Bengals have been through five coaches, had 21 different quarterbacks throw a pass, and lost all four of their first-round chances to advance since the 1990 season.
It has been so long that the last playoff win came against a team that no longer exists, at a stadium that no longer stands. They beat the Houston Oilers 41-14 at Riverfront Stadium in a first-round game in January 1991.
This represented their best chance to break through. They'd won seven of eight to close the season, matching the best finish in franchise history. They were playing in the same place where the lost 31-10 in the opening round last year, giving them some familiarity.
In the end, it didn't matter for much.
Houston's Matt Schaub gave the Bengals a chance to stay in a lopsided game by making one bad mistake. His sideline pass was intercepted by Leon Hall and returned for a 21-yard touchdown, the cornerback's second score in three games.
"It was never easy," Schaub said. "Cincinnati is a great team. I made a turnover and gave them points. We just had to rally around each other and we did that."
Given how much the Texans dominated, the Bengals were fortunate to be so close.
Dalton had a horrid time. He was 4 of 10 for 3 yards in the first half. With J.J. Watt's sack added in, the Bengals had minus-6 yards passing and only 53 yards overall.
"I think it was a full defensive effort," Watt said. "Everybody was flying around, everybody was having fun. We got off the field on third down. That was a big key for us."
Dalton, who grew up in suburban Katy, was a rookie last season when he threw three interceptions in the playoff loss. He had a bad homecoming again, going 14 of 30 for 127 yards with two sacks and an interception.
The showing will raise questions about Dalton, who faded down the stretch. He had four touchdowns and six interceptions in the last six games, which the Bengals won with defense.