The Cincinnati Bengals were on their way to winning their first playoff game since 1990. It was late in the fourth quarter and the Bengals just took the lead 16-15 on a pass AJ McCarron to AJ Green touchdown with 1:50 left in the game. All the pressure fell on the Pittsburgh Steelers as they were being led by backup quarterback Landry Jones (Ben Roethlisberger left the game injured in the second half). And on the first play on that drive following the Bengals’ touchdown, Jones threw an interception to Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. That seemingly was the end of the game. All the Bengals had to do was run the clock down as much as they could (Pittsburgh had three timeouts left). But instead of controlling the clock, Bengals running back Jeremy Hill had the ball forced out of his hands by Steelers’ linebacker Ryan Shazier. The Bengals had given up possession and all Pittsburgh had to do was drive the field and kick a field goal for the win. Roethlisberger, who was on the sideline, decided to come back in the game and drive his team to the final score. The Bengals were making the Steelers take a ton of time making their way down field, when with 18 seconds, key players from the Bengals lost their cool. Big Ben through a pass to the Antonio Brown and Burfict was flagged for a defenseless receiver flag. Antonio Brown laid on the field and was diagnosed with a concussion and will be in concussion protocol with the NFL. Steelers assistant Joey Porter came on the field to check on Brown and that is when some more shenanigans happened. Brown reportedly said something to the Bengals players and there was a push and then a flag came down. Altogether, there were two flags for a total of 30 yards (the second flag was on Pacman Jones) that got the Steelers into field goal rang. And with that, the Steelers kicked the game-winning field goal and won the game 18-16.
The Bengals players and fans looked distraught after the game. There were camera shots of a fan crying and there were shots of Adam “Pacman” Jones crying on the sideline as well after the game. Just like that, the Bengals go from winning a physical game to losing a game in a careless way. The Bengals were the more talented team. There was no question that they have a great array of talent on both sides of the ball. But what has escaped the Bengals over the years is getting over the hump. In Marvin Lewis’ tenure, the Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs. And it isn’t as if they are a bad team each year. It just seems they find ways to lose games. But this year had to be the most maddening way to lose a game. The team lost their composure and that is a bad reflection on the coach of this team. He is already under enough pressure with trying to win that now he has to deal with the attitudes. There was already the thought out there that Marvin Lewis did not have control of his team. But with this latest demonstration, it definitely displayed that. And along with the loss, he now has to answer for what happened at the end of the game. Marvin took chances on Burfict and Jones and it would be bad to see him get fired on account of this moment in time being the last straw.
As far as Burfict, he is a talented football player. He has gotten better and better as he has been in the NFL. But for the same reason he was an undrafted player out of college is the same reason that he is in the middle of this mess. It seemed like every single situation, he was right in the middle of it. He was right there being separated from the Steelers’ players and he was talking to the refs about things all game long. His passion to play the game is unquestioned. But Burfict has yet to learn how to control himself when on the field. It seems that fines or things like that never seem to get his attention. So the next step has to be taken. Burfict has to be released. He is a good player, but he just does not get it that he cannot do some of the things he does out there. If he is to get cut, that may let him know that he has to reign it in some. Other than that, I don’t know what else will help that young player get it together. Because if he does not reign it in soon enough, then he could end up doing something that could endanger someone else and himself.
Adam “Pacman” Jones has been around the league long enough to know better in some situations. There were some other things going on that the Steelers may or may not have done on the field. But in the end, you have the ultimate control over yourself. When someone knows they can get under your skin, then they try to use that as an advantage. And as a result, the Steelers are marching on while the Bengals and Pacman are mad and headed into the offseason. As a veteran player on this team, he should be the one reigning everyone in, not riling everyone up. Now this one incident does not diminish all the things that Pacman has done to become a better player and better person on and off the field. But what he can do going forward is not let this incident define what all he has done to become who he is today. It was a bad incident, but he has to learn from it and recognize when someone is trying to get under his skin.
The antics of a few cost the Bengals the game and the whole team must suffer the consequences for it. The leaders of this team should take control of this situation first and foremost. And by leaders, that means the players that lead this team not the coach. No matter if Lewis is fired or not, there has to be some players take ownership of this team or these type of things will continue to disrupt what they are trying to build. This had to be very embarrassing not only to the NFL but to the ownership of the team. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what changes happen as a result of this mental breakdown at the wrong time.