Playoff implosion puzzles Bengals

Published 3:15 am Tuesday, January 6, 2015

CINCINNATI (AP) — Coach Marvin Lewis couldn’t go to sleep until he had a chance to watch video of the Bengals’ latest playoff meltdown.

There weren’t a whole lot of answers in the viewing.

And not much sleep to be had, either. This bad dream won’t go away.

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A 26-10 loss at Indianapolis on Sunday made it four straight years with first-round losses, an NFL record. No matter what they accomplish during the regular season, the Bengals fritter it away in the playoffs.

Happens every year.

“This one, it stings,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said on Monday as he left the locker room. “We had another opportunity of doing it, and just falling short again — it really hurts, man. You could tell by the emotion in the locker room right now.”

The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, a 24-year stretch of postseason futility that is the sixth-longest in league history. Lewis is 0-6 in the playoffs, which ties several coaching records for playoff futility.

So what’s going to change? Nothing major.

Lewis has one year left on his contract and is expected back next season. He bristled on Monday when asked if he was happy to be able to return after losing in the playoffs again.

“Do you think people are releasing people that put a team in the playoffs four years in a row?” Lewis said. “Is that what you’re saying? OK then. You don’t really want me to answer that, do you? I probably shouldn’t.”

No, he’ll be back.

So will quarterback Andy Dalton, who is 0-4 in the postseason. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes on Sunday, but didn’t do anything especially noteworthy, either. Dalton reinforced his legacy as a game-manager rather than a game-changer.

Dalton got a contract extension before the season with most of the guaranteed money front-loaded into the first years, so he’ll be back as well for at least one more try at the elusive playoff win.

“We’ve done everything that you can do in the regular season,” Dalton said on Monday. “The last four years, we’ve won 40 games. We’ve got to figure out what’s going to get us to win once we’re in the playoffs.”

The offense has been the biggest postseason problem. During those four losses, the Bengals have been outscored 57-6 in the second half. They’ve scored only 43 points in those four games, with seven of them coming off Leon Hall’s interception return for a touchdown.

The offense is expected to return mostly intact, although coordinator Hue Jackson will get interest for open head coaching jobs.

There could be significant changes on defense. Coordinator Paul Guenther said on Monday that linebacker Vontaze Burfict will likely have a second knee operation soon. Cornerback Terence Newman said he’s considering retirement.

And the Bengals will be looking to overhaul a defensive line that was a big disappointment. Cincinnati finished last in the league with 20 sacks, their second-lowest total for a 16-game schedule. Tackle Geno Atkins was a disappointment coming off knee surgery — only three sacks and 34 tackles.

“Geno was coming off injury,” Guenther said. “He wasn’t the quite same. We need to infuse the line because we’ve got to get better at rushing the passer, period.”

Notes: The Bengals signed seven players who were on their practice squad to reserve contracts on Monday, so they will count on the active roster: linebacker L.J. Fort, offensive tackle Dan France, defensive tackle Kwame Geathers, cornerback Onterio McCalebb, tight end Jake Murphy, and receivers Tevin Reese and Eric Ward. … Newman said he’ll take a couple of months before deciding whether to try to play another season. He turns 37 in September.


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