Pittsburgh Steelers win NFL AFC Wild Card game at Cincinnati 18-16.
Grown men are responsible for their own actions and, therefore, Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones are to blame for their two stupid, dirty, dangerous and city-crushing penalties that completely handed the Pittsburgh Steelers a game the Steelers had already handed away. But this is Lewis’s team. They’re his men. And they played like clownish, dangerous buffoons for their coach, who showed he had no control over the team he’s been with for over 13 years. For that, Marvin Lewis’s time in Cincinnati should finally be up, four wild-card losses and one wild-card implosion later.
Things were chippy all night, stemming from years of rivalry and a game earlier this year that was equally as contentious. There were personal fouls, dirty hits, fans throwing bottles and an obvious sense that something bad was going to happen to one of these teams and it was likely to be the Bengals with Burfict as the cause. He was out of control. He was pushing over cameras for no reason. Jawing at everyone. Hitting just hard enough to cross the line between tough football and dirtiness. He needed to come out of the game before he lost it for the team that had improbably come back from a 15-0 deficit. But then Burfict did exactly that. It was completely bizarre: You knew Burifct was going to blow it, you just didn’t know how. And when he did, you just had to shrug and say “it was bound to happen.”
After a Pittsburgh interception with 1:50 remaining, the game looked locked up — Cincinnati’s first playoff win since 1990 — right up until Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball on Cincinnati’s first carry after the turnover. Ben Roethlisberger, who had exited the game earlier with a shoulder injury (caused by Burfict — which is why he stayed in the game; he’s a stud on the field), then returned, needing at least 50 yards to get his Steelers in position for a game-winning field goal. It quickly became clear Roethlisberger didn’t have the arm to make big plays, so a slow march it was. At that pace it appeared Pittsburgh might have the time to get into position, but the odds were going to be about as long as the kick.
Enter Vontaze Burfict.
After a Roethlisberger pass to Antonio Brown was overthrown by about five yards, Burfict sprinted in, a good second or two after the play, headhunting all the way. He received a 15-yard penalty and was lucky not to be ejected. Later, Adam Jones touched a ref while trying to get involved in a scrum and gave away another 15 yards.(To be fair, Pacman’s penalty was touchy. He looked like he was going at Steelers assistant Joey Porter, not an official. Given the level of discourse during the game, it was a flag that could have been swallowed. But when you play like the Bengals did for 58 minutes and you have the history that Pacman does, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt.)
In all, the undisciplined Bengals gave Pittsburgh 30 yards and a chip-shot field goal to win. Those 30 yards weren’t going to be easy to come by, not with a quarterback who could barely lift his arm in a driving downpour. But the Steelers were handed them on a black and orange platter. A field goal later and it was 18-16 Steelers and, essentially, the game.
And now the 25-year playoff losing streak continues in Cincinnati and the man at the helm has to be to blame. Again, Burfict and Jones are the selfish children whose actions lost the game, but Marvin Lewis — a fine coach and a fine man — is the father figure who needed to make sure it didn’t happen. When you’ve lost control of your team, you’ve lost your team. Usually, your job comes next.
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