During the Marvin Lewis era (2003-present), the Cincinnati Bengals have endured four postseason appearances heading into this season. Over that four-season span, the Bengals have come away with an 0-4 postseason record.
But 2013 was poised to be a different story.
Third-year quarterback Andy Dalton spent his first two NFL seasons under center for two playoff Bengals teams, but went one-and-done in both 2011 and 2012. This year, Dalton led his Bengals (11-5) to the AFC North title while throwing a franchise-high 33 touchdowns and posting a perfect 8-0 home record at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati won five of their final six regular season games, setting themselves up for an AFC Wild Card home match-up with the six-seeded San Diego Chargers.
History tells us that the Bengals own the Chargers when it comes to the AFC postseason, defeating the Bolts 27-7 back in 1982, the only playoff match-up between these two teams.
Vegas odds told everyone exactly who was favored: the Bengals, by a whole seven points.
Confidence was in their favor heading into today, but when all was said and done, Andy Dalton’s postseason struggles continued and Marvin Lewis & Co. now find themselves 0-5 during postseason play over the last 11 years.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers played flawless football, driving the Bolts offense down the field for 20 second-half points following a 10-7 halftime deficit. And, on defense, Mike McCoy’s Charger squad did exactly what they knew they needed to do: force turnovers. Dalton threw a pair of picks, fumbled the ball once and rookie RB Giovani Bernard added one more crucial red zone fumble in the first half.
Despite just six first-half passing attempts from Rivers, San Diego managed to protect the football and get the job done on the ground. Backs Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown combined for 183 yards and two TDs on 36 carries throughout the 60-minute football game. Given that San Diego has gone 7-1 in games that they run the ball 30+ times, it’s no wonder the Bolts were able to put up 27 points on one of the league’s most dangerous defenses.
Coming into the game, it was clear that the Bengals wouldn’t be able to turn the ball over four times and come away with a win as they did last week against the Baltimore Ravens. And the Chargers proved that today.
Unfortunately, Dalton will have to endure a long off-season of critics doubting his ability to play at a high level in the postseason. But luckily for Rivers, his playoff critics may finally stay quiet for a while, despite attempting just 16 passes in the 17-point victory.
San Diego will travel back to Denver to face the No. 1 Broncos next weekend in the next round, meaning the fourth-seeded Colts will travel to Foxboro to play the New England Patriots.