In one of the most bizarre games anyone will ever see, the Steelers won a game thanks to a total implosion by the Cincinnati Bengals in the final two minutes of a game that Cincinnati appeared to have in their back pocket. An implosion that included a huge turnover, two personal foul penalties and a near melee highlighted Pittsburgh's stunning 18-16 victory on Saturday night. Call it the ultimate Christmas gift for the Steelers who blew a 15-0 lead, only to watch the Bengals grab a 16-15 lead with less than two minutes to go.
What transpired on Saturday was not only a disgrace to the Bengals organization, it was a disgrace to the NFL. The entire game felt more like a WWE wrestle-mania match than a football game. At several points in this chippy contest, players on both sides were going after each other, even Pittsburgh offensive line coach Mike Munchack shoved a Cincinnati player, drawing a 15-yard penalty. Yet it will be the finish to this madness that will be remembered for ever.
It all started after A.J. McCarron's touchdown pass to A.J. Green that gave Cincinnati a 16-15 lead, which of course was followed by a hideous play call by future head coaching candidate Hue Jackson on a two point conversion. How do you justify a swing pass five yards behind scrimmage on a two point conversion that could give you a 18-15 lead? I have no idea. That is something that was overlooked from Saturday night.
But, again, following the Bengals touchdown, with Ben Roethlisburger back on the sidelines and ready to roll, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin elected to go with back-up Landry Jones under center with 1:50 to go. This was an inexplicable decision. If Roethlisburger was ready at this point he should have been in the game. Instead Jones threw a pick to linebacker Vontaze Burfict, which would have ended the game, but leave it to the Bengals to get Tomlin and the Steelers off the hook.
On the ensuing play Bengals running back Jeremy Hill coughed up the football and the Steelers recovered. All the Bengals had to do was play it safe and they would have won the game 16-15. Instead they tried to go for a killing score on the drive because Pittsburgh had three timeouts in their pocket. The game was over at this point, and everything that followed was just dirt on top of the Bengals grave.
This time Tomlin wised up and put Roethlisburger back in, and as we know all hell would break loose. Roethlisburger brought the Steelers to the Bengals 47 before the Bengals decided to give Pittsburgh the greatest gift of all. Seconds after Roethlisburger airmailed a pass over Antonio Brown's head, Brown was leveled by Burfict. While replay showed that Burfict was actually trying to avoid helmet to helmet contact with Brown, the play happened so fast that the officials had no choice but to throw the flag. Watch the play in real time, and even one would agree that a flag had to be throw for hitting a defenseless receiver.
While the Burfict penalty was the right call, the penalty on Adam Pacman Jones is the one that should require the most scrutiny. Amid the chaos of the Brown-Burfict collision, both the Steelers and Bengals resumed their pushing and shoving match, and for whatever reason Joey Porter, who is now a Steelers assistant coach, is on the field talking smack. Pacman Jones comes running in to help his teammates and bumps into the official, and gets flagged 15-yards for roughing the ref.
While I understand why Jones got flagged. His act was out of pure immaturity. When he should have ignored Porter, he acted like a child, it doesn't substitute for the fact that the refs screwed this up. Porter has no reason to be on the field. In fact no coach is allowed on the field unless there is an injury. Porter should have been flagged as well, and the penalty on Pacman would have been off-setting. Instead, the Steelers were rewarded 15 more yards, essentially 30 yards on two horrendous penalties that led to a Steelers victory.
While, I question the judgement of the refs on the Pacman flag, the entire episode doesn't excuse the Bengals behavior. They acted like children all night long with the season on the line. They let their rivalry with the Steelers dictate everything. Instead of worrying about winning the game, they cared more about fulfilling bounties and trash talk. This kind of behavior is reflection on coach Marvin Lewis.
Lewis is now 0-7 in the playoffs all time as a head coach. His teams in Cincinnati have a history of immaturity and undisciplined play, and he has done little to change the culture. He should have controlled the emotions of his team last night, instead he let it boil over like a burning pot. As soon as the game ends we have to see Pacman Jones post a profanity laced tirade on Instagram, and Burfict deliver a hilariously uncomfortable interview with the media. The Bengals are a disgrace. Not that the Steelers are any better, but at least Pittsburgh is smart.
Maybe it is time for Lewis to finally pay for years of failed expectations.
Not much to say here. The Chiefs rolled to their 11th straight win over the horrible Texans. The Chiefs opened the game with a 106-yard kick return by Knile Davis and that was all they would need against a Texans team that relied to heavily on the extremely overrated and mediocre Brian Hoyer at quarterback.
Hoyer threw four interceptions, and even fumbled a ball away that cost the Texans dearly. Yet, Texans coach Bill O'Brien didn't feel the need to make a change at quarterback. Really? This from the same guy who didn't feel a need to draft a quarterback two years ago when he took the job. O'Brien is extremely lucky he won a division title, because he deserves to be fired.
As for the Chiefs, they go into New England with concerns about the heath of receiver Jeremy Maclin. But if he is able to go, it would be fun to see Andy Reid get some long awaited payback against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the divisional round.