The Cincinnati Bengals will have to wait another 364 days – at least – to end the longest current playoff drought in the NFL following yet another first-round loss Sunday in Indianapolis.
Playing without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and starting tight end Jermaine Gresham, the Cincinnati offense was unable to do much of anything while Colts quarterback Andrew Luck seemingly did whatever he wanted in a 26-10 dismantling of the Bengals in an AFC Wild-Card game at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It was the fourth consecutive first-round loss for the Bengals, setting an NFL record, and the fifth in the last sixth years.
An offense that gained only 135 yards in a 27-0 loss at Indianapolis in October only managed slightly more with 254 Sunday, but the Bengals failed to score after kicker Mike Nugent gave the team a jolt of momentum heading into halftime with franchise-record 57-yard field goal.
The kick, Nugent’s career long and the second longest in NFL postseason history, got the Bengals within 13-10, and they had a chance to get even or go ahead by receiving the opening kickoff of the second half. But instead they began a stretch of three consecutive three-and-outs that gave Luck a chance to throttle the weary Cincinnati defense.
Luck was 31 of 44 for 376 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief that stretched the lead 20-10 with 7:48 left in the third quarter.
Adam Vinatieri tacked on field goals of 22 and 53 yards as part of a 4-for-4 day, and former Bengals running back Dan Herron rushed for a 2-yard touchdown as part of his 141 combined yards rushing and receiving.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was 18 of 35 for 155 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Running back Jeremy Hill, who came into the game with three consecutive 100-yard games, was held to 47 yards on 13 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run that evened the game at 7-7 with 1:28 remaining in the first quarter.
The loss dropped the Bengals to 0-7 all time in road playoff games and kept them winless in the postseason since a 41-14 triumph of Houston on Jan. 6, 1991.
Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis tied former Colts coach Jim Mora for the most consecutive playoff losses (six) to start a career. Lewis also tied Steve Owen for the most consecutive playoff losses with one team.
The second-half blanking followed a similar playoff script for Cincinnati, which has been outscored 84-13 in the second half of the six playoff games under Lewis.