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The Bengals’ 7 playoff losses under Marvin Lewis, ranked by how soul-crushing they were

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The Bungles just continue to break their fans’ hearts.

Normally, there’s no reason to talk about the Bengals during the offseason, but former coach Marvin Lewis opened up an opportunity. In an interview with CBS Radio, Lewis said that he doesn’t miss the NFL and that he doesn’t think he’ll ever return.

More importantly, Lewis was asked about his 0-7 postseason record with the Bengals, to which he gave a succinct answer:

“The other team ended up with more points.”


The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since January 1991, when they beat the Houston Oilers, 41-14, in the Wild Card Round. They’ve never won a Super Bowl and have consistently been one of the worst teams in the postseason over the past 50 years.

Lewis does deserve some credit for making the Bengals competitive — they went 12 straight seasons, from 1991-2002, without a winning record before Lewis was hired. He could never get them over the hump in the postseason, though. They finally moved on from Lewis this offseason after 16 seasons and not a single win in the playoffs.

But which loss was THE worst for Bengals fans? Here are the seven postseason losses of the Marvin Lewis tenure, all from the Wild Card Round, ranked by how Bengal-y they are.

7. Jan. 4, 2015: Adam Vinatieri kicked the Bengals out of the playoffs

Andrew Luck threw for 376 yards and a touchdown in a 26-10 playoff win over the Bengals following the 2014 regular season. The Bengals only scored one touchdown: a 1-yard run by Jeremy Hill at the end of the first quarter.

It was a slow, painful loss for the Bengals. The Colts would drive down the field, stall out in the red zone, and kick a field goal. The Bengals struggled to pick up first downs and ended up punting eight times; the Colts only punted four times.

Adam Vinatieri kicked four field goals while the Colts’ defense held the Bengals to just 254 total yards on offense.

The Bengals farted around and watched themselves lose via 1,000 paper cuts.

6. Jan. 5, 2014: The Chargers didn’t even need Philip Rivers to blow out the Bengals

During the 2013 NFL season, Cincinnati got pummeled by the three-headed running back monster of Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, and Danny Woodhead in the playoffs. The trio combined for 36 carries, 183 yards, and two touchdowns, including a 58-yard run by Brown with 2:37 left to push the Chargerslead to 27-10.

Andy Dalton managed to throw for 334 yards, but it took him 51 attempts to get there and he tossed two interceptions along the way.

The Chargers’ ground game was so good that Philip Rivers didn’t have to do much. Rivers only threw 16 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. That’s all the then-San Diego Chargers needed from Rivers to put away the Bengals.

The Chargers haven’t exactly been playoff stalwart over the years — they also haven’t won a Super Bowl — but this win in Cincinnati was one of their best appearances in the postseason.

5. Jan. 5, 2013: Cincinnati wasted a good defensive performance against Houston

The Bengals just could not get out of their own way during their 19-13 Wild Card Round loss to the Texans in the 2012 season. Despite getting an interception return for a touchdown from Leon Hall and holding the Texans to one offensive touchdown, the Bengals were unable to pull it out.

Dalton put up a brutal performance, throwing for 127 yards and an interception on 30 attempts. The Bengals went 0-for-9 on third down and only held the ball for 21 minutes of game time.

What makes the loss worse is the fact that the Texans don’t have a great track record in the playoffs themselves. In the franchise’s 17-season existence, they’ve only beaten the Bengals (twice) and the Connor Cook-led Oakland Raiders. This loss just added more salt to the wound.

4. Jan. 9, 2010: The Bengals let Mark Sanchez dice them up

Mark Sanchez only attempted 15 passes against the Bengals in the 2010 Wild Card Round, but he sure did make the most of them. He completed 12 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown — that gave him a passer rating of 139.4, which was easily a career high. Running backs Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones combined for 169 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to push the Jets to a 24-14 win in Cincinnati.

Like just about every playoff game under Lewis, the Bengals didn’t get quality quarterback play. Carson Palmer threw an interception and finished with a passer rating of 58.3, which ended up being his final playoff game in a Bengals uniform.

Palmer did eventually get a playoff win with the Cardinals during the 2015 season — the only one of his career.

3. Jan. 8, 2006: Carson Palmer tore his ACL in the Bengals’ first playoff game in 15 years

Ben Roethlisberger destroyed the Bengals in his first playoff game against them. He passed for 208 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 31-17 win in the 2006 Wild Card Round.

Losing to a longtime rivals always sucks, but this game was especially awful for the Bengals. At the time, it was their first division title and postseason appearance in 15 years. Then their first taste of success in years ended in disaster.

Palmer tore his ACL early in the game, which meant that Jon Kitna had to take over. Along the way, the Bengals blew a 17-7 lead and Kitna was picked off by Troy Polamalu and James Farrior.

A backup quarterback struggling against Bill Cowher’s Steelers defense was pretty predictable, but it was still a double punch in the gut for the Bengals. Not only did they lose to their most hated rival, but they lost their quarterback in the process.

2. Jan. 7, 2012: They lost to T.J. Yates. Yes, T.J. Yates.

In the 2011 season, the Bengals snuck into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and met T.J. Yates and the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Round. Yates was coming off an unspectacular five-game stretch as the Texans’ starting quarterback after Matt Schaub went down with an injury, but Cincinnati failed to capitalize.

Yates threw for 159 yards and a touchdown, which isn’t anything to get excited about, but that was far better than how Dalton played that day. Dalton was intercepted three times, including one that was brought back for a touchdown by J.J. Watt.

Cincinnati gave up two touchdowns to Arian Foster and ended up losing 31-10, its biggest playoff loss in the Marvin Lewis era — but not the worst.

1. Jan. 9, 2016: The meltdown against the Steelers, oof

Without question, this is easily the most painful loss. Cincinnati had one of its best regular seasons ever under Lewis and couldn’t do a damn thing with it.

In 2015, the Bengals went 12-4 and won the AFC North, thanks to having one of the top offenses in the league that year. They were seventh in points per game, third in adjusted yards per attempt, and scored the fifth-most rushing touchdowns in the league.

The Bengals found themselves in a playoff game against the Steelers for the first time since 2006 — when they lost Palmer to an ACL injury. Even though the Bengals and Steelers are major rivals, Pittsburgh has a big advantage in head-to-head matchups. This was Cincinnati’s chance for revenge.

Unfortunately, Dalton hurt his thumb in a December loss to the Steelers, which knocked him out for the rest of the season — including the playoffs.

The game started off like any other Bengals postseason contest, with Cincinnati facing a 15-0 deficit. But the home team stormed back in the fourth quarter behind backup quarterback AJ McCarron. With under two minutes left, the Bengals took their first lead of the game, 16-15.

Following a Landry Jones interception, Jeremy Hill had a chance to ice the game with 1:36 left. Instead, he fumbled the ball after a hit by Ryan Shazier.

That was unfortunate, but the Bengals still had a chance to win — then Vontaze Burfict happened.

On the Steelers’ final drive of the game, a banged-up Roethlisberger, who had been carted off earlier, returned to the game. With 22 seconds left, Burfict laid a vicious hit on Antonio Brown. Brown, like Bengals running back Giovani Bernard in the third quarter, suffered a concussion. Unlike the helmet-to-helmet hit on Bernard, this play was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

Then, Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter went onto the field after Burfict’s hit on Brown and was involved in an altercation with Adam “Pacman” Jones that resulted in a 15-yard penalty on Jones.

That gave the Steelers the ball on Cincinnati’s 17-yard line. Chris Boswell hit a 35-yard field goal and an unforgettable playoff game came to an end.

It was the Bengals’ best chance to beat their division rival in the playoffs and it turned into a mess of a game. Cincinnati has yet to make it back to the playoffs since.