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Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Bengals clinch playoffs on late FG, eliminate Steelers

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- A.J. Green doesn't really care about the Cincinnati Bengals' woeful past. The wide receiver wasn't part of it and hasn't really taken the time to study it.

The Bengals were bad. End of story.

And now they're good. Beginning of story.

Andy Dalton hit Green for a 21-yard pass in the final minutes to set up Josh Brown's 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to lift the Bengals to a 13-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Cincinnati (9-6) clinched a second straight playoff berth after beating the Steelers for the first time since 2009. Pittsburgh (7-8) was eliminated from postseason contention.

The only other time the Bengals made the playoffs in consecutive seasons came in 1981-82, six years before Green was born.

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"This has been our goal coming in at the beginning of the season," Green said. "A lot of people talked about we hadn't been in in back to back seasons in 30 years. I don't worry about that stuff. I've been here two years and we made the playoffs all two years. That's all we can control."

Shredding the label as erratic -- and sometimes comical -- losers one improbable victory at a time, the Bengals, their precocious duo of Green and Dalton and their quickly improving defense have Cincinnati in uncharted territory.

The Bengals have been around since 1968. This is the first time they'll make the postseason in two straight non-strike years.

"I know they just think that there's some complex; there's no complex, you've just got to come play and win," coach Marvin Lewis said. "This group in there has very little history of anything."

Maybe that's why Bengals aren't doomed to repeat it.

Brown missed a 56-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter, but earned a second chance when Reggie Nelson picked off Ben Roethlisberger and returned it to the Pittsburgh 46 with 14 seconds remaining. Dalton found Green down the right sideline on the next play, setting up Brown's winner.

"I've had some pretty big kicks, but that was a long time ago," said Brown, who is filling in for injured starter Mike Nugent. "When you have a chance for the playoffs there's nothing bigger. It's a big deal.

Dalton completed 24 of 41 for 278 yards and two interceptions for the Bengals, which snapped a five-game losing streak to Pittsburgh. Green caught 10 passes for 116 yards and Cincinnati's defense next let the Steelers get comfortable.

Roethlisberger completed 14 of 28 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Leon Hall returned the first pick 17 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and Nelson stepped in front of an overthrown Roethlisberger pass intended for Mike Wallace in the fourth.

The Steelers needed to win their final two games to make the playoffs. Instead, the team that was 6-3 in early November will spend January at home after falling for the fifth time in its last six games.

""We should be [in the playoffs] if it wasn't for me," Roethlisberger said after throwing his second game-deciding interception in eight days.

Roethlisberger tossed a pick -- also intended for Wallace -- on the second play of overtime in Dallas last Sunday, allowing the Cowboys to win it on a field goal. He openly questioned offensive coordinator Todd Haley's play calling after the loss, but apologized later and insisted he and Haley were "on the same page."

Maybe, but the Steelers hardly played like it. The Bengals sacked Roethlisberger four times and allowed Pittsburgh to complete just 2 of 14 third downs.

"Not our day and thus, not our year," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "Just not enough significant plays at the moments. Sounds like a broken record but reality as we sit here."

Pittsburgh did a decent job of keeping Dalton and Green in check, posting season highs with three turnovers and six sacks. The Bengals couldn't run the ball at all, managing just 14 yards against the NFL's top defense. Still, it wasn't enough for the Steelers, turning a season that looked so promising before Election Day into a muddled mess.

Instead of making playoff plans, Pittsburgh needs a victory next week against Cleveland to avoid the first losing season in Tomlin's six-year tenure.

Normally it's the Bengals who are playing out the string. Yet the franchise that served as a punchline for so long is now the one throwing the punches. Cincinnati never trailed in a place it rarely wins and allowed the Steelers to make the critical mistakes.

Well, most of them anyway.

Cincinnati drove into Pittsburgh territory midway through the fourth quarter with the score tied at 10 before things bogged down at the Steelers 38. Rather than try to pin reeling Pittsburgh deep, Lewis sent out Brown to attempt a 56-yard field goal into the tricky Heinz Field winds.

The kick was never close, giving the Steelers premium field position with 3:18 left.

"I make decisions to try to win the game today and they kind of backfired on me a little bit," Lewis said.

Pittsburgh, however, had its own kicking issues. The Steelers moved to the Cincinnati 36, then brought out Shaun Suisham for a 53-yard attempt that was short all the way.

The Bengals went nowhere, giving Pittsburgh one last shot in regulation. Rather than run out the clock and play for overtime with the ball at their own 11 and 44 seconds to go, the Steelers tried to make something happen.

And they did. For the Bengals. Facing second down at the Pittsburgh 29, Roethlisberger rolled to his right and tried to hit Wallace down the sideline. The ball sailed over Wallace's head and into Nelson's arms.

Two plays later Cincinnati was celebrating a playoff berth that signaled another step out of its mediocre past.

Notes

  • Cincinnati's 14 yards rushing were the second-fewest in franchise history. The Bengals had 4 yards rushing against Baltimore in 2000.
  • Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller left game in the fourth quarter with a right knee injury.
  • Brown is 8 of 9 since taking over for Nugent three weeks ago.
  • Five of Pittsburgh's eight losses this season have come by three points.
  • Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall had 50 yards rushing in his return after serving a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Sun. Dec. 23Final
730313
073010
BengalsSteelers
Pass: A. Dalton (24-41, 278) B. Roethlisberger (14-28, 220)
Rush: B. Green-Ellis (15-14) R. Mendenhall (11-50)
Rec: A. Green (10-116) A. Brown (5-97)
Scoring Summary
1ST QUARTER
TDLeon Hall makes a 17 yard interception return (Josh Brown kick is good).
2ND QUARTER
FGJosh Brown makes a 41 yard kick. Drive: 6 plays, 19 yards in 1:59.
TDAntonio Brown catches a 60 yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham kick is good). Drive: 2 plays, 73 yards in 0:44.
3RD QUARTER
FGShaun Suisham makes a 40 yard kick. Drive: 10 plays, 45 yards in 5:07.
4TH QUARTER
FGJosh Brown makes a 43 yard kick. Drive: 2 plays, 21 yards in 0:10.
Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

A. Brown
Rec 5
Yds 97
Avg 19.4
TD 1
Cincinnati

A. Green
Rec 10
Yds 116
Avg 11.6
TD 0
 
Cincinnati
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
A. Dalton24/4127802
RushingATTYDSTDLG
B. Green-Ellis151404
M. Jones1000
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
A. Green10116021
M. Jones565023
J. Gresham338025
A. Hawkins330019
B. Tate123023
R. Whalen1606
B. Green-Ellis1000
Pittsburgh
PassingCP/ATYDSTDINT
B. Roethlisberger14/2822012
RushingATTYDSTDLG
R. Mendenhall1150020
J. Dwyer1439013
I. Redman3402
B. Roethlisberger2304
M. Wallace1-10-1
ReceivingRECYDSTDLG
A. Brown597160
H. Miller345022
I. Redman232019
J. Cotchery220014
M. Wallace113013
E. Sanders113013
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
ATL 31 Final
DET 18
NYG 14 Final
BAL 33
OAK 6 Final
CAR 17
NO 34 Final
DAL 31
TEN 7 Final
GB 55
MIN 23 Final
HOU 6
NE 23 Final
JAC 16
IND 20 Final
KC 13
BUF 10 Final
MIA 24
WAS 27 Final
PHI 20
STL 28 Final
TB 13
CLE 12 Final
DEN 34
CHI 28 Final
ARI 13
SF 13 Final
SEA 42
SD 27 Final
NYJ 17